DON’T KNOW… DON’T CARE

Thursday, August 26, 2010
He doesn’t care about your claims of “good” quality. He doesn’t care if you are number one. He buys only that product which makes him feel happy and which he thinks is right. The “market” is a totally different place today, than it was earlier. There is a new generation of consumers that thrives on products that didn’t even exist as recently as five years back. Technology has created new markets (cell phones, smart phones, iPhones, Twitter, Facebook) and a new breed of consumers that is very difficult to please.

Today’s consumer is even more demanding. He wants greater value from products and services, greater transparency, greater corporate responsibility towards the environment & the less fortunate. According to a survey by Landor Associates, 50% of the 18-25 year olds said they are ready to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. Add to this, the global economic downturn which not just affected many people’s wallets but also their outlook, and the way they are making choices in their lives. As Sheena S. Iyengar in her book The Art of Choosing says “…we use choice as a powerful tool to define ourselves and mould our lives.” If you want your brand to be “valued”, you need to make sure it is the one that this demanding consumer chooses which helps him define his life. Just hoping your brand will sell because it is of good quality, is correctly priced et al, won’t work. The “Don’t Know, Don’t Care” (DKDC) generation wants more. Nissan is rolling out a new ad campaign (dubbed “Innovation for All”), which showcases not price, but innovative features of its cars like keyless entry, air purifiers and smartphone apps, to appeal to this new consumer.

DKDC… IF I CAN’T IDENTIFY WITH YOU

For the fourth year in a row, Google has been ranked the world’s strongest brand by Millward Brown Optimor. What is it that has kept customers loyal to this brand for years? It’s in the business of “search” and is the best & the simplest to use. This apart, it has a unique quality that it can be “personalised”. A Google user can personalise his home page! Much similar to an Apple iPhone user, who can personalise his phone by downloading applications. It’s one of the ways to make the consumer identify with you.

To remain relevant to today’s consumers, the one who innovates, survives! Look at IBM (no wonder it ranks No. 2). Look at those that relatively innovated less – Nokia, Intel, eBay et al. They all saw their values drop.

Launched decades ago, this brand has retained its number 1 spot in sports and no challenger gets counted even closely. It has done this by constantly innovating, so that the customer of every generation can identify with it. Nike! Mark Parker, the artistic, athlete & CEO of Nike, shook up the shoe business with his passion for innovation. “Irreverence inspires me,” he says. Well, it also inspires his buyers.

At 55, this brand is smoking hot! In spite of its product being condemned, in spite of laws stopping it from advertising, it is ranked #8 on the Forbes list. It innovated not just its product, but its marketing ways too & survived. Its secret to success – a growing database of 26 million smokers, who receive birthday cards, coupons and concert tickets (where they can smoke freely). A special booklet of 50 Marlboro prizes is sent to all. You could win the most exotic prizes, depending on the Marlboro Miles you earned on each pack brought. At #8, its value is more than the next 12 cigarette brands put together! New ways of marketing & new variations in the product have made it more relevant to the youth. It’s no more the “macho” effect but the “cool & trendy” effect that works. New flavors like Dark Mint and Cool Myst have been used to market it to the youth. The Marlboro man may be dead, but Marlboro remains the leader of the pack and the consumer still identifies with it.

Market innovatively to remain relevant. Molson Beer organises music concerts in Toronto. The power of the brand and its identification with youth culture is so high, that the company just advertises the event, without even mentioning the name of the performing artists. If it’s a Molson Beer concert, it’s cool! Clothing companies are hiring parking lots to hold a sale of their products and using the Internet to spread the word about the sale… That’s cool!

Be irreverent, or innovative, if you want to be the one that today’s consumer will choose. Remember – if you are perceived as “so yesterday”, the consumer doesn’t care. Google, though number one, is facing the heat from Facebook, which just might overtake it in the future, for Facebook is the brand that the consumer of today is identifying with more and more. Not surprising, Facebook though not yet in the top 100 lists of valuable brands, made its début in the Forbes list this year. Google, watch out!

DKDC… IF I DON’T FEEL HAPPY WITH YOU

Building a great brand is serious business – but you can’t be boring consumers to buy products that just make them feel good about themselves. Instead of explaining how good the product is, explain how the product can make them more successful, happier, and closer to the vision they hold of themselves. If you can do it with humour, your brand’s value increases more. In Australia, Virgin Mobile launched a “5¢ text service”, with a new campaign called “Warren campaign”. A nerdy looking guy, Warren, was the hero of this campaign. Warren was portrayed as a loser in search of a dream date. People were encouraged to talk to Warren, through TV, radio and Internet ads. His cheeky humour made him the most lovable loser & Virgin, the most lovable brand. In 10 weeks, Warren received 600,000 texts plus calls and 2 million hits on his website. Everybody loves underdogs. Supporting them makes them happy. Look at all the reality shows and you know what I mean. This hairy, plump, short middle-aged woman, who had never been kissed before, took Britain by storm with her singing. Susan Boyle, the underdog millionaire proved how much we love underdogs. Use them in your marketing business to make the consumer smile as you smile all the way to the bank with your valuable brand!

Smirnoff encouraged people to duck their responsibilities on December 7 (2003) and asked them to take a half-day off & enjoy Smirnoff at the participating bars. You could even enter a contest, where all you did was enter the names of three friends & you stood a chance of winning $25 coupons. Those three friends in turn, got similar messages from Smirnoff to win their $25 coupons. Not just did the campaign win many awards, its brand awareness increased from 38% to 57%. People loved the brand for making them switch off their computer & head-off to the bar! The more positive feelings people associate with your brand, the greater its value!

DKDC… IF I CAN’T TRUST YOU

This year, BMW surpassed last year’s winner Toyota to become the most valuable car brand. It was not the economic downturn, rather Toyota’s failure to keep its promise of delivering quality that resulted in this fall.

With so much exposure to marketing from such an early age, kids today are becoming more sophisticated consumers. One wrong move can ruin your image forever, for these are also your future consumers. They know what is authentic. No matter how “hip” your product is, if you don’t stay true to your values, they don’t care.

In a nutshell, great branding starts with a rigorous assessment of your audience. No wonder great brands sell, and sell all the time – whatever the generation. Look at Coca-Cola – it’s no more just sugared water and fizz.

A brand is a promise. Features will get copied faster than ever. Those are the intangibles, the love, and the emotions that consumers attach to your brand that make it great, make it last and make it valuable.

It’s emotions that make Apple ‘think different’, and make Coca-Cola ‘the real thing’.

Understand your audience, & care for them. If you don’t, they don’t know you & don’t care either!