Small brands are edgy, attuned and preferred. That seems to be a common sentiment right now. But there is nothing to suggest that any of this makes it easy to win as a small brand today.
Consumers look for products and brands that are relevant to their needs. Self evident. But the ways in which they make those choices are much more complex than quality or availability because they are so much more human.
It’s increasingly easy to be a brand that people talk about in glowing terms, part of a sector that appears to be booming, and yet on a downward slide financially.
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.
It’s tempting to think of consumers in binary terms in relation to the brands you are responsible for: in, or out; buying, or not buying; loyal, or not loyal. But for many brands, the status of an individual can be more complex. At any given point in time, people can take on other roles in relation to your brand, and in relation to your competitors’ brands, that nevertheless have a direct influence on your competitiveness.
At his presentation at The Un-Conference, Chris Wren included this deceptively simple observation: “Follow the insights,” he suggested, “Wherever they may lead”. I was struck immediately by the extent to which brands don’t. Too often it seems research functions as something of a confirmation bias – reinforcing beliefs that are already deeply held.
This is the year of wearables it seems. Morgan Stanley are predicting shipments will top 70 million this year and grow to 248 million by 2017. But the thought that wearables themselves will feature in consumer and business spending across areas ranging from fashion and fitness, healthcare and insurance also points to escalation of another trend. Products and services are now less about what consumers have or get and more about who they are and want to be.
Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, recently suggested that products are becoming increasingly addictive. Three macro-trends are driving that, he told me, and together they are lifting the addictive potential of all sorts of products and services: Companies are now able to collect more data about user behaviours; Interactive technology is more accessible; and The transfer of data is happening faster than ever before.
Making people more interested in your brand is one challenge. Making them more loyal is quite another.
Dr Gerrard Gibbons once shared this wonderful insight: “Every day, brands make bets on human behaviour”. He’s absolutely right – but it’s a confronting thought because, at first airing, it puts so much of what marketers do at risk and beyond our control.