As a marketer, I find

As a marketer, I find this article interesting. But I do not agree with Paul (who has made his anti-mass-marketing opinions clear before now) about the gullibility of the public at large. Yes, people may be tempted to respond to a brand, but equally, people are *not* stupid. Every successful brand (Amazon is a prime example – what assets do Amazon have? A brand and a mailing list. Other than that, nothing) must be backed up by a good product and/or service (and I won’t bore you by getting into a long discussion about whether or not any distinction still remains between product and service). Customers will not buy into an empty brand in just the same way as they will not buy an empty cornflakes packet – what the Guardian experiment demonstrates is the first stage or two of the basic marketing model known as AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. The experiment create Awareness (people saw the ads) and a few people got as far as Interest (they contacted Joy by phone or web to find out more). But to get to Desire or Action, you need a lot more than a smart logo and a hairy man.
But, that does not mean to say that branding is not important. As with all transactions, there is something in it for both parties – the organisation, and the customer (and I use the loose definition of customer here). Let’s take a practical example that you might have experienced – I shop in Waitrose. I buy all my food there. I have an account card. I refuse to shop in Tesco. Why? The tins of Heinz beans on the shelf in Waitrose are not different to the tins of Heinz beans on the shelf in Tesco. In fact, they are usually a little more expensive in Waitrose. So why shop there? Because of the brand, and brand means more than just the logo on the carrier bags. Brand is about an idea, an emotion, a feeling. I shop in Waitrose because I know I am getting a good quality product. I know I will get good service from the staff. I know the shop will be clean and smart. Tesco do not have that image – they work on the basis of providing value for money, although you sometimes wonder where they are going with their conflicting ranges of “Value” products (cheap, no-frills) and “Finest” (premium price, premium quality). Beyond them are stores like Aldi and Lidl, who work on providing the cheapest possible option – no smart shelving – the goods are stacked on pallets and you help yourself from there.
And, yes, I’m prepared to pay a little extra to get the Waitrose “offering”.
So what is the exchange that is involved? Well, Waitrose earn a little extra money for each product sold compared to their competitors. In return, as a customer, my needs and wants are satisfied – not just the basic “need” for foodstuffs, but also my “want” for good service in a smart environment, and the knowledge that the product is of high quality.
But Waitrose (and the others) have earned their reputations over a long period of years. Their brand symbols (racing green text, very solid and dependable looking) are as much a reflection of what they stand for as a means of promoting those values.
So what do you do if you are a new player in a market place? You have no reputation on which to build, but you want to create an image which promotes certain ideas and emotions to your audience. This is when brand design can come into play – by using symbols and words that play on the experiences and feelings of your audience, you can create a feeling, a desire, an impression in their minds. Remember the old Alliance and Leicester adverts – Stephen Fry saying “never invest in a bank with orange in the logo!” – well, people actually do feel that way. Colours and shapes do convey feelings with people, and we have preconceived ideas about that. It is no coincidence that Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and even Harrods all have dark green logos – dark green (in England at least), usually conveys feelings of quality and dependability. Would you invest in an online bank that used Comic Sans for the text on its homepage? Doubt it. Buy fast food from an outlet *without* red in the logo? (Don’t ask me why – it just is, ok? – take a look at Burger King, MacDonalds, KFC, PizzaHut….). Employ a funeral director that had orange hearses? (actually, there could be a gap in the market there!! – it was my idea first! EasyDeath!)
Do you get my point?
So don’t berate the brand. It does an important job, and offers something to you to the customer as much as to the owners of the brand. And it certainly is not going to go away.