Secret Marketer: Brands need to understand the real reason customers buy them and deliver on those needs

Consumers are not lying awake at night thinking about your brand. All customers want is for a brand to deliver on its promise.

Every now and then the Secret Marketer has a Damascene moment. A blinding flash of the obvious; something I’m sure everybody else has noticed, but not me. The most recent one was this: we make the basic mistake of believing that there is a world of people who are lying awake at night thinking about our brand – and awaiting, with bated breath, to engage with it.

Guess what: they are not. Mostly, they are hoping that when we take their cash our brand will deliver what they want. Or in marketing spiel, deliver on the customer’s needs.

I recently attended a Marketing Week event where I talked to lots of marketers from big brands, small brands, charities and banks. To my relief everybody has the same issues. How to win over senior management. Working with manual systems that should have been automated. Silos and turf wars reared their ugly heads again and again. But the one thing that was not for discussion was the most basic of marketing premises: delivering on the promise of the brand and what the customer wants. Hard to believe, when this is what the customer is buying.

READ MORE: Marketers tackle the big issues at Marketing Week Live

To be blunt, there are few categories that are bigger offenders than banking and telecoms. If I’m signing up for a mobile phone contract, I should expect the network operator to deliver on a promise of coverage and speed. But is this our everyday experience? The amount of times I have had no signal on a motorway within a few miles of a city is unbelievable.

There is a reason why Ronseal’s tagline ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’, created by agency HHCL, has entered popular culture and has resonated for over 20 years. And why ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ has been around for more than 10 years. They speak to the real reason that customers are handing over their cash. Ronseal manufactures wood stain and paint, hardly the most interesting of categories, or something we use everyday of the week. Yet, each and every person in the land can relate to the meaning of the phrase, and it peppers the conversations in the pub.

Many of us do not experience the real life of our customers. We are cocooned, often by necessity, within our offices, talking to the boss, to the team and our agencies.

Perhaps we should try the life of our customers by going to the shopping centres and seeing what they are actually doing. Maybe we need to convince the boss, the board and the team to be more prosaic, a little more gritty and engaged in the hand-to-hand combat of our customers’ daily lives. Maybe being just a little bit more alert, curious and responsive to their world will actually deliver on the brand promise.

Marketing Week has teamed up with award-winning columnist and Professor Mark Ritson to introduce a Mini MBA in marketing. Covering the same core modules as leading MBA programmes but in just 12 lessons, it aims to give marketers the tools needed to do their job better. For more information about the course click here.


Alain de Botton

Brands can be a means of spreading genius or idiocy

Alain de Botton

High-minded people are often instinctively suspicious of the idea of brands. Brands can seem hateful on so many grounds: because of their maddening ubiquity (they surprise us on a mountain walk or on arrival in a new country where we’d gone specifically to experience a different culture); because they squeeze out smaller independent alternatives to which they are often the inferiors; or because they radiate values which appear to us fake, exaggerated or plain daft. It’s natural to suppose that we would, ideally, live in an entirely unbranded world.