Pi Attitude Zone: Flexibility

The Ho-Hum Brand [2]

Throughout the West, public faith in all forms of authority is on the wane.  Tradition, religion and politics command dwindling respect.  And the same skeptical dismissiveness seems to be affecting the brands we all grew up believing in.

Branded messages, anyone?  In developed Western markets, the average consumer sees something like three thousand brand logos a day -- that’s three logos every waking minute.  Recognition may be boosted, but it is difficult to believe that brands are winning loyal friends by this kind of relentless exposure. 

A study by Havas Media says that faith in brands has been eroding for over thirty years.  A survey the global advertising group conducted across 23 countries suggested that three-fourths of brand identities would not be missed if they disappeared overnight.  In the USA and Europe it was even worse: over 90% of brand identities could vanish and consumers would merely shrug.  Latin America and Asia were still comparatively pro-brand in their attitudes, but trust in famous marques was waning across those regions too.

As we saw in the previous Pi post, the age of instant information access and proliferating product opinions via the internet is proving savagely unkind to branding.  Many internet-accessed reviews and consumer comments are negative or at best neutral in character.  Canny consumers are becoming skeptical and jaundiced about brand claims, and can increasingly spot at forty paces any attempt to pull the wool over their eyes.  A study from the Boston Consulting Group found that almost half of ‘millennial’ shoppers are consulting their mobile communications devices as they check out the goods in stores before making purchases.  They’re monitoring price and quality comparisons, and reading what other consumers thought of the stuff on offer. 

Worried brand managers and their advertising agents are reacting by trying to be friendly.  An astonishing number of brand identities are now being projected through cheery little animated caricatures of ‘ordinary’ (?) consumers, mostly with big heads and small bodies (“Look, we’re just like you!”), plus a whole menagerie of ‘adorable’ talking cartoon animals (“Awwww... cute, or what?”).  This trend is not just driven by cuts in commercial production budgets, though drawing computer-animated brand mascots is certainly cheaper than pointing cameras at live actors in real locations.  The increasing impression is that brands “Wanna be your friend”.

Whether consumers are really being taken in by these condescending and increasingly desperate-seeming marketing tactics is dubious.  For every consumer seduced into buying something by seeing a little furry critter with big googy eyes, there are probably at least as many who turn away with a snort of derision. 

Pi says:  belief in brands is increasingly a matter of understanding customer motivations.  There is no substitute for real consumer insight.  Like the shoppers you’re trying to sell to, you need to be listening attentively to the people they trust.  That would be other consumers.

If they decide they don’t trust your brand, you’ll need more than cute furry animals to fix the problem.

Zone: Flexibility Country: Europe Product – Business / Professional