Tag Archives: branding

Flour Sacks, Ketchup and Thrift

12 Oct

Reflecting back on this post from a year ago….branding in a time of thrift, aka the “spend shift.”

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I’ve heard stories about the Great Depression and WWII economy from my family. Losing the family farm just before President Hoover changed policies so that loans were more accessible, my grandmother later described feeling “very lucky” that she never had to dress her kids in flour sacks. It could always be worse, as they say.

Eating ketchup sandwiches sounds like a novel idea to my kids, but it was less than romantic for my mom in the early 1940s when nutritious food was rationed. Ketchup is not a vegetable, despite what Ronald Reagan and the USDA said in 1981.

But this post is not really about flour sacks or ketchup sandwiches. It is about a set of hard-core self-determinism and conservative (I am not talking politics here) values that got us through those tough years. And apparently the American consumer is returning to a model of saving rather than spending, focusing on time with family and friends rather than outward-oriented and ambitious ideas of success, and more consciousness for community benefit rather than self-aggrandizement.

What’s really important in life: continued acquisition or living more simply?  Is it better to encourage my son to save his money for the newest video game system or sock it away for something he may need in the future? Does it matter, in the end?

I heard an interesting talk by consumer expert John Gerzema at the Inc. 500 conference in D.C. over the weekend. Look at my twitter feed or search on #werthinc for my posts on his talk and others’. His discussion prompted me to buy two of his books, Spend Shift and The Brand Bubble. This is a man standing atop mountains of data gleaned from tens of thousands of consumers, all telling a story about buying behavior in the past and predictions for the future. It’s fascinating stuff.

This quote stood out for me: “As we stopped acquiring, we became more inquiring.” Apparently, 68 percent of Americans now have library cards — the highest number ever. I like this, although browsing in a library is different now. I like browsing books online and “buying” the free books from Amazon for Kindle. There are a lot of classics there gratis.

Here’s another: “The badge of awesomeness means being more nimble, adaptable and thrifty.” I’ve been on both sides of the coin here. I’ve had my moments of being shopaholic. Once I spent three hundred dollars in one trip at a Banana Republic for things I really didn’t need. My three hundred dollars didn’t take me far, but that was three years ago and I’m still wearing the stuff, except for one wool sweater that mistakenly was washed and put into the dryer. My daughter could wear it for a year, but soon it was too small for both of us. It’s been relegated to the doll-clothes container.

On the flip side, I decided that I wasn’t going to break the bank for the Inc. 500 conference formal. Not regularly attending such highbrow events, I needed to buy a gown and all the trappings. So here’s how I approached it:

  • From Clintonville consignment shop Rag-o-Rama, a black taffeta one-shoulder full-length clean line gown, not a designer label: $10
  • Dry cleaning the gown at Caskey Cleaners: $10
  • Patent leather shoes, beaded silk purse and black velvet/silk wrap from Grandview consignment shop One More Time: $30
  • Same earrings I wore for the rest of the conference
  • A seed beaded cuff I bought for $15 from the Columbus Museum of Art gift shop several months ago.

Grand total: $65. And I will totally wear that dress again. It fit great and made me happy because the price tag was my secret. Both my grandmothers would be proud.

So there you go, John Gerzema. I am looking forward to reading both books, but as you might guess I’ve started with Spend Shift. I’m hoping to unlock some new learnings to help communicate with this new brand of consumer. I can see applications here for work and home life.

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Brands and Creating Emotional Appeal

6 Jan

Brands that elicit emotion attract devotion—and loyal followers.

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Image from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophisticated measurements—even MRI’s as described by Martin Lindstrom in Buyology—can track individual emotional reactions and the brain’s response to the appeals of marketing. Neuromarketing is all the rage now thanks to self-described brand futurist Lindstrom, and the revelations from his $7 million study are fascinating on the surface. It sounds as if many of our decisions that were thought to be driven by, well, thought, for such a long time, are in fact driven by instinct, deeply embedded and hard-wired into our nervous systems. I am looking forward to reading more about it and learning how I can shut off that part of my brain that likes Boden so much. Something resident in my reptilian brain no doubt.

Ethnographic studies follow or record consumer interaction with brands. I remember one study that monitored women’s processes of getting ready (“faire sa toilette” in French…sounds more glamorous) in the morning. They discovered that many women actually climb on top of their sinks so they can best see their faces for tweezing activity and makeup application. Imagine how this changed expectations around makeup packaging and accessories.

But describing and quantifying emotional connection to brands is different than feeling the connection. What’s the sensory experience of holding the sleek, rounded casing of the iPhone and flicking between album covers to choose a new playlist? The “ahhhhh” relaxation of sinking one’s head into a Tempurpedic pillow (or mattress, for the lucky few) at the end of the day? The feeling of unwrapping a Lindor dark chocolate truffle and eating it whole before it melts. Or hearing the crushed paper in metal wastebasket, slam-dunk sound of an old document being moved from the desktop to the trashcan on your Mac? (SFX: Resolute crrrrrrunch.)

Lovemarks, coined by Saatchi and Saatchi, describe the beyond-brand nirvana of sensory connection to products. Lovemarks are in the upper-right corner of the quadrants formed by the love and respect continuums, squarely defined by high love/high respect. I like the concept of lovemarks because it incorporates appreciation for the sensory experience of brands—and the feelings brought about by brand interaction.

One brand that’s leveraging the lovemark and Alsop’s seventh law is Ohio: The State of Perfect Balance. This is Ohio’s brand, now on driver’s licenses and being implemented across all areas of state government. From the economic development perspective the concept behind this brand is that business leaders can build their business AND love their life—something that’s clearly not possible on the coasts and in areas that require large commitments of time for commute. Place branding has the power to draw more people to Ohio through emotional connections.

Take a minute to think about the brands that evoke reactions for you that don’t involve thoughtful analysis. Comfort. Inspiration. Hope. Love. Protection. Relaxation.

What gut-level reactions do you associate with different brands? When you consider how persuasive emotion can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if you came up with a unique list.

The Power of Place

31 Aug

IMG_0583Spatial memory is a powerful thing. It brings hummingbirds back to Ohio every year from the Caribbean, and it evokes emotional memories for us humans.

What is it that makes places so deeply etched in our minds and hearts? My thought is that it’s because of the sensory experience. Unlike an object, which could be remembered for its static qualities, a place is full of three-dimensional and dynamic sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes.

This is why we return home and feel comfort at the end of a long day. Memory evokes the senses that yearn for the smell of the fireplace in the living room, the velvet upholstery of the favorite armchair, dinner cooking in the kitchen and clean sheets on the bed at night. Places like home, a friend’s house or a spiritual setting like a church, mosque or synagogue elicit emotions that feel good and keep us coming back.

Why do so many visit New York City every year, for the first time?  The reason is place anticipation—spatial memory in reverse. The many attributes of “The City” are known far and wide: opinionated and metropolitan people, high-end boutiques, the best plays and live music, museums, Central Park, street vendors, five-star restaurants. These are the many facets of New York City’s place brand, and everyone knows them. Reading about them or seeing them on television is not enough. The value is in BEING there, experiencing the brand of New York City—close up and in person.

Place branding fuses economic development practice with the strategies and tactics of branding. The goal is to create anticipation for locations that are less well-known—or places that are perceived inaccurately. More cities, states and nations are investing in a place-branding strategy to incentivize capital investment and expansion in their locale. Dubai, Wales and Queensland are prime examples—even my own Ohio. The key in place branding is to focus on the overall economic development strategy and leverage marketing and communications to deliver on their promise.

I am particularly interested in the experiential aspects communicated virtually through place branding. It’s tough to get at all of the senses when separated by distance. Words and pictures can help to tell the story, but two-dimensional impact is not as powerful as being there in person. This interview conducted by CEO Ed Burghard of the Burghard Group with Robert Govers—an expert in place branding, image and tourism—explores the possibilities. In particular, question and answer number 5 address the concept that place branding’s product development is all about managing the experience, in person and online.

As we become more of a global economy and can leverage technology to activate our senses in anticipating place, I wonder how our impressions of places will change as we are exposed to more information about places we thought we knew. Will the so-called “hot-spots” for young talent, families and couples change—both in terms of vacation sites and places to call home? I’m guessing that there are places still off the map in the minds of developers and travelers alike—not because they’re uncharted but because they’ve been overlooked or under-appreciated.