March 23, 2015

What The Brand Babblers Don't Understand


Imagine for a second that you're the brand manager for BigSave supermarkets.

Your job is to build the BigSave brand so that customers prefer you to SaveMore, and HugeSave.

You know how wonderful BigSave is. You want to spread the word. You want consumers to see inside your brand. You want them to know how responsive you are, and how pleasant you are to engage with, and how willing you are to work with them and help them.

Building the brand is absolutely essential to your career and central to your life. Once you leave the house in the morning, it is the most important thing you do.

Now let's talk about the average consumer. The average consumer couldn't give a flying shit about BigSave.

If BigSave exploded tomorrow, the average consumer wouldn't bother picking up the donuts.

The average consumer has other things on her mind. Like why she gained 2 pounds last week, and why her father is looking pale, and why the fucking computer keeps losing its WiFi signal, and why Timmy's teacher wants to see her next week, and what's that bump she noticed on her arm?

The point is this: our brands are very important to us marketers and very unimportant to most consumers. Please read that again.

Are there some brands each of us are attached to? Sure. Are there brands we buy regularly? Sure. Is our attachment to a handful of brands strong and nonsensical? Sure. The problem is we buy stuff in hundreds of categories and are strongly attached to only a few brands.

The idea that our attachment represents "love" or any of the other woolly nonsense perpetrated by brand hustlers is folly.

The clearest demonstration of the weakness of the cult of brands is the dismal performance of social media marketing. We were promised that social media would be the magic carpet on which our legions of brand advocates would go to spread the word about the marvelousness of our brands, and would free us from the terrible, wasteful expense of advertising. It has done nothing of the sort.

In fact, it is often the exact opposite. Social media is usually where people go to scream about the mistreatment we get at the hands of companies. And where companies go to beg forgiveness.

A recent study reported that among a brand’s fans, only .07% — that’s 7 in ten thousand — ever engage with the brand’s Facebook posts. On Twitter the number is even lower — 3 in ten thousand. And these are not average consumers. These are the brands so-called "fans." (This is a correction from the original post which had the number at .7%)

A study I quoted here recently by Havas claims that “in Europe and the US, people would not care if 92% of brands disappeared.”

Having a successful brand is very important to a marketer. But the idea that it is anything like that to a consumer is folly. Brand babble is just the faulty conflation of marketers' needs and consumers' interests.

Modern marketing is operating under the delusion that consumers want to interact with brands, and have relationships with brands, and brand experiences, and engage with them, and co-create with them.

Sorry, amigo. Not in this lifetime.

31 comments:

  1. Great points, as usual. Small edit: nonsensical, not nonsensicle. (Though The Nonsensicle sounds like a fun name for a dumb marketer award.)

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  2. The brand is the score, not the game.


    Once we understand that, we can agree that:


    - there are many ways for BigSave to be a special brand that customers will care about and drive an extra 10 minutes to: make it a place where they feel special, or find better products, or...


    - some categories are brand first and the product is very detached and almost irrelevant: beer, fragrancies, high-end fashion. This is usually because the product is commoditized, or the regular buyer can't tel the difference between one and the other and needs to rely on a cognitive shortcut (appeal, advice...)


    - don't make the mistake that other people make, by looking at what is and considering it the way it's meant to be. The few successful brands out there (that 92% in Europe and North America declines to 73% globally) are not a statistical anomaly, they're evidence that it's possible to create brands that people consider special and worthy of extra attention, feelings or cash. It's just that we're doing an absolutely terrible job of it. You've been in the industry long enough to see it first hand, and in reality a three-months intern would recognize that, even without the evidence brought by research.

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  3. Thanks Doc. I will correct. Although the lemon nonsensicles are really refreshing.

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  4. Social media is a place where people go to communicate with each other. Marketing through it? I liken it to picking up the telephone in 1982 and being forced to listen to a :60 radio spot before being allowed to dial my mum.

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  5. Bob, possible to cite the research behind the low numbers (.7/.3 %) surrounding engagement to a brand's Facebook/Twitter posts? I would like to share with a client to help steer them properly. Thx.

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  6. #PRLife #engagement #PRbullshit http://gorkana.com/news/consumer/general-news/brazen-prs-launch-prlife-experiment/

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  7. Bob- All too often you describe to thoughts and actions held by a client. After using FB as a flat out advertising platform failure, it was decided to use FB and their email list to push a newsletter - "a fun, relaxed, non-pushy approach to selling their services". Yes, you have every right to criticize me for the question. How do you deal with client who insists on using such horseshit wasting time, money and causing distraction (fromthe fallout of yet another failure?) Input from a seasoned agency guy would be appreciated.

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  8. Nice job identiying the problem. Got a recommended solution?

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  9. Yes. As a matter of fact, my number was wrong. It's actually ten times WORSE than the number I quoted. I'm about to correct the blog. The source is Forrester Research: http://blogs.forrester.com/nate_elliott/14-04-29-instagram_is_the_king_of_social_engagement

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  10. Marketing babblers babble about two things more than anything: social media and data. Data shows us that social media accounts for little less than 0.07% of traffic to most websites. Social shows us that people are angry trolls with a tenuous grasp of grammar. After all these years I still cannot understand why marketeers keep circlejerking about social media. Is it sexier than PPC, SEO and email? At what point did marketers start to care more about thumbs-up than dollar signs?

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  11. Odd, considering that the advertisers we have (I run a prominent website for yacht and sailboat racing) who use Facebook and Twitter alongside promoted content and banner ads say that Facebook is the single biggest source of new, paying customers. One of my more creative clients wrote me last week about the relationship between paid ads and social: "We've worked with your site and Twitter serve to funnel potential customers to our Facebook, and it's amazing how quickly those turn into personal contact, recurring online relationships, and sales." Our successful advertisers say that the most important part of social marketing is the person behind the screen. Another conversation last month. "Since 2008 we've had a succession of 'kids' running our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds, figuring they knew their way around best. Finally we hired a top sales associate to run the show, and our digital sales have grown by over 300% in six months."

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  12. Congratulations. Anomalies transpire.

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  13. 'Last click' attribution?

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  14. Woe betide any of us who assume for even a second that anybody else gives a hoot about what what's important to us. As marketers, it's our job to make it care-worthy. I think every marketing conference should redesign those little suede-jacket-ruining nametags they pass out to read: "Hi, I'm (Bill). And nobody else cares,"

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  15. Bob Hoffman makes another strong argument. Somebody named "Clean" attempts to refute it without naming themselves or the business.
    I'll stick with the legitimacy of the "Bob Hoffman" brand here.

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  16. In fairness, that's the number who like, share or comment on a post. It's not the same as the number who see or read the post.

    I don't disagree with your conclusion, but once again I think you're cooking the numbers. How many people engage with a print ad, versus just, you know, seeing it?

    I think you hold online advertising to a higher standard.

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  17. In fairness, traditional media doesn't make the outlandish claims that online and social do. They don't call magazine readers or television viewers 'fans'. Also, the post above isn't trying to compare online and traditional; it's pointing out that brands are not as important to the everyman as they are to marketers.

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  18. "...who use Facebook and Twitter alongside promoted content and banner ads say that Facebook is the single biggest source of new, paying customers."


    Comparing one shitty form of advertising to another. Yeah, no wonder Facebook is the bigger source.


    Or maybe it's that people are responding to the promoted content like they would, oh I don't know, a print ad?

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  19. Promoted content and banner ads are both examples of ADVERTISING.

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  20. They love brands when the brand serves THEIR needs and no further. This is why premier customer services and great content that answers questions, is crucial for a brand to stay relevant and consumed.

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  21. No, traditional media uses outdated assumptions such as Nielsen ratings and circulation numbers, which are not only overblown, but don't tell you a thing about who saw your ad.

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  22. Are you suggesting digital does?

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  23. Not universally, but it can get a lot closer than traditional. For example, I know the gender, ages, behaviors, geography and associated interests of people who visited my site today.

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  24. Great, but can you tell me who of those visitors viewed a specific ad on your site? And by viewed, I mean actually looked at the entire ad?

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  25. I'm interested in them reading the content on my site.

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  26. Advertisers (the people that the metrics are used to convince) are less interested in that.

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  27. And there's the very root of the problem.

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  28. Bj√∂rn WigeniusMarch 30, 2015 at 3:14 AM

    Lol. In Sweden they tried that, listen to some radio spots before and during your call and you could call for "free". (Of course it) Didn't work out. They must have tried that elsewhere as well?

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  29. Thanks for the quote of our study "meaningful brands". Totally agree with your post. Only a few brands really add real value to people´s life, and is basically thanks to product performance, because solve a problem or cover a need...nothing to do with conversations, relationships, engagements...just VALUE

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