It seems everywhere I look in the marketing press these days, someone is advocating the need for brands to deliver experiences. But not everyone can or should deliver a formatted experience, and, equally, some brands would quickly wither if they didn’t.
Any brand manager worth their salt is looking to cultivate and manage a brand that is noticed and valued. But how far should a brand go in that quest for distinctiveness? Interestingly, the answer doesn’t just come down to taste.
The rules for developing and managing brands are laid out in a range of principles and frameworks developed by extraordinary marketing minds. Time and time again, we’re told brands follow these rules to achieve success. But every so often, you encounter a highly successful brand that seems to defy the theory. And there are lessons for all of us in that success as well.
We shouldn’t even think of the term “customer service” as being about something that is valuable to customers. In fact, customer service is worth next to nothing. The reasons are simple. We live in a service-focused age, and the people who buy from you know they’re customers. So the term “customer service” does not describe anything customers don’t expect and it certainly doesn’t envelope anything of particular value to them.
We could argue at length about the influence that social media actually has on people’s thinking day to day, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that the conversations people are having over longer timeframes are reframing their attitudes to sectors at a macro level.
If you’re a brand leader and you’ve been one for a while, there’s a good chance you know your market and that you monitor and are highly aware of your competitors. All the market intelligence you have tells you where things are.
Disclaimers are everywhere. From the websites we visit to the products we buy and the ads we watch, the terms under which consumers read and receive are carefully wrapped in legal bubble-wrap to protect brands from liability. In an age of transparency, such disclosures seem prudent and very much in keeping with the demands of today. You know where you stand. The terms for what you are getting are laid out in explicit detail. Or are they?
Everyone strives to win, but what happens when you compete in a market where you are, and can never be more than, number two? If you’re Pepsi, for example, or Bing, how do you find the energy to continue to build out a business that will stay where it is, behind a massive incumbent? How do you do that without becoming uninspired, distracted or stuck?
What have you got to say for yourself? How and when should a brand take a stand? And if you do, should you go hard or go soft? Talking is a critical part of brand behaviour.
Recently Budweiser has been copping flak for its continuing aggressive stance against craft beers. Social media reaction at least seems to be that this is an unfair fight and that the big corporate should not be competing in this way. I’m a long-time advocate of challenger brand strategy. I’m of the view that if you can goad the incumbent into a fight and portray your brand as the much smaller player with principles, then it’s game-on. But what if you’re on the other side of the counter? If you’re a major brand and you’re being hounded by an upstart smaller player, how can you respond without drawing flak or encouraging buyers to support the underdog-that-dared?