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 third one, we as future-driven marketers need to let go of, if we want to create a Brand Ritual™.
Brands are not something marketers create out of thin air. In reality, a brand is only valuable—in essence, it only becomes a brand—when customers decide it has a reason for being a part of their lives. The consumer’s experience creates and validates the brand, not marketers or advertising.
A few years ago, we saw the functional emptiness of the myth of advertising as brand catalyst repeatedly demonstrated during the Super Bowl. A number of new “brands” appeared whose primary value promise seemed to be that they must be important and worthwhile—and real—because their creators were advertising them in this highest of high-profile football games.
In a way, their creators fell victim to a distortion of the Super Bowl’s own brand identity: although ostensibly it is the championship game that ends, with great flourish and fanfare, the National Football League’s season, in recent years people seem to pay more attention to the commercials than the game itself. And each year, it seems, this mythology grows. Genial TV newsreaders from Manhattan, New York, to Manhattan, Kansas, to Manhattan Beach, California, profoundly discuss the game’s best and worst ads. Magazines and newspapers run advance previews and post-game compilations. Our industry’s trade media provide learned analysis on the techniques used and rapturous commentary on the stories behind the little mini-dramas.
Does customer behavior change? With very few exceptions, no, it doesn’t. Remember Go Daddy’s provocative and much-discussed ads on Super Bowls from 2005 on? The ads often were the most talked about commercials from their respective games and created a lot of buzz for their “Go Daddy Girls,” including NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. But Go Daddy withdrew a 2006 IPO due to market uncertainties, and each year, after the initial postgame buzz had passed, the company continued struggling to differentiate its business model.
More recently, the focus has been on sharing Super Bowl ads via social media – even well ahead of the actual event. It’s become the Social Bowl. But many of the advertisers who latched on to social media for the Super Bowl forgot something critical, says Mark Ghuneim, CEO of the digital analytics firm Trendrr. “Throwing out a hashtag, as many did, is a great first step, but advertisers need to do a better job of a call to action.” Just because there is a lot of social sharing does not mean customers are going to change their behavior.
The idea that, in today’s commoditized environment, brands get built by advertising is a huge myth. You can create a wonderful commercial. You can put it on the Super Bowl. You can get people to Tweet, Facebook, and Pin. You can spend millions of dollars providing hundreds of repeat impressions to millions of customers and tell yourself it’s all worthwhile because people now know your brand’s name. But it’s an absolute waste if, at the end of the day, people aren’t using the product or service, figuring out the role it can play in their lives, and deciding to use it again.
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.