Marketing: The Psychological Power of Familiarity
I'm sure you've heard the old adage, "familiarity breeds contempt." But have you ever stopped to think what it means?
It basically means, if you know a person too well, you can easily start to dislike or lose respect for that person.
Unfortunately, sometimes marketing people think that logic applies to products as well. They take what's familiar, successful and popular and decide the public has grown tired of it, and wants something new and different.
Then they go about the process of reinventing the wheel - usually with disastrous results!
Here are a few classic examples of what I'm talking about:
For over 100 years, Coca-Cola has been the number one soft drink company on the planet. You can find that famous Coke logo in virtually every corner of the globe. Yet, despite Coke's tremendous popularity, Coca-Cola committed a classic marketing blunder when it introduced New Coke to the public back in 1985.
So what happened?
Even though taste test results revealed that most consumers preferred the taste of New Coke to both Coke and Pepsi, emotionally, people didn't want anything changed about their beloved soft drink.
You already know the rest of the story. New Coke failed miserably and the company was forced to bring back the old, familiar formula with a new name...Coca-Cola Classic.
More recently, Gap was forced to scrap an expensive new logo days after its launch following an online backlash from consumers.
And due to an overwhelming amount of customer outrage, Tropicana was forced to abandon its new package redesign and return to the old packaging.
So what lesson is there to be learned from these three examples?
Psychologically, people become emotionally invested in your brand. They take mental ownership of it. And once they do, they become highly resistant to change.
So if you have a successful business with a loyal following, before you make any changes to your logo or website design, take the time to solicit feedback from your customers first. Ask them how they feel about your proposed changes.
Since they're the ones who made you successful in the first place, they've earned that modicum of respect.
While the companies in my original post eventually ended up listening to their customers, at the other end of the spectrum, you have companies like Starbucks who all but ignored their customers pleas against changing their logo.
In my primary realms of home health care marketing and physical therapy marketing, agencies and practices often push personal relationships so hard that they neglect to build brand relationships. They deprive themselves of the very advantages of familiarity to which David refers. Before you start working of familiarity of your brand, you should stategize what the personality of your brand should be.
This article at BMA-Advisor.com talks about the essentials of building that brand familiarity efficiently and well: http://www.bma-advisor.com/2010/06/personal-relationships-vs-brand-relationships/
I turned off automatic link parsing above in case it would have been deemed as self promotion otherwise.
For example, everyone knows about the New Coke disaster. But most people are unaware, that same year, Jack in the Box made an equally disastrous move by changing its name to Monterey Jack's. When sales plummeted, they ended up reverting back to the old name just one year later.
Proving once again... Once consumers become mentally and psychologically invested in a brand, they are highly resistant to change.
Marketing, Branding, & Loyalty
Similar case in point: Kentucky Fried Chicken correctly predicted the healthier food movement back in the 80's. Behaving with more wisdom than some of the other examples, they slowly began changing the name to KFC. The idea was that if they remove the "Fried" from the name, it would sound more healthy. After having thoroughly rebranded the chain as KFC, they once floated a marketing campaign to tell everyone the acronym stood for Kitchen Fresh Chicken. However, because of strong brand loyalty, the Kitchen Fresh Chicken push never took hold, and the KFC executives wisely backed off with no real repercussions. KFC's slow and steady rebranding strategy that took place over the course of two decades is an example of rebranding done more wisely.
Of course, the tale also highlights the marketing truth that every strength is a weakness. While KFC is extremely well known as a fast, fried chicken restaurant with consistent quality, the fried aspect of their food offerings is something of a negative. When you become well known, to abandon your roots is worse than starting over. You may regain your disloyal followers, but you gain the ire of your loyal followers. To have brand loyalty is a strength that also delivers the weakness of making your company less flexible.
For those of you reading this thread, if you are interested in learning more about the role human emotions play in branding, I highly recommend you read Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People by Marc Gobe.
It's a fantastic book, and among other things discusses how a brand comes to life for people and forges a deeper, lasting connection between consumers and products. The book contains a whole slew of amazing ideas about how to effectively connect emotionally with people, and how to get them to connect to your brand.
As far as I'm concerned, if you're a serious marketer, Emotional Branding is an absolute must-read!
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