There is an apparent conundrum in the world of consumer goods marketing. If consumers and shoppers are so enamored, so ‘in love’, with our brands, then why are they prepared to shop at discounters such as Aldi where many of these brands are not even available? Why, if we marketers are building ever closer, ever more meaningful relationships with consumers, is it that so many can be tempted away from us with a discount or a deal? Is marketing failing, and if so, why, and what on earth can we do about it?
There is a stark truth lying at the heart of this conundrum (which is of course, not a conundrum at all!): most people don’t care about most brands. In Havas Media’s Meaningful Brands UK Report 2015 most people would not care if 74% of brands disappeared completely (a number that rises to a staggering 94% in the UK, where discounters are grabbing share rapidly).
How is this happening? What about all the research, all the hours, the data and the analytics? Should we just fire our marketing teams and move on? Of course not, but we do need to reconsider our marketing approach.
Let’s not blame Aldi for the demise of brands
Before we go any further, let’s not cast around too far for villains. Let’s not look to blame Aldi, Lidl et al for creating environments where brands are near absent. After all, shoppers choose to shop there in full knowledge of the range they stock. New ‘brand-lite’ entrants may have a dramatic impact, but it appears they are merely accelerating a trend that has been in existence for some time.
Marketing fails when innovation stops
Innovation, in many categories, is virtually dead. Stalking the aisles of European supermarkets this summer, far too many of the aisles look pretty much the same as they did a decade ago. Given the well-reported pace of change in consumers’ lives, it is hard to believe that their needs and desires haven’t moved in a decade.
Marketing fails when discounts and deals are over-used
Too many brands are discounted too much. We’ve worked with brands which have up to 80% of their volume sold on deals. What on earth does that say about the brand? Inconsistent? Dishonest? That will depend, but certainly over-discounting must, over time, reduce the perception of brand value.
Marketing fails when brands try to be everywhere.
Omnichannel drives a dangerous path towards genericism and ordinariness. Omnichannel can seem to encourage communication without purpose, and that means cost without purpose. Omnichannel runs the risk of encouraging marketers to spend everywhere, not where the consumer or the shopper really needs it. Spending money on something that your target market doesn’t value is hardly a recipe for marketing success!
Marketing fails when marketers lose sight of their consumer’s reality
Mark Ritson’s style might not be to everyone’s taste, but here he really nails where many brands go wrong. Marketers fall in love with their brand and the process of branding, and then forget the humility and simplicity of purpose that lies behind most brand-consumer relationships. I’m not for a moment eschewing the emotional part of that relationship, but please!
Marketing needs a reality check
At the heart of this problem, it appears to me lies value and focus. A deep understanding of who the target consumer (and shopper!) is, and how our brand might be able to add value. And then an unflinching focus on delivering that value, and weeding out any activity that does not deliver that value to the consumer. And by the way discounts don’t add value to consumers. They give the same value at a lower cost, and that is a very different thing. Value and focus will create appropriate innovation strategies, and drive a meaningful multichannel, rather than omnichannel approach. Doing less of the things that don’t add customer value, will allow time and funds to create added-value where it matters.
It will be value and focus that will save brands, not discounts and deals in supermarkets to somehow match the price of the discounter offer, or private label.
This is not an –anti-marketing rant: merely an observation that if so many consumers can do without the product of our blood, sweat, tears and dollars, then it is time to admit that we’ve got something horribly wrong, and that marketing really needs a revolution.