Do you feel the think?

Today’s Economic Times Brand Equity carries an article that talks about how marketers can capitalize on the consumer’s emotional responses in brand building strategies, rather than appealing to their rational sides. This is what will get results.

We couldn’t agree more. We have talked earlier about how Dr. Joseph LeDoux’s discovery that it is the emotional part of the brain that responds first to any stimulus. Today’s article tips a hat to that thinking…

However, this trend is overlooked in the marketing community, where measurement systems tend to rely on what consumers think (and consequently say) their response was to a product or campaign, as opposed to their genuine emotional response.

After all, the rational brain is more like a lobbyist than a legislator: it’s role is to simply influence how the emotional brain will ‘vote’ on a potential decision. This phenomenon can be best explained by Noah Brier‘s brand tags that does a great job of understanding what people think about brands. The basic idea of this site is that a brand exists entirely in people’s heads. Therefore, whatever it is they say a brand is, is what it is. In this case, it is the rational brain that is lobbying to get the emotional brain to vote on what it feels. For example, while Toyota gets big responses for “quality” and “reliable,” there’s also a sizeable contingent that have boiled their reaction down to “boring.”.

What is Toyota’s USP, by the way? Great cars fitted with brilliant technology? Or is it just good looking cars that are value for money? The point here is that Toyota is what it is to you, and that’s a personal connection. It’s never the same for your neighbour or your friend, who’ve all bought Toyotas. They’ve bought it for different reasons other than yours, and that is how they personally connect to the brand.

Because, as the article states it, “ultimately, great brand equity is about having an emotional connection to a brand. Just being aware of the brand is inadequate…”

The time is ripe to explore newer approaches to marketing. The USP is long dead. Neuromarketers and behavioural economists will agree, because we know today that brand memory is not a static single point, as assumed by the USP theory, but a multifaceted dynamic one.

Today, it’s about giving the consumer more than one reason to choose the brand. And they’ll come if they emotionally connect. We’ll leave you with this one part of the article that sums it up beautifully.

Great brand worth becomes internalized, and accepted as a reflection, and extension – of the consumer’s own beliefs. Fail to make an emotional connection, and you lose out, because value is determined emotionally. Brand attributes are like claims related to a product. They are merely assertions unless the consumer’s emotional brain finds them valid and worth embracing.

So, when was the last time you added emotional equity to your brand?

Change the rules of the game

There’s a thoughtful article by Knowledge@Wharton, titled “Not on the List? The Truth About Impulse Purchases” that puts a new spin on impulse purchases. While Paco Underhill described supermarkets “as places of high impulse buying… Fully 60% to 70% of purchases there were unplanned, grocery industry studies have shown us,” David R. Bell begs to differ. In his new research paper, Bell and his co-authors argue that the amount of unplanned buying is actually closer to 20%.

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(Source: Getty Images)

Now, this brings up an important perspective. In Bell’s words, “the differences are based on who they are rather than what they’re exposed to.” I think there’s another layer in here. More than what they’re exposed to, its about “what they’re buying.”

We’ve seen that people buy different categories differently. The mindset that you’re in while buying atta or sugar, which is a habitual monthly purchase, is different from the mindset that you’re in when you’re buying let’s say toothpaste or soaps or deos (buy the category but flirt with brands in your repertoire). This is even different when you shop lets say, perfumes or expensive cosmetics.

Is anyone even thinking about how all these categories sit across from each other in a store and are interacted with differently by the same consumer/shopper?

While Underhill talks about the environment, Bell talks about the person-to-person variance than about the store environment itself. But what really connects the dots and brings it full circle is how people interact with categories and how people buy.

With new thought being infused in marketing, Bell asks an interesting question in his paper – “Can you really jack up unplanned buying with stimuli, when the greatest amount of variance is in people?”

Of course, ultimately what all companies want is more sales, but even as of today, conversion is given step-child treatment by marketers and agencies alike. Further vindicating that fact, look around, and what you see in today’s retail environment is nothing but more and more salience.

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Haven’t we had enough of this messaging from mass media already?

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It’s time to give credit where it’s due and respect shoppers and the shopping environment, rather than just paying lip service to conversion. There’s so much more opportunity that can be realized if we think a little differently, and not treat communications at retail as just an extension of mass media communications.

Learning more about the shopper from a holistic perspective will only further enable marketers to increase spontaneous purchasing of their products within the stores.

And that is what will make the cash register ring.

Sampling overdrive gone awry

Agreed, if you’re launching a new product, especially a cookie, it calls for a big sampling exercise. And what better to get people to try it over coffee?

When Good Day Cookies started promoting the Classic Cookies collection at Barista outlets near you, it seemed like a perfect fit. Little jars greeted you at every table, inviting you to try them out.

Barista Good Day Cookie Jars

You’d think, “Free Cookies!” But unfortunately all these jars were tightly lidded providing no access to the delicious cookies inside. Now, if you want people to sample your product, why would you create a barrier in the form of a tightly closed jar? Even the counter didn’t have any cookies to give out, citing delivery issues by Good Day. What a tease!

The next time we were at a Barista, something interesting caught our attention. The jars had actually been pried open by (irate) customers. So, we opened up a jar and pulled out a cookie. What did we find?

Cardboard cookies inside

Cardboard?! That’s a cardinal mistake.

And as I walked into more Baristas, I found more vandalized jars. Curious people would have reached into the jar expecting a cookie, but they found cardboard instead. Disgusted, they would have just let the cardboard cookie be, (and probably cursed Good Day and Barista in the bargain)

Good Day cookie jar vandalized

The truth was out there for everyone to see. Good Day’s image was taking a beating, and I kept wondering why no one was doing anything yet?

It looks like the company straightened out it’s logistics and other issues. Sure enough, the next time I went in, I was given a free cookie with my Americano.

The real cookie provided

Following this activity for over a month and seeing how it unfolded makes me think of a few questions.

1. Why couldn’t Good Day just keep all the jars open and let people try their cookies? The money spent on this would only be a fraction of money spent on building salience in mass media. And if you try, you will most likely buy. Simple.

2. If you have dummy cookies in the jar, tell the consumer what to anticipate. Don’t disguise them as real cookies. It’s a losing bargain once the cat is out of the bag.

3. Why didn’t the Barista management clean up the vandalized cookie jars? That reflects on the Barista chain too. It is already facing heat in the coffee segment, and has lost its leadership position to Cafe Coffee Day. With this debacle, it only shoots itself in the other leg.

Sometimes, you don’t need marketing muscle to pull off a successful campaign. Merely, a little observation in the right direction goes a long way to help you drive sales.

What do you think?

Will neurology revolutionize marketing thinking?

The CEO of a leading consumer product company is in deep trouble. The financial performance of the company is not looking good. He needs to immediately take steps to shore up his company’s bottom line. What would the CEO do? Who would he turn to for help? He would probably approach the finance department or the production department or perhaps even the sales department to achieve good results in a short time. Chances that he will depend on his marketing department to show immediate results are very slim. The reason is obvious. Marketing departments are not really trusted for their ability to deliver sure, quick results. As Prof. Nirmalya Kumar of London Business School mentions in his book Marketing as Strategy, “All that marketers want from CEOs is more money to spend”.

What will get the marketers a place in the strategy table of the CEO? As CEOs become more and more accountable in this era of quarterly results and interventionist shareholders, marketing departments of organizations have to deliver consistent and sure results. Marketing departments can no longer hide under the guise of long term brand building, but have to show perceivable effects in the market place in the short term. Every marketing campaign has to show immediate results in the market place.

It is easier said than done. Studies around the world have shown that 9 out of 10 new product launches fail. This is despite billions of dollars being pumped into market research and advertising and promotional campaigns. When other departments of the organizations are working towards a Six Sigma level of perfection, the marketing departments of organisations cannot afford to have Six Sigma level of failure rate.

Despite some of the best brains working in marketing departments around the world, why is there such a huge failure rate in the marketing decisions made around the world?

Read more…

What you see is what you get

It’s interesting what we can learn from looking around and see how people go about conducting business in an intuitive manner.

For example, lets say you wanted to buy a waterproof watch. But, buy it from the roadside vendor, and you know that it will find it’s way to the nearest bin even after the first monsoon drizzle.

It was interesting to see how this street vendor went about displaying his daily wares. I found this guy peddling waterproof watches on a recent market visit to interior Maharashtra.

Waterproof proof

If you choose your watch out of a filled tube of water, you can be sure that this vendor is at least coming good on his word to provide you with waterproof protection. Of course, the mechanism might fail in a week or so, and then this watch might get dumped, but you know that it is waterproof.

How can bigger marketers use simple conversion insights like this one to help consumers make choices? Because ultimately, what you see is what you want to get, no?