We are creatures of habit with some basic instincts subconsciously dictating every day actions and decisions. Even in our oh so cultural society, it often feels that we are just a very thin layer away from our ‘uneducated’ ancestors we would now call wild. We remain territorial and most of us seem to have an underlying desire to find a partner with certain attributes (depending on male or female preference), to have children, to gain a position within social and work circles. (It seems to me that ultimately pretty much all of our behaviour can be tracked back to the innate desire to find the best partner and pass on our genes).
‘Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most—and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past.’ – Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape
Businesses can tap into this unshakeable heritage of emotions and rational/irrational behaviour and build their brands to answer the basic needs of their clients.
In a nutshell, brands are about:
BRAND AWARENESS – Most people don’t like making choices. Brands add familiarity and a sense of comfort when picking a product. Our memory is selective and limited. Standing out and being in the mind of the consumer at the time of purchasing or decision-making is paramount.
BRAND EXPERIENCE – Giving consumers confidence into their choice of product or service. Get it right, and you have won half the battle to get point 3. Better still, a happy customer will probably recommend you – but beware, there is the thought that people experience loss about ten times as much as gain, so better they see interaction with your brand as a benefit, not a disaster!
BRAND LOYALTY – Evoke aspirations – inspire consumers to want to become part of the brand’s ‘tribe’. Would someone buy a t-shirt with your slogan on even though you have nothing to do with fashion? Is it ‘cool’ to be associated with your business? Are your products status symbols or attract a certain audience? People don’t like to be proved wrong, they don’t like to regret their buying decisions. Brand loyalty is a difficult one to get especially if your product is seen as a commodity, but if you can break into the world of being seen as a brand with added reputation and values instead, loyalty is a key factor to evolve and adapt to changing markets or consumer needs.
Perhaps, if a brand can create comfort, confidence and connections, it is doing so by being less of a manufactured product and more of an expression of human personalities. Bring on passion brands!
Of course this is another very subjective matter, but it struck me as odd to see this advert promoting Birmingham City University courses. In my mind, teaching is about communication, facing each other, learning from each other – and in this poster, they seem to be saying that you become the best when you don’t look at each other. It may be that the visual won’t work as well because the lines of the cogs and conveyor belt would go across the eye area of the heads, but then perhaps they should have thought of a different way to show this message.
This graphic doesn’t work for me and if anything, the visual makes me doubt that they have the right courses on offer that will be stimulating, engaging and empowering – it just feels wrong, whichever way I look at it.
I came across this advert and I think it is another great example for using the language of a brand to get across the brand message. It’s simple, it’s not trying too hard and it even reminds of one of those student briefings for coming up with the essence of a brand and using it to create a memorable ad campaign.
Entertaining. And true to itself. I’d never drive one, but if I ever should need a cross country vehicle, I will probably start by looking at their brand.
I received a letter from Tesco pet insurance about the renewal of our policy. The letter suggested an upgrade of the policy and mentioned just on the side the new monthly fee. It was more than double to what I signed up for. I did the ‘usual’ shopping around and found a cheaper offer – with the same or nearly the same benefits. I called and spoke to a chap to cancel the policy and he mentioned that I did have the ‘save 50%’ special offer last year. Sadly, by then my mind was made up. Why do I mention this?
In my mind, the brand communication went wrong in a few ways. The letter of renewal arrived late and gave hardly any time to consider. It mentioned nowhere the reason for the dramatic increase – e.g. the special offer from the last year – or any reasons why I should renew. It was written in typical lawyers talk mixed with marketing speech and fact I had to hunt down where the actual monthly costs were displayed (ok, so I am blind to right hand column advertising on google and facebook) made the whole experience annoying.
The Tesco brand positions itself as great value for money – their policy communications did not get that brand promise across. What would I change?
Be nice to your existing customers! They have no real reason to stay loyal other than being happy with your product and service – and with the way you treat them. Whether you are a small business or Tesco, customers today expect to feel valued and not just like sheep led along…
Be upfront! Explain your charges, why they occur, why they increase, what the benefits are. You can always use the psychology of feeling loss much more than feeling a gain and highlight what the client will miss out on if they leave. Most importantly though, don’t try to hide any money issues.
Be creative! How nice would it have been to have received a letter or some other form of communication from Tesco a couple of months before the anniversary, perhaps something pet related, telling me ‘thank you’ (especially since I never made a successful claim) and told me about the new fees well in advance with reasons why and future benefits of staying on. (No claims policy comes to mind!!!) Even some clubcard offer relating to pets would have made a difference and not cost them much.
Be flexible! With rate increases comes frustration. Try to find a solution that keeps the customer happy and keeps you as their service provider. Perhaps you can tailor the service to match their budget even if it means they lose some benefits. They may prefer that to moving company. It’s at least worth a try.
Stay nice. That’s the only thing I can’t complain about Tesco. The chap on the phone remained nice and friendly and did not try to persuade me as I have experienced with other insurances in the past. If someone has made their mind up and wants to leave, let them go. They will be more likely to keep you in good stead than trying to convince them with more sales banter.
I shall await the new brand experience offered by Tesco’s competitor! Perhaps it will make me stay another year.
McDonald’s and Burger King may be the fast food super giants that open new restaurants here, there and everywhere (1,300 McDonald’s restaurants are planned for 2012 – see article in RTT News), but they are brands that are still culturally controversial and their acceptance is debatable.
Here is just one quite refreshing sign that family life and fast food don’t go together – Maxxi is Thuringia’s largest softplay centre with a lot of footfall from toddlers, school kids and their parents. What’s significant is that other food is allowed, so the ‘discrimination’ is clearly brand specific.
It will take more than adding some green and some poignant advertising slogans to change the perception of those businesses and their culinary value.
We are all just too familiar with the tempting voice of adverts and the seductive messages of point of sale installations that convince us to part with our money and feel good about it. This is one of the finest artforms of brand advertising and marketing – but there is also the danger to turn an incredible statement into a incredibly laughable one that could have the opposite effect.
I am not saying that nanoblur is not working or not flying off the shelves at Boots, but their small print had the opposite effect of reassuring and supporting their sales pitch. 45 people tested it and therefore it must be true that it makes skin flawless in seconds? Would it really have cost them that much to at least do 100? Better more? (I have no idea about clinical studies so perhaps it is unachievable for brands to do that but it seems such a small number of people, I wonder if they were better off making their statement a bit less incredible but not having to spoil it with ASA ruling copy that makes it sound a touch ridiculous.
The Vauxhall Lifetime Warranty adverts sparked off complaints about being misleading and were subsequently forced to change their campaign following a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Quite a different area of ‘business’, the church of Nottingham had to change a claim they were making in one of their flyers.
Dennis Penaluna from the Nottingham Secular Society said he was shocked by the leaflet.
“I couldn’t believe the overarching, ridiculous, unfounded claims they were making. They can’t be substantiated,” he said. “It’s a dangerous nonsense. People who are ill or vulnerable can be easily persuaded. They will grasp at anything.” Read an article about this on the bbc news website.
Another brand that promised more than it could keep is Baby Einstein, a Disney product extension targeting babies and toddlers giving parents the idea that the DVDs are educational. “There is evidence to show that screen based activity is bad for the brain.” says Pippa Smith, founder of lobby group Mediamarch. The company decided to offer parents a re-fund for DVDs purchased in the last 5 years – certainly not a great indicator for success.
Similarly, Heinz was reprimanded following ‘ridiculous claims’ in their infant formula ads. They said that its product could support the growth of infant brains, bodies and immune systems. The ad voiced that each child needs a “special combination of nutrients to sustain the incredible growth in its brain, body and immune system.” It added that Heinz had produced Nurture specifically in order to “provide for those three essential aspects of growth.” The commercial concluded by saying that Nurture would help “nourish, protect and develop your baby.”
The ASA rejected Heinz’s claims and ruled that the advert falsely implied specific health benefits instead of general nutritional content. The ASA said: “We concluded, therefore, that the claim was unsubstantiated and the ad was unacceptable.”
So, it seems that whilst it is understandably tempting to use provocative and attention-grabbing headlines in brand advertising, there are a few things to bear in mind.
Be realistic about what you are promising and what you can deliver
Don’t rely on great statements without backing them up with great evidence
Don’t patronise your customers – respect their knowledge and experience even if you are the expert in your field
Use marketing methods, such as money back guarantees, as a way to instill confidence in a purchase
Be clear, simple and concise in your brand messages and offerings (KISS your Brand)
Be creative in your copy. In fact, be amazing. Use engaging details to tell your brand story and shine a spotlight on how your brand is different – but be honest
I may be on my own feeling like I am being taken for a fool with the ‘nanoblur 10 years younger claim’, but if I part with £20 for a small tub of face cream, I would prefer to be reassured by more than a busload of people. As it is, the product has settled as nanoblurb in my mind and makes me smile, but not buy it.
You’ve spent months fine-tuning and testing your brochure copy. Thousands of pounds were spent on a new website with a new logo and brand identity. You have a new set of exhibition stands with the latest business information and how you differentiate yourself from competitors. Your brand strategy is clear and your marketing material is translating the strategy into a powerful and engaging message. Life should be good!
That is if it’s not just you that understands and believes in your brand promise, but all the people representing your business. No matter how hard you try and how much money you pay a professional to get your image right, if you have someone show the kind of attitude as captured below, you don’t stand a fighting chance against competitors eager to deliver a great brand experience.
At the end of the day, it is the customer that makes your brand and they will form their opinion not just based on slick marketing, but predominantly on how your staff represent your products and services.
If you have any samples of a disparity in brand strategy and the realisation of it in some kind of visual format, please drop me a line, I’d love to include it here.