Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Power of the brand

In the morning, while I’m having a shower and shave, I get a little bit of me time that I’m rarely able to get anywhere else.

And during that time I listen to sports radio.

My wife can’t stand it. Too much talking, blokey humour, and way too much football. Especially for first thing in the morning!

This 15 to 20 minute oasis of me time however has been interrupted of late by tobacco industry advertising.

Which is weird, because I thought the tobacco industry wasn’t allowed to advertise.

Anyway, the ads in question are not advertising tobacco, but arguing against impending plain packaging legislation.

The strategy behind these ads is quite clever I think, and they have a lot in common with the scaremongering we more usually associate with political advertising.

Which in essence is what the campaign is.

But scratch below the surface of the scare tactics and you’ll find that it is the tobacco industry itself that is scared.

And it is scared because the government is looking to legislate against something truly powerful and seriously addictive.

No, not tobacco. Brands.

As a reader of this magazine you know a strong brand is the most valuable asset a company can have.

There are numerous ways to define the meaning of the term brand. My favourite, is a brand is a consumer’s gut reaction to a service or product.

I’m sure there are many other variations of this.

In fact, if you search the question what is a brand on Google, you’ll get somewhere in the region of 220 million results.

The power of brands should never be under estimated. The government knows this and so too does the tobacco industry.

One man who really understands is Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi, the man who coined the term Lovemarks.

He recently wrote on his blog about a BBC TV show he had just watched about superbrands;

“Chances are when you’re wandering around your local store doing your weekly grocery shop there are brands you gravitate to.

Without a second thought your trolley fills with brands that have a familiar spot in your cupboards at home, and you feel happy about that.

Happier than if you’d actually bought the exact same products under a different label, because these are the brands that mean something more to you.”

And with that oh so simple observation Kevin has nailed exactly what the plain packaging argument is all about.

It’s not about black marketeering. It’s not about gangsters and illegal imports. It’s about the inexplicable power and value of brands.

The golden box. The cursive font. The masculine overtones of the red and white colour combination. All of these seemingly small details are incredibly important. And valuable.

To borrow from Kevin Roberts, “They fire positive emotions that inspire loyalty.”

So it stands to reason, that if the government take away those things that fire positive emotions, then all that is left is a product.

Now I’m no expert, but I suspect that without the benefits of branding, cigarettes are pretty much interchangeable. Much like many of the products in our supermarkets.

And as Kevin Roberts says, “If you love the brand, the product actually tastes better. Effectively, your mind has seasoned it with love.”

So if you take away the seemingly intangible things people love about a product, then all you have left is the product itself.

Which on the surface may not seem like much, but is startling new territory in the government versus tobacco industry game.

Because, as Mr Lovemarks himself says, “The brands that bring us the greatest joy are like calling home, meeting a friend or turning through the pages of a photo album.”

And if we take away that joy, then perhaps our fondness for the product in question will dwindle.


Kevin Roberts

Secrets of the superbrands


Ryan Clayton said...

Thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly like your quote that "a brand is a consumer's gut reaction to a service or product." It is interesting to see how the tobacco industry is campaigning against this one with the "no nanny state" campaign. What better motive to target cigarette smokers than rebellion. Here's hoping good triumphs over evil!

lauren said...

you know, I love rebellion and, before I realised I'd look an old hag if I didn't give up, I loved smoking. but there's also a big part of me that is hoping ye olde plain packaging wins on this.
partly because I hope it will expose brands and legislators to what i suspect is really true: we take up smoking (and other bad behaviour) because of who smokes, not what they smoke. i like to think culture not marketing sways more.

so sadly, expect R ratings on smoking scenes in films, film clips and games in the future. :/

Kristoffer said...

Nice thoughts!
I also believe it will be interesting to see if the prices will drop with the generic package.
Will the brand value disappear with the plain package, people will care less what they smoke, and thereby choose the cheapest ones? And thereby cause the big brands to drop the prices?

el.ee.oh.en said...

The time and energy invested in the debate does little to acknowledge that those addicted to cigarettes are, as you might expect, addicts.

Plain packets won't deter hardcore nicotine addicts, nor will it stop new smokers taking up this habit.

I think Lauren is spot on with her 'who' not 'what' comment.

Smokers will stick to their brand even on plain packets and new smokers will align to a brand even if it's not overtly displayed on the packet - the brand that IS smoking.

That's the power of these brands.

Stan Lee said...

Thanx for your contributions everyone. Glad to see this piece has got people thinking.