Brand power is on the wane so you’d better engage

By November 16, 2007Advertising, New Media

I have posted on this theme before a number of times (including here and here) and am returning to it today because of a great little story posted on Modern Marketing:

The greatest problem that marketeers have these days is that no one really cares what they say.  The only opinions people are interested in are those from other people.  Let me give you a personal example.  I have been in the market for a new kitchen for sometime and as a result, quite randomly, found myself in a Moben salesroom and booked up for a consultation.  The Moben rep duly arrived and was very good, explaining everything we needed.  In short we were sold and even cancelled other consultations.  However, I then mentioned our intended purchase to friends and family and got some concerned looks.  Unusually for me I hadn’t checked the company online but then did so.  I found a series of horror stories – including this particularly graphic one.  Order cancelled.  Moben’s tight marketing programme including a shop in a nice part of town, lovely website, super salesman and beautiful literature had been made entirely redundant by my 10 second search. Call it death by Google Index.

Clicking on some of the links is fun too.  They take you to the results of a simple Google search on ‘Moben’ which returns half a dozen complaints in the first page of results, and a website called KitchenHell which is dedicated to publicising Moben problems.
As an aside, it is unbelievable in this day and age that Moben don’t exercise more control over the search results on their name.

And to make matters worse, now I’m writing about it.

Here is a succinct explanation of why things have changed, also from Modern Marketing:

Advertising used to work because the industry had the biggest loudhailer and it could be used to make everyone listen, even if they didn’t really want to.  Which meant brands could be ‘built’ for people to ‘aspire’ to.  Which was all fine when no one really had anything and luxurious things were genuinely rare.  So people watched the ads because they had little choice and the odd one was funny and a few were inspiring.

However, in 1990 one man sowed some seeds which would eventually annihilate that top down, scarcity-driven world of communication.  When Tim Berners-Lee gave us the world wide web he offered everyone a little soap box to say their piece.

And now we listen to the people telling stories from their soap boxes as much as we listen to the messages the brands want us to hear.

Which takes us right back to Cluetrain – brands have got to join the conversation so that they know what people are saying and then amend their behaviour so people start saying good things.  This is the route to success in the 21st Century.

  • Nic, very interesting post.

    Agree about brands needing to engage for our attention but I wonder about the argument that brand power is waning/will wane. Fundamental to the majority of good and enduring brands is an enduring product or service and that costs serious money and time to produce. If I go climbing in mountians I’m not going to take a chance of ‘New-fleece-product’ recommended by Jim from Sheffield above The North Face. If I’m reading a literary novel, I’m not going to download one from the net because Henrietta from Bath gave me the nod when Penguin offer me a Nobel prize winner like Coetzee. The North Face and Coetzee are quality products and I trust them. This applies to new website ventures as well.

    Teasing out the logic of this, and with reference to recommendatios from the net, why should I trust the recommendation from some stranger on the net? Some of my friends are miserable gits, some are incredibly optimistic. This informs their views and I’m aware of that and they are aware of that. We all operate like this, sifting and editing information as each day progresses.

    Yes, advertising is going to change irrevocably owing to technology, our ability to track the efficacy of that advertisong through technology, because of the massive over-supply of advertising/media space relative to a gently increasing pot of advertising, because of the massive over-supply of content for people’s attention. Will brands suffer? To take the extreme, I’m not going to put my life on the line up a mountain because of some recommendation via Google – I’ll bank on the brand.

    With information overload, perhaps brands are ideally placed to strengthen their positions??

  • Nic, very interesting post.

    Agree about brands needing to engage for our attention but I wonder about the argument that brand power is waning/will wane. Fundamental to the majority of good and enduring brands is an enduring product or service and that costs serious money and time to produce. If I go climbing in mountians I’m not going to take a chance of ‘New-fleece-product’ recommended by Jim from Sheffield above The North Face. If I’m reading a literary novel, I’m not going to download one from the net because Henrietta from Bath gave me the nod when Penguin offer me a Nobel prize winner like Coetzee. The North Face and Coetzee are quality products and I trust them. This applies to new website ventures as well.

    Teasing out the logic of this, and with reference to recommendatios from the net, why should I trust the recommendation from some stranger on the net? Some of my friends are miserable gits, some are incredibly optimistic. This informs their views and I’m aware of that and they are aware of that. We all operate like this, sifting and editing information as each day progresses.

    Yes, advertising is going to change irrevocably owing to technology, our ability to track the efficacy of that advertisong through technology, because of the massive over-supply of advertising/media space relative to a gently increasing pot of advertising, because of the massive over-supply of content for people’s attention. Will brands suffer? To take the extreme, I’m not going to put my life on the line up a mountain because of some recommendation via Google – I’ll bank on the brand.

    With information overload, perhaps brands are ideally placed to strengthen their positions??

  • nic

    Interesting thoughts James. I agree that the notion of a brand as “a good promised delivered” will endure. I guess my point was more about companies that try to use marketing as a substitute for product or service quality – i.e. a good promise, not-delivered. Moben falls into this category, and Dell used to.

    With regard to internet recommendations – I think we will learn to filter these just as we do all other forms of recommendation. We will pay most attention to advice from people we know and whose opinions we generally trust. Due to the web we might see more of those than we do today, but the real power comes from matching us with people we don’t know, but whose opinions we are likely to share.

    To take your example – you wouldn’t care which fleece Johnny Random bought for his holiday, but you might be interested in recommendations from people you can see are serious about their mountaineering (and maybe also share your geography and income bracket).

  • nic

    Interesting thoughts James. I agree that the notion of a brand as “a good promised delivered” will endure. I guess my point was more about companies that try to use marketing as a substitute for product or service quality – i.e. a good promise, not-delivered. Moben falls into this category, and Dell used to.

    With regard to internet recommendations – I think we will learn to filter these just as we do all other forms of recommendation. We will pay most attention to advice from people we know and whose opinions we generally trust. Due to the web we might see more of those than we do today, but the real power comes from matching us with people we don’t know, but whose opinions we are likely to share.

    To take your example – you wouldn’t care which fleece Johnny Random bought for his holiday, but you might be interested in recommendations from people you can see are serious about their mountaineering (and maybe also share your geography and income bracket).

  • Brand is hell important. Part of augmented product, and often is what makes a customer purchase. See perceived value vs actual also. We can go deeper, into things like names etc.

    Buygoodsonlinecheaper.com vs amazon.com ? No contest.

  • Brand is hell important. Part of augmented product, and often is what makes a customer purchase. See perceived value vs actual also. We can go deeper, into things like names etc.

    Buygoodsonlinecheaper.com vs amazon.com ? No contest.

  • nic

    What I was trying to say here is that brands will have to change to survive. I agree that they will always play an important part in purchasing decisions.

    In a nutshell my point is that in the old saying “a brand is good promised delivered” the delivery part is increasing in importance.

  • nic

    What I was trying to say here is that brands will have to change to survive. I agree that they will always play an important part in purchasing decisions.

    In a nutshell my point is that in the old saying “a brand is good promised delivered” the delivery part is increasing in importance.

  • It is very hard to make a decision after looking on the internet at the product/service you may be about to buy. More people will call a company up to complain than will call up to say what a fantastic service they have provided, and more people will post negative points on the internet than good comments.

    I think the internet has actually made our decision harder in a way, in choosing the product/service we are looking for.

    As a designer, it is my job to design a website sell its product, and know how easy it is for a customer to trust a professional design and decide they are making the right choice. I do it too. If i am looking in the internet, i will search google and if i am looking for kitchen designs in say stratford, i will perhaps look to the bottom of the first page and find the best – most professional looking design out there. It is human nature, we all judge a book by its cover. To be fair, smaller kitchen companies will probably give a better service and product than the overbranded UK ‘leaders’.

  • It is very hard to make a decision after looking on the internet at the product/service you may be about to buy. More people will call a company up to complain than will call up to say what a fantastic service they have provided, and more people will post negative points on the internet than good comments.

    I think the internet has actually made our decision harder in a way, in choosing the product/service we are looking for.

    As a designer, it is my job to design a website sell its product, and know how easy it is for a customer to trust a professional design and decide they are making the right choice. I do it too. If i am looking in the internet, i will search google and if i am looking for kitchen designs in say stratford, i will perhaps look to the bottom of the first page and find the best – most professional looking design out there. It is human nature, we all judge a book by its cover. To be fair, smaller kitchen companies will probably give a better service and product than the overbranded UK ‘leaders’.

  • Completely agree. I've posted about this recently too:
    http://www.travelblather.com/2009/04/trust-trav

  • Completely agree. I've posted about this recently too:
    http://www.travelblather.com/2009/04/trust-trav