There’s a joke about an old man in Finland who used to get up every morning at 5 a.m. and spray a chemical all around his village. When asked what he was sprinkling, he told passers-by that it was elephant repellent. Whenever folks challenged him and pointed out that there are no elephants around, the old man would smugly smile and say “Well then, the spray is working.”
Business actions can work on such presumptions. Marketing ,when double bound by process logic and metrics based evaluation, can lapse to such self-deluding beliefs.
Bill Bernbach said “I warn you against believing that advertising is a science. Rules are what the artist breaks. The memorable never emerged from a formula.”
Bernbach’s agency DDB made iconic brand campaigns establishing brands like Avis car hire and Volkswagen. For Levy’s Rye Bread it created a campaign in which a variety of ethnic faces – from a Native American chief to an Afro-Caribbean to a Chinese American – all announced: ‘You don’t have to be Jewish to eat Levy’s.’
For Avis, the cut through insight was ‘We try harder’, and for the Volkswagen Beetle the headline ‘Think small’. These were major counter-intuitive directions. In the case of the Beetle, it encouraged the American car buyer – traditionally preoccupied with size and power – to purchase this oddly shaped German car on the basis of its low fuel consumption. All this was much ahead of its time.
A related area of marketing delusion ripe for challenging is the concept of the unattached, unconcerned prospect. How is the ‘target’ qualified?
When marketing pundits talk about ‘loyalists’, or ‘the passives’ or ‘detractors’ they are referring to merely a collection of individuals into range based groups.
Leaving diehard loyalists aside, there is much eagerness to engage with the middle uncommitted. The recruits all lie in this middle mass is the belief.
It is not true. There is no single, consistent characterisation of any of these terms. Buyers can be consumers of your product, of your cause, of your story, or all three
The world of brands has big contradictions. There are big divides here and that’s why both Real Madrid and Barcelona are successful.
The marketplace is also full of harmony. It comes from like-minded people , whose word of mouth can further a cause with their commitment. And that’s why both Real Madrid and Barcelona are successful. Think of any category and you will find this contradiction alive.
It is fair to accept that if you mean something to everybody you are unlikely mean everything to somebody. Polarity is natural in brandscapes. Any and everyone is not a customer or buyer. Those who matter most should be attended to, on priority. Like everywhere, the 80/20 rule holds. Lavish attention on the 20 percent, understand why they love you, and grow the tribe. The required steps are simple. Find out what matters most to potential consumers: how you can solve their problems and provide emotional satisfaction through your brand. Segmentation only makes the specific more pertinent. Tailor the messenger to the drilled-down segmented recipient without changing core brand values, attributes, and identity based on every market segment. To convey the same essence in myriad ways is brand genius.
Language always gives us clues. The English language has many words to convey various types of humour - wit , humour, facetiousness, drollery, funniness, wittiness, piquancy, quickness; jocularity, waggishness.
Its forms have descriptions like badinage, persiflage, repartee, quip, wisecrack, sarcasm; irony, satire, burlesque, parody, caricature, travesty, witticism , bon mot, jest, jocosity, joke, pun, wordplay, play on words, spoonerism, double entendre; raillery, banter, joshing; buffoonery, playfulness
Accordingly persons may be characterised as humourist, lampoonist, parodist, jokester, joker, comic, comedian, farceur, droll fellow, funny person, wag, reparteeist, banterer, wisecrack, punster, zany, madcap, mummer, mimer, mimic.
Since both brand context and relevance are fluid, strong brands solve problems that matter. They do it fast, consistently but rich in variety and meaningfulness.
Brand equity accrues over time and is the result of marketing communication, and experiences associated with a brand name. The mantra is connectivity, consistency, and transparency.
The term ‘target group’ is highly misplaced. Which group ? On what basis are they qualified as ‘targets’ ?
Brands talk to the rejectors and the ‘passives’ in the same way they talk to their core. The idea is to activate the brand’s worldview in the brains of such folks. It is believed that via mirroring of messages, brands gain traction.
The worst mistake a brand can make is to move sharply one way or another on the rationale that that's where the majority ‘in market’ consumers are.
Understanding whom you are talking to and why is crucial before you begin to articulate what it is they have to say and how best to say it. Why is it a challenge? Firstly, because brands want to activate their core base while reaching new intenders at the same time; second, they must do so without puffery, hyperbole, false claims, distortion or pretention.
The urge to posture emerges from certain well-established myths about uncommitted consumers. It is important to see things with real eyes. Put to rest the notion of the uncommitted buyer. She doesn't exist. There are only people lined up from fandom to boredom. People know even if they don’t care. Relying on the consumer’s ignorance is a false strategy.
Duality is a natural situation in our existence. We have different views on various subjects and our judgements and notions exist side by side, constructing various areas of experience. I may be financially risk averse but adventure seeking in recreation. I may be conservative in matters of religious observance but socially progressive. I may support a tight regulation of the market but bat for unhindered civil liberties.
Consumption is an experience. It does not need to subscribe to one ideology.
Understanding this opens meaningful ways for brands to communicate with non-core consumers / prospects on basis of shared values.
That is the high road to greatness
Shubhranshu Singh is vice president, marketing - domestic & IB, CVBU, Tata Motors. He writes Simply Speaking, a weekly column on Storyboard18. Views expressed are personal.