Friday, June 29, 2012

Not in Love

Why is that even after all this time and the thoughts of so many intelligent people, that so many brands still seem to expect people to react to their brands and products in completely ludicrous ways? Or even worse treat people as if they are completely obsessed by brands and products?

I love the air freshener ad that says "If you could design your own air freshener I bet it would look like this!" Well for a start, if most people could design their own they wouldn't want to, they'd probably rather use the time to do something productive, oh and I imagine some people probably feel a bit insulted that you think their design prowess amounts to making a cheap grey plastic blob that looks a little bit like a rock if you squint. Unless there is some good data backing that up it just feels daft and a little insulting to me.

I definitely love Pukka Pies.
We know that people love very few brands. That they are loyal to very few brands. That people aren't really interested in spending their busy lives in meaningless unrewarding interactions with brands they buy on auto-pilot or just because they are on offer. If you aren't going to give people something meaningful or don't have a genuinely exceptional product that provides an incredible experience (E.g.: Bose speakers that absorb you, an iPad that has a beautiful user interface, a Dyson that works better than anything it competes with, chocolate that tastes better than any other brand) then why do you think they care?

I know this has been written many times but it still happens all too often.

Perhaps in one way understanding that is what's so clever about Facebook likes. They aren't 'loves', they are likes. An expression that this is pretty good, a realistic expectation rather than "I friggin love this brand me" that would more than likely end up with far fewer brands getting far fewer clicks.

Hello, is it my brand you're looking for?
Sometimes people do love brands, I once was part of some research that found a brand's core customers linked it to hugely fond memories of the past and didn't want it to change at all. However we cannot forget that even if people 'love' your brand, they still love it as a brand. They aren't going to fawn over it with loving anecdotes and want to make it happy, they just really appreciate the experience it gives them. People say they love Cadbury's, but I bet a huge proportion just love chocolate, and happen to prefer Cadbury's.

But. If we are going to talk about brands in the same context as love we need to start treating it with an understanding of how people operate and what role brands actually play in their lives. Yes people are irrational, but that doesn't mean they will jump around the room with glee at your new type of toilet roll.

Perhaps this goes back to the argument around fame and experience as the outcome of advertising. If something is famous people are far more likely to feel positive towards it. I bet if I asked the average person to name their favourite brands they would ALL either have amazing products or amazing communications. The average stick thin fashion model is far less visually appealling than the average real woman, but their fame and notoriety for being 'beautiful' makes them wanted and desired, even if they aren't. (Sorry George - Kate just isn't that hot!)

The ad creates the experience and connection that the product itself cannot. Think back to all the shitty lagers of the 80's, people still have a huge connection to those brands, why? It certainly isn't the product. Hofmeister was a crappy weak beer, but some John Webster magic and it's a brand that gives you an experience that is infinitely more than the product could ever deliver. Can Lynx or Old Spice ever truly give you an incredible product experience? Probably not, but they can give you an ad experience that lives on through the product.

British Airways as the World's Favourite Airline - they weren't, and the service (supposedly at the time) could never ever match it. But without actually promising something they couldn't deliver, they absorbed you into a brand and product experience that enhanced the travel experience. The ad gave you a snapshot of the world and of being part of a favoured group, when you then tried the product you could take that feeling with you on the flight, in a way that even minor service issues wouldn't spoil.

So when a brand manager talks about people loving the brand, we should think about those two key things:

1. Is the product brilliant enough that people will take a hugely positive experience away from it?
2. Do the communications give you an experience worth remembering or being part of?

This post is a little 'stream of consciousness', I hope it makes sense. I will probably edit it later!

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