Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Just Be Yourself

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Just Be Yourself

Article excerpt

Brands aiming to be whatever the consumer wants will suffer from a resultant lack of identity.

When I was at university, I used to have this terrifically easy-going girlfriend. If I wanted to go out with my college mates for a piss-up, she was fine with it. If I wanted to stay in, eat pizza and watch Match of the Day - she'd smile and agree. It got to the stage where she stopped suggesting things and just went along with whatever I wanted to do.

I often think about her - especially when my wife is telling me to do the recycling. Or changing the channel when I am in the middle of watching Mad Men because Hell's Kitchen is on.

Don't get me wrong. I don't yearn for my former girlfriend - quite the opposite. I remember how bored I was in that relationship and how horribly I behaved. The more pliant my girlfriend, the more lazy and distant I became.

This fact should worry Vodafone, Yahoo! and T-Mobile, because all three brands have repositioned themselves around being whatever you want them to be. Vodafone is spending millions declaring 'Power to you'. Yahoo! is proclaiming: 'There is a new master of the digital universe. You'.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is launching its myTouch smartphone by asking consumers to imagine a 'one-of-a-kind phone for your one-of-a-kind life'.

'We are about you,' say these brands. 'Whatever you want, that's what we are.' It's very 'co-creative', 'empowering' and all the other things 22-year-old marketers crap on about.

Unfortunately, it's not going to work, because when you don't stand for anything, you get eaten alive by competitors who do. When I met my wife, she had opinions and interests that sometimes clashed with mine. I loved that about her. We are attracted to substance - not vague and open assertions of empowerment and affection. You must represent something specific to a particular segment or you will lose.

Even before Vodafone ramps up its 'empowerment dialogue' with consumers mumbo-jumbo, Tesco is seemingly making fun of it in TV ads that use a tone of voice that is straightforward, on your side, low-cost and unmistakably Tesco. That's the point - be yourself, not whatever anyone wants you to be.

It also won't work because, in my opinion, it bores consumers. Arguing with my wife is infinitely more arousing than my ex-girlfriend's constant acquiescence. When Time magazine tried the empowerment approach in 2006 and declared that its 'Person of the Year' was You - complete with a reflective cover - it sold poorly compared with editions from earlier years with specific people. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.