WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT BRAND PROMISCUITY INSTEAD OF BRAND LOVE
Group Strategy Director
Ogilvy & Mather Indonesia
So, I’ve been having a rethink on loyalty in relationships. I’ve not hit a midlife crisis (yet) but instead want to reappraise our thinking towards brands. There are intrinsic parallels between the way people relate to brands and the way they relate to other people. And for too long, I think brands and agencies have had the wrong idea about what loyalty really means.
Let’s draw a comparison with how sales data defines loyalty. If I were in a relationship with someone and saw them only four times a year, I wouldn’t call that a loyal relationship; they’re highly likely to be seeing other people. Surely they’re actually more promiscuous than loyal.
When it comes to brands, we should stop talking about being someone’s exclusive choice and harvesting loyalty, and instead start talking about preparing for promiscuity. It’s clear from the data found in winning submissions of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Effectiveness Awards that 82 percent of growth comes from additional penetration, 6 percent from a combination of penetration and loyalty, only 2 percent from loyalty alone, and the rest from other factors. We humans don’t seem to be a very loyal bunch, to brands anyway.
Now, I don’t think we need to try and ascertain what exactly makes a human relationship loyal or not. But what we do need to face up to is the assumption that people love a brand and that brand alone in its category. A read of Byron Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” will help shed light on why pursuing loyalty is fruitless, but instead efforts should be made to constantly attract new audiences.
But, for this to become a shared and prosperous reality it must first become a shared responsibility between clients, agencies and research partners. Those sales-data conversations need to switch to how we can continue to entice new people into our brands.
So, now that we’ve established that when we talk about loyalty we’re not really living in reality but instead some bizarre marketing fantasy, what should we do instead? What are the things we can do to turn our efforts towards growth via scaled penetration?
1. It’s all about mental availability: When penetrating amongst new audiences has become your enlightened path to growth, creating continuous saliency is a must. This doesn’t mean media agencies should start rubbing their hands in glee but instead agency partners should truly consider how to be front and center and drive meaningful brand recall. If you sit down with much of the work created in Indonesia in any given category, you’ll probably start to conclude most brands look and sound the same. Their communications are therefore easily forgotten. Ask the difficult yet honest question: will this work be remembered? Love it or hate it executionally, Tokopedia’s “Rayakan Kebebasanmu” (Celebrate your freedom) campaign drove saliency because it broke category cues in Indonesia.
2. It’s an oldie but a goldie, be different, really different: There is a strange paradox in the land of communications which is that we all know that to compete we need to stand out, yet we (both brand owners and agencies) lull ourselves into the fuzzy safe space of familiarity. Continue to have those conversations around real difference. Is the key USP commoditized? Does the campaign narrative reflect a real cultural tension or is it a made up insight – or worse, a banal observation? Are we creating yet more slice-of-life, linear communications compost? Creative agencies push clients, and clients push creative agencies, to find that space of difference. If it sounds familiar, assume you’re not going to be enticing new customers who probably already see your brand as similar to the competition.
3. Question the data: Big data isn’t insightful, the person who analyses it is, and when we’re entering the age in which whoever wields the data has the power, it’s even more important to question it. If we don’t dig behind what some data owners are purporting as loyalty, we’ll continue to assume that someone who buys our detergent brand four times a year loves us. Which simply isn’t true. Instead, force data and research to truly understand why people switch and have relationships with others. Surely that’s a more useful way to start understanding the problem, as opposed to contextual-less data telling you that there is one.
4. Be more human: Automation and programmatic aren’t strategies. They’re methods of delivery. We’ve become so obsessed with media efficiencies that we’re losing sight of what leads us to truly powerful content – human empathy. For mental availability to truly strike a chord we still need to have empathetic content. Those who chase media tech will lose out to those who focus on emotionally engaging ideas that capture the hearts and minds of both current and new consumers.
5. Design a meaningful customer experience: The new battleground for brands is now customer experience (CX). It’s just as important for an airline as it is for a milk brand to start developing customer experiences that stand out. Whether it be through physical or digital, the brands that push themselves and their agencies to develop world-class experiences here in Indonesia will see less consumer promiscuity.
So, start getting comfortable with the fact that your consumers are certainly seeing someone else and that this is the problem that needs to be solved. As any marriage counselor will tell you when it comes to loyalty (I’m guessing here), “the first step to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem to be solved.”