The commoditization of brands has led to a major inflection point for marketing.
In part six of our series on the changing landscape of marketing, we discuss how brands need to adjust not only their marketing but also how they think about products in a world where consumers are less and less loyal to brands.
A recent study from Nielsen found that 46 percent of global consumers are more willing to purchase from new or different brands compared to just five years ago. The study also found that 42 percent of consumers enjoy trying out and discovering new brands and products.
What does this mean for more established brands? The answer is simple: brands can no longer count on their customers remaining their customers forever.
According to the Nielsen study, the most common drivers of brand switching were value and a sale or promotion. However, the study also found that superior quality and convenience were the two most common drivers of product selection.
The takeaway: consumers have more options than ever, and consumers are more willing than ever to shop around to get exactly what they want at the price they want.
How Did the Way We Feel About Brands Change Almost Overnight?
In the past, consumers had a favorite brand of almost everything: coffee, kitchenware, televisions, breakfast cereal, sweaters, toothpaste, and so on. Now almost every category of consumer goods has been reduced to a commodity, a good that is essentially interchangeable with the other goods in its category. A consumer that used to purchase only John Deere lawn tractors will purchase the lawn tractor that is well-reviewed online and reasonably priced. The brand, no matter how prestigious or historically resonant, doesn’t really matter.
Take Gillette as an example: for years, they were able to differentiate the brand with its triple-blade technology. This unique product benefit also allowed them to dominate category market share and keep their prices high. But what happened when new competitors arrived on the scene with the same technology offered at lower price? Gillette had to slash prices to remain competitive. A brand’s famous name ceased to be a driver of consumer behavior. The category had become commoditized.
When a category is commoditized, it’s essential that brands become more efficient, and more targeted, in their marketing. In a commoditized category, marketing to “men who shave” in the case of Gillette just isn’t good enough anymore. Instead, brands have to consider multiple audiences, multiple value propositions, and different purchase preferences, and then prioritize channels by opportunity and reach. So “men who shave” becomes “men who shave daily because they enjoy the ritual,” or “men who shave with a straight razor and apply Baxter of California Shave Balm afterward.”
Things that have nothing to do with a brand’s products increasingly drive consumers’ choice of brands. According to a survey conducted by Clutch, a market analysis firm in Washington, DC, 75 percent of consumers will start shopping a new brand based on social and political issues. On the other hand, 59 percent of consumers said they would stop shopping brands they were previously loyal to based on that brand’s position on a social or political issue.
Consumers increasingly base their purchases on a whole host of nonproduct-related issues, and it’s essential for brands to identify and understand those issues. Telling consumers over and over how great a product is won’t produce results if consumers don’t really care about a product’s benefits. A brand needs to know what its consumers really care about and then give it to them.
So what do consumers care about? Britton Marketing & Design Group, our lifestyle branding, and high-fidelity creative partner, has identified four key values that motivate consumers: family, community, spirituality, and sustainability. These four values do something unique in our increasingly fragmented and fractured society—they unify.
Brands that learn to activate around these values, as opposed to brands that activate solely around product benefits, have a much better chance of rising above commodification and increasing consumer loyalty.
We have identified four key values that motivate consumers: family, community, spirituality, and sustainability.
These four values do something unique in our increasingly fragmented and fractured society—they unify.
In the past, one of the ways brands created loyalty was by being omnipresent in consumers’ lives. In a marketing landscape dominated by television and radio spots, outdoor billboards, and print ads, this used to be relatively easy. Now, thanks to media proliferation, brands have to work much harder to be seen and heard by consumers.
As an example, look at what General Electric is doing with their social media. For decades, this faceless brand dominated multiple categories due to its sheer size, its huge marketing budgets, and its visibility in the big-box retailers and malls that dominated commerce in the later half of the 20th century. But what used to be the brand’s advantages are now in many cases hindrances. So how can a brand many consumers associate with Sears ads in local circulars create loyalty with new, younger audiences who live on social media?
By taking its social media followers on a trip to a volcano eruption in Nicaragua to showcase how its technology is helping save lives. By using Bill Nye to build engagement with science educators as part of a web series. By highlighting the faces of real people at the company who are leading the charge for renewable energy.
Even in today’s commoditized marketing landscape, there are still tools for brands to create enduring consumer loyalty. At [B]RIGHT Brand Performance Group, we help our clients garner loyalty through:
We use primary, secondary, syndicated, and search and social listening data to understand what our clients’ current customers—and their potential new customers—really want and need.
Our team of channel experts work with clients to target the right audiences, on the right channels, at the right time. We also help clients build loyalty by understanding which native tactics and tools are best for communicating meaningful brand messages on the channels where their audiences live.
Our paid media and organic social media strategies are focused on reaching real people and on meeting their real wants and needs. We help brands respond to those wants and needs by balancing the form/function dynamic at the heart of every campaign and engagement.
Is your category becoming increasingly commoditized? How do you plan on reaching those consumers who are still loyal to your brand? How will you create new loyalists? How can you make sure your products stand out from your competitors’ products? How are you planning to be not just top of mind, but also first in a consumer’s consideration set?