NEWS30 October 2014

"Brands are not gods or life partners, they're heuristics"

News UK

UK — Brands looking to drive loyalty should focus attention on fitting into consumers’ lives, not on persuading them to buy, says Peter Dann of the Nursery.


Speaking at the MRS Customers Exposed conference in London, Dann argued that the supposed “death of loyalty” is an unnecessarily emotional way to define customer behaviour, based on an outdated notion that brands are people, and that creating loyalty requires consumers to have a relationship with that brand.

Instead, Dann argued, loyalty should be based on the notion of helping consumers to make decisions in a crowded marketplace. “Brands are not gods or life partners,” said Dann. “They’re heuristics. Loyalty to brands is more like familiarity or convenience; making it easy for consumers to come out with what they want, to make choices when they don’t have time to explore.”

Dann compared the change in thinking around brand loyalty to the enlightenment that led to the industrial revolution. “Customers are not disloyal; they’re disinterested. But this doesn’t mean the death of brands any more than enlightenment meant the death of government. We just have to reframe the way we market to more enlightened, distracted customers.”

Dann urged researchers to take lessons from the Church of England in Victorian times, explaining that 1904 saw a high point of churchgoing in the UK. When you look closely at what Victorian churchmen were doing to improve churchgoing following the age of enlightenment, Dann said, certain parallels can be drawn with Byron Sharp’s guidelines for marketing.

The focus of church activity, said Dann, shifted from insisting that people must come to church every Sunday to asking them to come just once or twice; this can be translated to the modern practice of not marketing to heavy users of brands: “Don’t preach to the converted,” urged Dann. The other realisation that the Victorian church had was to see that its competition was not other denominations, but but all the other activities that could be done on a Sunday. Similarly in today’s marketplace, a lager brand’s competitive set is not just other lagers, or even other beers, but everything else that’s available in a pub setting, including not just other drinks, but activities such as fruit machines and juke boxes, said Dann.

Other comparisons were drawn between how church rituals and processions drove interest in the church: researchers could similarly help brands to discover other ways for brands to connect with consumers; and how not veering away from the church’s message can remind brands of the importance of refreshing memory structures without destroying them. Lastly, said Dann, it’s important to understand that you don’t need to strive for differentiation to be distinctive.

“There’s a role for research in marketing enlightenment,” said Dann.”We need to focus attention not on how to persuade people to buy brands, but how brands can fit into their lives.”


1 Comment

8 years ago

This is well argued...and interestingly enough the foundation of TNS conversion model was religious conversion. The recently redesigned CM builds on the newest understanding of how the brain works, and the brand as habit code. I would argue that customers are so much "disinterested" as habituated. Brands are a habit code, and the job of the marketer is to unlock memory to reinforce or change habits.

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