In a world where brand is considered king, a powerful wealth creator and vehicle of value, it leaves a number of questions; Is branding still effective? And where does this leave product?
Research indicates that there are an increasing number of consumers who are making purchasing decisions based on product attributes and innovation over brand loyalty.
Todays consumers are smarter about their choices, brand literate, well informed and less swayed by abstract brand messages. After all, they see thousands of them everyday. Brand awareness appears to have reached saturation levels and, rather than simplifying choice, the sheer over-supply of brand messages is confusing it even more. The effect of aspirational marketing has begun to inflate brands to such an extent that the promise far outstrips the experience. Brands have become invisible by virtue of their ubiquity.
Brand owners are now beginning to realise the importance of delivery in brand building and are going back to some basic principles. It’s not what
you say but how you go about doing it. Delivering good quality products and services will win consumers time, attention or money.
So is branding and advertising as we know it dead? Well, not quite. It’s still big business however the landscape is changing and making it an even more difficult place to navigate and get noticed. Over recent years we have witnessed product life cycles shortened dramatically, markets have reached saturation levels with product choice overload all competing for attention and our media channels are becoming infinitely more rich and complex. This has lead to consumers becoming increasingly discerning and demanding.
The whole notion of mass-marketing as we know it has turned upside down. We are moving into a different world where the consumer holds more of the cards, who make choices based on world-of-mouth and through the internet through social media channels such as chat rooms and blogging sites all of which add an extra layer of credibility. In this over crowded and much more transparent space it’s no longer enough to just focus on intangibles in the hope that creating an abstract ‘feel-good’ brand halo will get you noticed. This would simply paint over the cracks if there is no real substance behind it. Savvy consumers pay more attention to tangibles than to intangibles.
This approach is becoming less effective and many brands have faltered because of this: Coca-Cola, Kodak, Ford and Levi to mention just a few.
Brand owners need to be careful that they don’t immerse themselves into too much brand centric thinking – brand awareness and perception at the expense of product design and performance. Todays savvy consumers are less loyal to brands and are constantly trading up and down choosing whatever best fits the moment. Brand stories alone are no longer good enough. It’s product news that drives interest.
This means that would-be brand owners today need to focus less on the ‘soft’ aspects of brand building – identity, personality and awareness but must also address product performance.
The pace of change today requires a rethink in the way we operate. So what are the popular brands doing differently today than companies did in the heyday of the mass-market revolution? Savy brand managers have adapted, creating a new paradigm in which innovation is king and marketing is more dispersed and personal. All of which can create interest, buzz and ultimately sales.
Nintendo - The stunning success of the Nintendo Wii games console, which has sold over 30 million units around the world, has provided an unexpected boost to the video games industry gaining a 45% share of the market. The innovation here is in the Wii's motion-sensor game play technology coupled
with the family-oriented positioning which has managed to attract gamers from outside the traditional market. It has carved a new the market segment outside of the ‘recluse gamers’ and attracting ‘granny gamers’ having a ball with Wii Bowling.
Apple Inc. - The secret of Apple's success cannot be attributed to sophisticated marketing campaigns and advertising alone. As put by BusinessWeek “Apple Inc., which was late to market with its digital music player, the iPod, took the lead nevertheless with a combination of great product design and marketing brains”. It has become a consumer electronics brand that thinks broadly with the permission to deviate and challenge in a way that goes beyond our expectations.
Its a shame to still find so many UK manufacturing companies following the overcrowded 'me too' bandwagon, kidding themselves that their brand image is
strong enough to carry them through. The 'me too' approach will ultimately contribute to the downfall of discerning UK manufacturing, since manufactured products will all become commodities. The winners in this field will be the producers that embrace the challenge and are committed to genuinely creative consumer focused NPD.
It is time for manufacturers to rise to the challenge of innovating rather than hovering around their comfort zones.
Chris Christou, Director