In this article Chairman of brand and packaging design agency, Holmes & Marchant, Andrew Doyle, discusses the importance of ‘Self-Definition, Worship and Ritua’l in making brands truly precious and preferred.
The Way It Is
How can we entice – really entice – consumers to our brands?
In today’s saturated markets, a marginal ‘product-plus’ or a ‘competitive edge’ is not enough to engender the loyalty that all great brands command, and all marketers lust after.
If we are to create consumer love for our brands and products, we must understand the psychological drive that creates that depth of emotion in humans.
As all those in the world of branding are only too aware, these are difficult times. The problem? Almost all the market categories we design, advertise or promote for are crowded to the point where finding a ‘point of difference’ for our clients is nearly impossible. And if it’s difficult for us, it’s worse for consumers who really struggle to choose between products.
The Way It Was
When markets began to see serious saturation in the 1990s, the response of marketers was to launch 'Premium' products into most categories, in an attempt to differentiate and offer something 'extra' across the market.
The problem was that marketing organisations were addicted (as they still are) to 'push' marketing: they thought that they could add 'premium values' by adding product features that would add value to whatever they happened to make.
The Way It Is Now
However 'Push marketing' belongs to a bygone era - an era when, basic consumer needs having been satisfied, producers were desperate to add value to what they already produced.
Today’s consumers are looking for something deeper and more profound than – for instance – ‘premium’ freeze-dried instant coffee as opposed to powder; they are looking for offers that fulfill a more fundamental need than simply the knowledge they have bought something 'better'.
And, in today's economic environment, the consumer, not the producer, calls the shots. It is no longer for consumers to be grateful to the producer for supplying them; it is for producers to go down on their knees in gratitude to consumers for considering their products.
This new world of ‘demand’ rather than ‘supply’ leaves producers in a place in which most marketing people are ill-equipped: the place where they - and we, the designers - have to understand, not what we can produce, but what will trigger in consumers the subconscious desire to buy, acquire, live with and be part of something.
It's not about 'buying' - it's about 'buying INTO' something that confirms a consumer's self-image for the lifetime of the product.
The Way it Will Be
So the marketing term 'Premium' - meaningless from the time it was first coined - should be replaced by something that has meaning to consumers. We use the term 'Precious'.
What characterises the relationship between a person and a 'precious' product?
The ability to define oneself by the product or service that one has bought. The more ‘precious’ a product, the more owner-defining it becomes. Few people would aspire to define themselves as a Citröen, Ernest & Julio Gallo, or Timex person; but many do so when it comes to brands such as Mercedes, Château Lafite or Rolex. Precious does not however restrict itself to luxury products – Coke and Hipp for example both touch on the desire for a return to innocence.
Whilst Ben & Jerries appeals to that deep-seated need to amuse and give people a good time. And Agent Provocateur promises sexiness. Carling brings basic motivation into all their communication with their use of the slogan ‘Belong’ and it sits in the same group of belonging brands as brands like Nivea, Heinz, and Kelloggs. Finally Apple of course appeals to those who want to be outsiders, be independent – be the outlaw. No wonder its logo is Eve’s apple.
The set of attitudes that assign to the ‘precious object’ the status of being worthy of idolatory. This happens when the object becomes more important than the owner – and in effect the object ‘owns the owner’. Thus, owners of a cellarful of fine wines will hesitate – or refuse – to drink the contents because the status of the wines are more important than their need to enjoy them.
The set of actions and routines with which we surround, and enhance the value of, what we own. The way someone puts on a Rolex watch in the morning, and puts it away at night; the procedure with which a Vincent Black Shadow rider will ‘put his bike to bed’; the evening ritual with which a girl will fold away a Gucci dress – all of these not just pay tribute to, but enhance the value of the things that are most precious to us.
It follows that marketers from all categories have to understand not just their products but also the subconscious – factors that make humans value certain objects. In response, we have developed approaches that aim to understand and tap into those factors, which include:
The triggers that cause people to relate to brands at an unconscious level, by defining brands and opportunities according to the 12 Jungian Archetypes. Psychologists believe these are ‘hard-wired’ into the brains of all humans, to which we cannot help reacting, and via which we ‘recognise’ brands and products that appeal to us at a subconscious level.
The factors that enable people – and indeed all primates – to define themselves in relation to others in their ‘tribe’ – via the things that they own. Although this may seem far-fetched, a baboon’s possession of a brighter set of buttocks is based on the same instincts that induce would-be Alpha Males to buy Porsches.
Unless we understand and adopt these insights and approaches, we cannot truly set out to create, position and design products and brands that will ‘win out’ in the saturated markets of today.
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