Brands today lack the guts to be different

I was at a marketing conference the other day and mused at the average age of delegates, or more worryingly how everyone looked younger than me. While that bodes well for the future of our industry, it scares me to see myself as an ‘elder statesman’ as I have far too much to do and learn.

Secret Marketer

But it did get me thinking about the effect brand owners have on the culture and direction of their brands.

Everyone wants to work for a popular brand – a cool name that will impress the opposite sex when talk in the pub turns to the latest ad campaigns. And with so many young product managers, most of whom are financially well off, is there any surprise that they target a similar demographic for their brand – ABC1, youngish and trendy?

But have a look around you. This is the same demographic that your competitors are targeting. And what is more, this is the segment that has historically been the least brand loyal and most price sensitive.

The clever response has to be the reverse – surely the commercial logic is to do the opposite to that which your competitors are doing. Look at where customers are more sticky, less likely to quibble about a penny and/or most likely to be susceptible from the attention of an offer that looks to be aimed directly at them.

It worries me when I turn on the TV, open the newspaper, look in my inbox or walk down the high street how every brand looks the same. But then I look at the humble Post Office. A great heritage brand – a branch on every street corner (once) and loved by almost everyone, a real family brand. At a time when high street banks are disliked by an equal and opposite force, what a fantastic opportunity to become the people’s champion in financial services. The key is not to make the same mistakes as the competition – the Post Office is generally more appealing to a slightly older population, possibly of a more C1C2D demographic.

But to be different in this way, does a CMO have to relate to this positioning? How many CMOs do you know who are slightly older and from lower social demographics, apart from me of course?

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