Over the past decade businesses that compete in the mass middle market of their industries have seen increasing pressure on sales and margins. ‘Death in the middle’ as it has been called has been caused by competitors taking either value positions or premium positions. This has shrunk the space in the middle and made the value propositions of the brands occupying it less attractive to consumers.
More recently brand strategy has followed a similar path. Brands relying on ‘traditional’ product derived, benefit oriented brand promises have struggled to stand apart. In many categories the majority of brands are undifferentiated in what they offer and how they act. (For example, in regards to brand behaviour, many brands will use television advertising if they can afford it, supported by a promotion or two, a social media initiative, and maybe even an active Facebook community).
What these brands are being squeezed by are competitors who are claiming a bigger role in the world that transcend their categories. Or, alternately, who are actioning myriad small initiatives that are engaging consumers outside of their category’s typical touchpoints.
The ‘go big’ option is about finding a purpose or championing a belief that makes the world ‘a better place’. Ikea’s mission to make style affordable for everyone is an example of a brand with a purpose. Some others are Pedigree (to make life better for dogs), Apple (to help people with passion change the world for the better) and Dove (to help women recognise and celebrate their own individual beauty).
Belief based brands include Omo (dirt is the by product of children’s need and right to explore the world, so ‘Dirt is good’), Johnnie Walker (success is about personal ‘progress’ – the journey of life – ‘not material wealth or ostentatious display of status’) and Emirates (‘the more of the world we experience the richer we become’).
‘Going big’ connects with consumers through inspiring them. These brand direction gives people an ideal to aspire to, a principle to identify with or a pursuit to participate in.
The ‘go small’ option has been empowered by digital and social media. This has allowed brands to create small (relative to traditional advertising) off-line and on-line initiatives that people can easily interact with, use, talk about and/or share. Where ‘going big’ is about inspiration, ‘going small’ is about connecting with people through things that make life a little bit more interesting or easier.
Seattle based Jones Soda Co. employs photographs of its customers on it bottles, and under each bottle cap is a piece of advice, much like a fortune cookie.
Rivella, a Swiss soft drink, hosts a website of addictive ‘One Button’ games to help pass the time.
Ben and Jerry’s ‘Moo Vision’ iphone app uses augmented reality to allows customers to see 3D images emerging from the lids of its ice cream cartons. For example, when pointing the camera to New York Super Fudge Chunk, the app takes you on a virtual tour of New York City.
Germany’s Blush lingerie prints amusing messages on each of its receipts highlighting the ‘true’ value to customers of using its products. For instance, according to Blush, a Babydoll negligee priced a €99.90 can save you €2,830.10, consisting of the price of the product less the cost of 10 sessions of Partner therapy (€1,700), Gym membership fee (€1,080) and Viagra (€150)!
Tontine’s idea of stamping each of its pillows with a ‘Use By’ date is a small gesture. But one tied to a bigger purpose – that all Australians should sleep on a fresh pillow.
And of course the myriad mobile apps being produced are all about creating moments of branded entertainment and utility.
Image Credit: Martina Rathgens
:Thinkshots | Thinkshot posts are observations and ideas relating to current issues and trends impacting the future of brands, marketing and marketing communications.
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