Magazine article Marketing


Magazine article Marketing


Article excerpt

Marketers must get hands-on with their brands, so that they experience them in the same way consumers do.

One of the most profound differences between the act of consuming a brand and the task of marketing it is the degree of intimacy involved.

For all but the most ethereal of categories, consumption intimacy means exactly that. The product might well end up inside the person (snack, beer, analgesic), or the person might well end up inside the product (hotel, aircraft, bank).

Either way, it's a physical experience, replete with sounds, smells, sensations and, above all, touch - enough to give that marketing buzzword 'touchpoint' some real meaning. Consumption, for the most part, is a hands-on affair.

Marketing, increasingly, is a hands-off discipline, conducted by intermediate means. You can walk through the marketing department of a big global brand, weaving past people intently focused on screens, and realise that, were it not for the company name on your visitor's badge, you'd have no idea of even the category that was the point of it all.

The screen has become our window on the market and, like any window, it sets up a barrier, as well as offering a view. Desensitised from the rawness of consumer experiences, we create a language of abstraction, and depict it with graphic symbolism. Something we call 'architecture' is expressed as a model; 'awareness' is a graph; 'bonding' is a pyramid; 'attitude' is word-cloud distillation of internet chatter.

It's all data, in through the eye, scanned by the brain, reconfigured and released back out again in PowerPoint presentations to infuse the group consciousness. It's all useful, and, for the most part, highly efficient: commercial firepower condensed into pixels.

Yet it is dangerous if it is all that we do. Marketers must get hands-on, not only to stay sane, but also to experience the brand as consumers do, with all its rewards, frustrations and physicality.

Here, a leading chief executive has shown marketers the way. In a recent Marketing interview (25 April), easyJet's Carolyn McCall revealed that she goes up and down the aisle with a bin bag every time she takes one of its flights, collecting passengers' rubbish.

It doesn't get more physical than that - and it is a lead that marketers and their agencies could do worse than follow.

If you need to undertake a brand architecture review, do it by shifting around the physical packs, not with a diagram. It will reveal surprises.

If you head marketing for a bank, go and queue in a different branch each lunchtime for the next 10 working days. …

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