In the context of my book, Brand Rituals™: How Successful Brands Bond with Customers for Life, I have defined five myths that inhibit traditional marketing success. Here is the second one, we as future-driven marketers need to let go of, if we want to create a Brand Ritual™.
Myth #2: We Can Assume the Customer Is Interested
No, we can’t. Not anymore. In a world where we are overcommitted, overextended, and stretched beyond our limits—time-starved, when decisions are made on the spur of the moment by assembling sound bites rather than by deliberately acquiring information and weighing various options over time—it’s not a given that customers even know which brands they’re purchasing on a regular basis.
They’ve been buying ketchup and motor oil and golf shirts and alkaline batteries for years now. In their minds, these products, and a bucketful of services as well, have become commodities. They basically look alike. They basically operate alike. So if they aren’t priced alike, customers understandably start to question paying more for one over the other.
This is a fundamental reason why private-label brands continue to grow their share, not only on retail shelves but also in consumers’ pantries. According to Private Label Magazine, store brands in U.S. supermarkets reached an unprecedented 23 percent market share. Total sales of store brands are almost $100 billion as the industry has recorded annual sales gains between 6 and 10 percent in supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers. “Rather than a temporary effect of uncertain economic times,” the magazine noted, “there are clear indications that retailers are winning new supporters to their brands.”
There’s also a phenomenon called plateauing. When something new comes along, like tablets or apps or laparoscopic surgery, there’s an initial period of adjustment as customers learn how to make the best use of the new offering. But in relatively little time, they achieve a basic familiarity and find they know what they need to know to make whatever it is do what they need it to do.
Fifty years ago, test driving a car was very important to buying one. Cars were improving. Roads were spreading. Lifestyles were expanding. Brands were growing. Millions of new drivers, and even lots of experienced ones, needed to become familiar with the new performance capabilities being offered to them, so a test drive was an important aspect of their purchase process. With very few exceptions, that’s no longer the case today. Imagine someone who’s been in a coma since 1970 coming out of it this morning. If they wandered outside and got behind the wheel of a car, they might have trouble figuring out the GPS and multifunction stereo built into the dash. But they’d be justifiably confident that they could master the process of putting the key in the ignition, put the car in gear, and figure out which foot pedal makes the car go faster and which one slows it down.
Consequently, test drives today are more a matter of occupying customers for extended periods of time, which effectively reduces their already scarce time for comparison shopping. Knowing this, some car dealers train their salespeople to literally try to keep customers on the lot for a targeted period of time: an hour, ninety minutes, even two hours. In some cases, the intent almost seems to be to create a form of Stockholm Syndrome, the phenomenon in which hostages come to identify with their captors. It’s as if the longer the sales staff can keep us captive on the lot, the better the odds they’ll break us down and get us to buy their offering—if only so we can get away.
I think a lot of people who create brands start from the premise that they’ve come up with something new and cool and never before encountered, which makes it imperative that they grab customers by the lapels and regale them with the full spectrum of features, advantages, and benefits they’ve built into whatever it is they’re trying to sell. In actuality, there are precious few people in the world walking around thinking, “Oh me, oh my, I want something to come into my life tomorrow, an exciting new product or service, that will change my life.” Who has that kind of time? For more on this myth and how to build brand bonds in today’s complex business and marketing environment, read the book. You can find it on Amazon and other leading booksellers.