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First, Best, or Different

Niche Marketing Matters
By John Bradley Jackson

The Brand is Not a Hero

February 21st, 2012

It is cliché in classical consumer marketing that the brand is always the hero. The brand (think Coca-Cola) is always the fix or the problem solver. Have a Coke and you will be happy. Buy our product and life will be better. This is certainly the messaging that you see in the cable series Mad Men, for example. Back then advertising was at its pinnacle. The thinking of the day was that people needed to be persuaded to buy the product.  And in that case, persuasion often meant hearing or seeing an advertisement thousands of times until you were beat senseless by the repetition.

Today’s consumer is more sophisticated and not so easily duped. In fact, we are increasingly cynical about advertising messages and presume them to false or misleading unless we hear otherwise from our peers. Savvy consumers use services like Yelp and ratings on Amazon to help them decide where to spend their hard-earned money.

Yesterday’s advertising heroes were expected to be perfect.  In order to showcase the benefits of their product, many advertisers cast their product or service as the “hero”.  Today this approach can still work up to a certain extent.  The Most Interesting Man in the World featured in Dos Equis beer commercials is a good example of this. Yet, he is a parody and we know it.

However, modern consumers sometimes find this approach disingenuous.  Consumers today appreciate a more authentic hero — an everyman with both flaws and good intentions.  In the article “Heroes and Brands”, author Bernard Urban discusses why a flawed hero is ultimately more convincing.  In fact, our society is rather forgiving of the hero with flaws; this is especially true in sports. Think Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant. Despite their failings, their brands thrive.

What makes someone heroic today is that they overcome their limitations.  Overcoming obstacles makes their hard-fought triumph that much more romantic and believable.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

 

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Marketing with Gender Stereotypes

February 17th, 2012

Boys like blue and girls like pink.  Men like football and women like romance novels.  Gender is pretty straightforward, right?

It’s actually much more complicated.

For example, what would we find if we were to look across time and space to discover what it means to be a man?  During the Renaissance era, only the manliest of men sported tights and frilly collars.  In China today, affluent businessmen carry leather purses as a status symbol. It quickly becomes clear that gender expressions vary immensely between cultures.

Because we know that gender varies across time and geographical location, it is safe to say that it is primarily a social construction. Gender is a meaning system created by society that slips into every facet of our lives.  It is through gendered social norms that we learn how to act in every social situation.  From birth, we are taught how to behave within the confines of our designated gender: male or female.  Our walk, talk, dress, and emotional expression are all informed by this binary system.  Though it may be harmless, baby girls do not inherently prefer pink to blue.

Today, an overwhelming amount of products are gendered.  Such gendered commodities include alcohol, clothing, toys, furniture, automobiles, books, magazines, films, and even food!  It is usually easy to pinpoint, while walking through Wal-Mart, which products are feminine or masculine.  Even though it is a social construction, gender weighs in on almost every purchase we make as consumers.

What does this means to marketers? Gender stereotypes are real because we perpetuate them and accept them. One option is to accept this “gendering” (I think I have invented a new word) of products as the status quo. Essentially, marketers can use the gender stereotypes as a tool to market more products by offering everything in pink for the women customers. Men get burlap.

Alternatively, firms could choose to be different by offering messages that buck the gender norms. This is based on the premise that there may be large segments of buyers that are not getting what they want. This could include women that desire high performance sports cars and older men who want make up to look more youthful in the workplace. Something tells me that these other markets might be bigger than the stereotypes might have you believe.

For some interesting examples of gender stereotypes please visit the Society Pages.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

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The Power of the Brand

February 11th, 2012

Brands are one of the most powerful tools used in business.  From restaurants to retail, almost any business can benefit considerably from a powerful brand image.  Brands communicate trust, professionalism, playfulness, or any other desired message.  The most powerful brands are simple and can stand the test of time.

Global consulting firm Interbrand released the top 100 brands for 2011.  The top ten are Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google, General Electric, McDonald’s, Intel, Apple, Disney, and Hewlett-Packard.  Nestled among the top 100 include Toyota, Nokia, UPS, Budweiser, Ikea, eBay, MTV, Visa, Starbucks, and Ferrari.

Most of the top 100 brands are from the United States, but many successful brands also come from Japan, Germany, France, and the UK.  What is most striking about the list (found here at http://www.interbrand.com/en/best-global-brands/best-global-brands-2008/best-global-brands-2011.aspx ) is how ubiquitous these brands and their logos are.  Even people who do not think they pay much attention to brands or advertising have had these logos etched deeply into their subconscious.  We are affected by brands whether we like it or not.

According to Coca-Cola’s official website, more than 1.6 billion drinks made by the Coca-Cola Company are consumed per day.  Coca-Cola is successful for a myriad of reasons.  Coca-Cola’s brand, and its advertising, relies on our emotional connection to the brand.  It has history, which lends credibility and a feeling of nostalgia.  Coca-Cola means playfulness, fun, love, and value.  Coca-Cola has done a tremendous job of successfully evolving with the times, and also places a strong emphasis on consumer satisfaction and feedback.  Coca-Cola offers a wide variety of flavors, but is careful not to lose its classic charm and appeal.

Successful brands have three key attributes: authenticity, consistency, and differentiation. Authenticity cannot be conjured or faked or contrived. Great brands are real and without pretense. Consistency is the experience that customer cherishes about a brand; tested by time, the brand delivers value again and again. Finally, the uniqueness of the brand is what makes it recognizable.

Brands are a promise of value.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2012
All rights reserved

 

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