Try not to get bored by how little your customers know about you

I'm beginning to think there may be a correlation between the intelligence of the marketing executive and the speed at which they get bored with the minutiae of what they are selling. This doesn't as matter much if you're selling an image-led product like a soft-drink or perfume but it matters a lot with products like cars or financial services. The executive in the car company may consider that fuel economy or boot-space is a little prosaic when GPS and heated seats are the new standard but that doesn't mean that the prospective buyer sees things the same way. He or she hasn’t been living and breathing cars for the four years since they were last in the market and they are in a process of re-education. Your patience with them will be rewarded. [Link]

When Two Brands Collide

Nike and Apple have been collaborating for some time now on the Nike+iPod and, at a marketing level, it works because it’s a union of equals. They are both giant brands and they make each other look good.

One of the many problems that the now-departed David Moyes faced was that being manager of Manchester United made him look good but he didn’t add much brand value to Manchester United: a big-brand football club managed by a mid-table manager; a prize-winning club managed by a trophy-less manager. A manager in awe of the Manchester United brand, not an equal partner.

It seems to have been the case that all the big brands in the dressing room weren’t crazy about their new brand partner either - perhaps they felt devalued by the association. Perhaps they felt the same about the arrival of Marouane Fellaini.

So, even for reasons that have nothing to do with football or internal politics, David Moyes and Manchester United were always going to struggle together.

New and improved

As a new football season begins in England, the fans are revolting at certain clubs, notably Manchester United and Arsenal, neither of whom have bought any new players of any worth

Manchester United are reigning champions so you might imagine that fans would be happy to leave well enough alone while Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League for the sixteenth consecutive season

But, no, neither set of fans is happy and the moral of the story is that any brand, no matter how successful, needs to be refreshing itself all the time, or its 'supporters' will get a little restless.

Brian O'Driscoll and the Lions

Warren Gatland has made a highly controversial decision in dropping Brian O'Driscoll for the final Lions Test in Australia. Of particular interest to marketers will be the contention that he used his head rather than his heart in making the decision and that he has never been swayed by sentimentality. Contemporary thinking would suggest that this makes him a weaker judge, rather than a stronger one.

Perhaps a game as physical as rugby is required to pretend that it is devoid of emotion and, yet, players speak of passion and spirit and heart as vital components of the game.

To my mind, Gatland has made a deeply emotional decision motivated by a wish to wound the country that sacked him in 2001 and a profoundly political decision to replace him with someone from the country that currently employs him.

Therein lies the complexity of human decision-making - often bewildering and contradictory, but never devoid of emotion or sentiment.

It ain't what you say...

The excellent India Knight in her weekly column in the Sunday Times (Feb 3, 2013) points out that what women say they want and what they actually want aren't always the same thing. Cultural imperatives may demand that women say they want men to help more at home but, privately, Ms Knight assures us, the Cif man (whoever he is) is not their dream date. At a time when 'pop surveys' are more commonplace and easier to conduct than ever, the discerning marketer will seek out the distinction between what is said and what is meant. Anyone can use Survey Monkey, but a human with a good track record in marketing research will always give you a better chance of getting the interpretation - and the important decisions - right. [Link]

In Demand: Clarity and Horse-meat

The story goes that, in recessions of years gone by, the sales of tinned pet food increased, and maybe it’s still happening today. Nobody wanted to ask the question directly if some of this food was being eaten by humans but most people presumed it was and, after all, the story goes, executives who worked in a pet food company were required to eat the products from time to time. They lived to tell the tale.

Job descriptions aside, apparently there are some people who are perfectly happy to eat horse-meat and who cheerfully point out that this is not unusual in other countries.

So perhaps the message from consumers is very simple: don’t put pig-meat in my hamburgers, don't put horse-meat in my beefburgers, and put whatever is fit for human consumption in my cheap burgers (and if I choose to avoid inspecting the label too closely, that's my decision).

In other words, the central issue in this matter is transparency. The opportunity is also transparent if some company chooses to ignore the nay-sayers.

X Factor

A recent episode of X-Factor (November 18, 2012) provided an interesting reminder not just of the power of the floating voter but the importance of knowing what it is that makes your brand tick.

Ella Henderson, a 16-year old with a voice widely praised by the judges, was voted off the show by the public. Nobody saw it coming: she had never been in the bottom two before.

So what went wrong? Perhaps her mentor Tulisa, became a little complacent and a daring artistic initiative - singing the ‘electrifying’ Grease song “You’re the one that I want” at snail’s pace - became Ella’s undoing.

What this suggests is that, up to that point, Ella’s votes were coming partly from those who admired her singing and partly from those who liked the songs which, of course she delivered so well.

The latter camp fell away when the song was wrong, and a perfectly good brand was suddenly out of business because her management, while aware of how popular she was were less familiar with all the reasons why.

Spending power and the power of spending

At a time when almost everyone is trying to spend as little as possible, it’s worth remembering why we do some of your spending in the first place. At its most basic level we need to exchange money for survival - payment for food and utilities - but even in these straitened times, there is still a lot of room for exchanging money for meaning. Spending is a power activity - the buyer has power in the form of money which they can deploy for the purposes of self-fulfilment. Every time we buy something that we want - as opposed to something we really need - we are using our spending power to get the item in question but also to get the power-of-spending ‘rush.’ When a customer emerges from Brown Thomas with a lipstick or a pair of cufflinks they may have gone in for a dress or a suit. They didn’t get what the item they wanted but they couldn’t leave without the rush so they opted for a consolation prize, a Match 4 instead of the jackpot. [Link]

Customer Priorities

Keep in mind that what makes a customer choose your brand has as much to do with the importance to them of your product or service as a category as it does about your brand itself. If you’re selling tea, your brand is at a disadvantage if the buyer is not buying for themselves, but for others in the house. For them, tea is not a priority and they may be tempted to buy a standard own brand in the supermarket. But ten seconds later they buy a premium coffee. Why? Because coffee is important to them - much more so than tea. [Link]

Customers and Custom

Be careful to distinguish between customers and custom. Many companies describe their business in terms of market share. Market share, however, is a measure of custom rather than customers: a business that has 20% of the market may get business from 30% of customers in that market but because not all the customers buy the same brand every time, it averages out at 20%.

This is why promotions are not good at winning customers in any permanent sense: all they really do is let you bring the tide in towards your brand when you are promoting but leave you watching it go out to your competitors when their promotion starts.