Thursday 24 March 2016

66 Identities

'Marketing to Mums' is one of those age-old topics that no-one seems to be getting right. I've posted about this old chestnut here and here. Much of the difficulty seems to stem from brands and agencies putting their agenda first, rather than what is important to women in their role as a mother. And although there are probably a few more mothers working in marketing and advertising than there were when I was in my 20s and 30s, many feel pressured into leaving their mother identity at home.

I was very impressed with a joint project conducted by Saatchi & Saatchi partnering up with Mumsnet, which you can read about here and even download the white paper. It's all about how marketing can create more meaningful connections to mums.

At the heart of the study is a great idea - what I would call back-to-front research. Instead of taking all the brand data and throwing it all into the giant factor analysis and segmentation machine, then giving the six segments it spits out oh-so-witty but rather patronising names, Saatchi and Mumsnet did something different.

They asked the question - how do mums define themselves, when they are conversing in social media? And to do this, they analysed all the popular mum-orientated social media networks in the UK. Which topics or groups were there?

The answer was 66 ways in which UK mums define themselves, ranging from the seemingly pure demographic 'mums with teens' through to something like 'mums with cheating partners'. On average, any woman will identify with around 6 of these groups - I tried it and found 12 that I identified with.

The next step was to do a sound quantification of these groups, amongst mothers aged 16-60, both in terms of volume and intensity of identification. This is important. Mothers with special needs children may be a smaller group in terms of volume, but are likely to identify at a high level of intensity.

And this is where the back-to-front bit comes full circle. Only at the end did they take a smaller number of these groups into qualitative research to get more insight and revelation about the lives of these mothers and their children. And here, the really fascinating stuff comes out.

One might think that 'one-child family' or 'rural mum' are not that exciting - just demographics, really. But knowing that for rural mums, a trip into town to do shopping is turned into a fun day out and really a bit of a treat for the child gives marketers all manner of possibilities to make a better connection.

Meanwhile, for those of us who are mothers and work in marketing, let's not be frightened to yell loudly when we detect our colleagues 'faking it.'

Friday 18 March 2016

Life isn't seamless

Hot on the heels of my last post about our smoothie society, I would like to unpick a few seams and see what I find. There is an obsession amongst marketing folk these days with the word 'seamless', and I notice it creeping into general usage, too. Recently, a fashion company promised me a dress which would take me 'seamlessly from Spring into Summer', and I don't think they were talking about the garment's construction.

Typical of the 'seamless' obsession is this article by Margaret Hung, SVP Consumer Dynamics, Solutions and Strategy at Millward Brown. It's called Unifying the Journey. It starts off: Marketers have long embraced the concept of creating seamless and rewarding brand experiences along the consumer journey.

The main point of the article is that digitalisation means that sales channels and media channels no longer have a divide between them, and concludes that: The solution is consumer journey mapping, which helps facilitate an integrated sales and media planning process by revealing which sales and media touchpoints play a role in the consumer decision-making process and how they work together to influence which product and brand is ultimately purchased.

No. This isn't the solution. Or at least, let's unpick that 'seamless' word and see what we are actually talking about here. 

If we're talking about 'a seamless customer journey' (if we have to) - in other words, the way that people find and buy brands through their smartphones, stores, advertising, word of mouth (maybe) - then, I would say in this day and age that this should be as easy as possible as a hygiene factor, if you like. And a brilliant technical team who are skilled in the nuts and bolts (or whatever they have these days) of making that happen should be able to sort that out.

But 'a seamless brand experience'? I'm not sure. Seamless to me starts to imply a few other things. Bland. Mediocre. Uniform. Dull. Predictable.

What about surprise? Richness? Mystery? Charm? Discovery? Curiosity? Surely these belong, too, in a 'brand experience?' As Jung said: The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world. Only then is life whole.

Which would you prefer for your 'brand experience', metaphorically? The beautiful patchwork quilt by Lucy Boston? Or a seamless robe?  

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Smoothie Society

If there is one drink product that has dominated the 21st century so far, it has to be the smoothie. While smoothies have been around in some markets ever since blenders and fridges became commonplace, the market in Europe has only really taken off in the last fifteen years. Innocent was founded in 1998, and it was only seven or eight years ago that I blogged about the first supermarket smoothies spotted in Germany.

I have often wondered about the appeal of smoothies. Some years ago, I worked on Hipp baby food, and we discovered an interesting niche of adult baby food eaters. I hasten to add that they consumed mainly the fruit versions, rather than the mashed up chicken n' carrots, although there were probably hardcore fans who did just that, too.

I'm a little wary about calling these consumers 'adults' as psychologically, they were more 'reluctant adults'. Typically, these were young women, concerned about their weight and their health, in some cases verging towards a 'Petra Pan' orientation of not wanting to grow up and be a woman. The sort of young women who wear pink, dress up as Japanese cartoon characters and carry Hello Kitty bags.

And this is part of the appeal of smoothies. You don't have to chew, you don't have to deal with pips and peel and cores, you can just gulp it down and still satisfy Nanny that you are getting your '5 a day.'

In my more cynical moments, I feel that we have become something of a 'Smoothie Society'. In our homogenised world, everything is mashed up and made rather samey so that it's easily palatable.

Films are formulaic and often a rehash of what's gone before.

The same pool of emojis is used worldwide, the same memes are recirculated again and again.

News items and their You Won't Believe What Happens Next headlines are interchangeable, whether they come from Buzzfeed or The Times.

And brands, their logos, their ideas and their communications are all too often indistinguishable.

In the days before a smoothie was a fruit and vegetable drink, it had another meaning. It was a slightly disparaging term for a well-groomed, well-mannered but overly flattering man, and not a million miles from slimy, smarmy and softie.

If you had too many smoothies in your life, you longed now and again for a 'bit of rough.'

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Winning brands

Around this time of year, awards ceremonies are all over the place - you can't move for red carpet. Or something. I'm always interested in the brand world equivalent, and a few weeks ago here in Germany the 13th year of Best Brands winners were announced at a big gala do hosted by various media companies, advertising and market research agencies as well as the association for German brands.

Although not exclusively focussed on German brands across the various award categories, I was expecting a good show from what I think of as classic German brands - Nivea, maybe BMW, maybe Becks.

The winners are chosen based on two broad criteria - marketplace (financial) success and 'share of soul' - popularity and emotional connection to the general public. As GfK are involved in the whole thing, the methodology for selecting the winners is pretty thorough.

No real surprise, then, in the winner for Best Product Brand 2016 - this was Nivea, which also won in 2013 and 2014, and came second this year. The words 'from strength to strength' come to mind.

Perhaps a bit more surprising was the winner for Best Growth Brand 2016 which was WMF. Jolly well done to them, and this shows that you don't have to be a techy, appy, 21st century new kid on the block to show phenomenal growth. WMF was founded in 1853. While there is probably a limit to how many cutlery sets anyone actually needs in a lifetime, I have noticed that WMF have been very active in joint promotions with supermarkets and simply present as a great brand name.

In other awards, the category-specific award for e-commerce was won by amazon (no comment) and the Best European Corporate Brand 2016 was won by Porsche.

That other well-known German brand, VW, however, was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Hooray for Humbug!

I have lost track of how many discussions, arguments and debates I have had about how advertising works. How many articles, papers, blog posts and books I've read. How many talks, lectures and seminars I've been to. And at the end of it, there is no Holy Grail.

A breakthrough moment came to me a few years into my career when the agency Hall and Partners leapt into the UK market research scene with an MRS paper, a philosophy and methodology that seemed eminently sensible to me: advertising works in ways that may well be mysterious, but are certainly various. It can work through the mind, or at least rational thought (Persuasion), or through the emotions (Involvement) or through the senses (Salience). I've blogged about this here.

I've just finished Paul Feldwick's excellent book, which I mentioned in my last post, The Anatomy of Humbug. I had a similar feeling of a breakthrough on reading this - it's a review of advertising practitioner (rather than academic) thought from the 19th century onwards. Six ways in which advertising probably works (which are not mutually exclusive) are outlined. Please note, however, that Mr Feldwick mentions that six is simply a convenient number - these are in no way 'The Six Definitive Ways In Which Advertising Works.'

They include our old friends Salesmanship, Seduction and Salience, which correspond approximately to the three ways outlined by Hall & Partners. Then Mr Feldwick adds Social Connection, Spin and Showbiz.

The 'schools of thought' are illustrated by quotes and anecdotes from ad men and researchers through the ages, some I'd heard of (Bernbach, Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves, Stephen King, Ernest Dichter and showman P.T.Barnum) and others that I hadn't, who I now feel compelled to read up on ( Lasker, Hopkins, Starch, Bernays). At last, after nearly three decades in advertising, I know what 'Starch' and 'DAGMAR' refer to!

The book is refreshing to read - intelligent, witty, incisive and opinionated in a good way - a long way from the standard business book blah.  I liked the way that the book ends with 'Showmanship.' How often have you thought, or said, after all the posturing and pontificating and over-intellectualising - come on, it's only advertising!

I suspect that many of us are happy to be suckers. We know the rules of the game. We know about hype, but do we really care as long as we get value for money? To me, 'Showmanship' is a bit like 'Salience' - it's an immediate appeal to the senses, instant gratification, and not to be analysed or taken too seriously.

As another (fictional) 19th century showman (Mr Sleary, the circus owner in Dickens' Hard Times) said:

People must be entertained.

And maybe it's brands that should be doing that.