The blog.

Blanding our way to the bottom – Part 1 of 3

Don’t confuse ‘Mass Awareness” with “Message Neutrality”.

Much has been made of the great work being done by Ehrenberg Bass in South Australia.

So much so, many marketers are choosing not to segment their markets at all.

A recent conversation with a prospective client highlighted what appears to be a growing mind-set in many Australian marketers.

When asked about market segmentation, and messaging to different customer types, the response was, “We don’t need to target women, we’re ‘Ehrenberg Bass’.”

I think they’re talking horse nuggets.

But I don’t blame Ehrenberg Bass.

To be fair to the team at the institute, they make their case very well.

The thought is simple. Mass awareness is more effective than segmented messaging.

The insight is a cannon over the bows of traditional marketing promises. Customers aren’t loyal to brands. (“72% of people who buy Coke also buy Pepsi.”)

There are a number of Commandments for their growing horde of disciples. Ten, as it turns out. The humility of the institute might suggest these are more golden threads than golden rules. But I’m just guessing.

1:    The new metrics are not about differentiation.

2:    Most customers don’t see brands as having a difference, or that the difference actually matters.

3:    The real battle is about salience – being relevant to the customer in some way – and memorability – ensuring the customer remembers your brand at the point of purchase.

4:    The real need is to build memory structures.

5:    Make the brand easy to like, easy to memorise and easy to recall.

6:    Make it easy for the customer to buy you again and again and again.

7:    Marketing is, according to the institute, a constant battle for attention. Not love.

8:    The key goal is mental and physical availability.

9:    If your share of voice is above the market mean, and your offer is competitive, you’re more likely to grow your business.

10:  If your share of voice is below the market mean, you’ll struggle.

There you go, marketing manager.

All your thinking has been done.

Go mass. Then go shopping.

However. There is a small fault in this logic.

Not with the findings of The Ehrenberg Bass Institute.

But in the implementation.

To grow brand share, the marketer must spend above the market mean.

If everyone is spending more, the market media spend will increase.

Which means, unless the marketer is spending increasingly more on mass awareness every year, they will be going backwards.

The thinking, to me anyway, is triggering a media arms race.

An increase in media spend, with brands either clearly spelling out the logical superiority of their offer or hitch-hiking on the societal trend of creating a brand with a purpose (“getting Sinek-y”).

And, while this is great news for media companies, and people who like putting pretty pictures next to a manifesto, it dumbs down advertising.

It stops us thinking about how we should connect and essentially says, “Make the logo bigger” – only in a scientific way.

Marketers need to look beyond the science of media and peer into the abyss of people’s emotions.

If you want to use the power of mass awareness, you can’t bland people into submission.

To borrow from Euripides, how can Ehrenberg Bass help you if you don’t help yourself?

Don’t just make the logo bigger. Make the brand take a bigger place in people’s hearts.

But more on that tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.


Do brands not value money?


How much business truth is too much?

I love a good brand model.

I have my own pet theories: behaviour drives attitude, vision before values, HR is not the enemy.

Crazy stuff.

I spend my life desperately trying to uncover pot of gold at the end of the research results.

Or create a movement from a string of four specifically selected words.

Or find the insight that will double sales while halving spend.

It keeps me off the streets.

And, as much as I love me a good brand model, so often the inputs ignore the ugly side of a business.

Not the bad side of a business.

I’m not suggesting for a moment we should be having conversations like, “Barry. I think we should base your brand on your business’s total failure to satisfy even the most basic customer requests.”

I’m talking the ugly side of the business.

Like profit.

We very rarely hear profit mentioned as a value.

Not just a fair profit. Profit enough to continue trading. Profit enough to keep our people in a job. We don’t mention money at all.

It’s like money is the attractive idiot in a family of supermodel savants.

Appreciated. But never boasted about.

Values are important. Values are what great brands are built on.

Customer service. A commitment to excellence. Transparency. Honesty. Truth. Justice.

But hardly ever any mention of money.

Do we not value that thing which keeps the wheels of the business lubricated?

Is it because we assume it’s crass to talk of money?

Or do we believe our customers don’t want us to mention profit as a value because they will then assume we’ll put money before people?

As brand gurus and football coaches will tell you, our values should be those things we are not prepared to compromise on.

The ideas at the core of how we act and what we say.

The bedrock of the reputation we have, and the reputation we want.

They are the ideals by which we judge our actions.

If we truly want to merge the actions of our people with the expectations of our customers, should we not consider all those things all our people aspire to?

Do we not mention cash because “brand” represent our ideals – and “business” represents a more prosaic reality.

Perhaps this is why marketing is so often seen as an adjunct to a business, and not a core pillar.

We should be more open to merging the timeless business truths with timeless human truths.