You Don't Have To Be Liked To Be Successful

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December 11, 2018

by Andrew Wardlaw


2019, and Sensory Branding comes of age. If brands are to regain the momentum against private label, this is exactly what needs to happen. So what’s the sticking point?

Today’s brand manager must fight hard for their company’s biggest assets. Pushing back on an increasingly proactive private label and ‘discovery brands’. Facing up to rising numbers of consumer ‘sleuths’, who see through their marketing tactics. Outwitting the proven decay in campaign effectiveness.

As the festive season approaches, it’s important to say it’s not all doom and gloom, but given this compounding pressure, it’s also an appropriate time to highlight a new line of attack.

Here’s the nub. For brands to retain the #1 spot in people’s affections, marketing must aim higher than ‘Overall Appeal’ and ‘Liking’. These metrics are no longer fit for purpose. Witness the magnitude of new product failures and the fact that any brand's competitive landscape is now highly robust.

The new line of attack must create brand experiences that go beyond liking, towards something more profound. It must compensate for an increasingly fragmenting media, where coherent communication of equity is harder to achieve. It must pierce the consciousness of distracted consumers who are making faster, emotion based decisions. It must nurture the most valuable brand asset of all: trust.

The answer has been ‘bubbling under’ for some time now. It is Sensory Branding. And I believe we are near its tipping point.

To achieve this, marketing professionals must establish a new relationship with sensory. The fact is, ‘sensory’ is often viewed an abstract concept to those who direct brand strategy. But it needn’t be. When brand managers tell me that “they do sensory”, in most cases they are referring to product development professional’s pursuit of better liking and ‘Just About Right’ (JAR) scores. They rarely mean Sensory Branding.

So what is Sensory Branding? As the non-scientist in the room, I believe it distils down to "the creation of brand experiences that are felt before they are thought.” If we accept that we all make sense of the world around us via our senses, and that most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it, then imagine a future where brands exploit this more fully. Creating efficacy that is felt. Developing ‘body language’ that swoons consumers at those first moments of truth. Attaining a distinctiveness that is truly meaningful (not meaningless, as Ehrenberg Bass might recommend.)

As sensory partners to some of the world’s brightest grocery brands, we’ve spent the last 12 months urging companies to shoot for brand conviction: creating more convincing brand experiences that really deliver against people's expectations. Brand, pack and product all playing the same sensory tune - above and below conscious awareness. Our own investigations into some of the most successful innovations in recent times indicate a correlation between sensory conviction and continuing in-market success. Sometimes the tiniest detail makes all the difference.

To help things along, we’ve been boosting our sensory toolkit with approaches that help brand managers gain unprecedented insight into how consumers actually experience their proposition - at each and every moment of truth. We've taken our sensory expertise ‘out of the lab’ and into homes – or whatever environment typically impacts the perceived reality of consumption.

Influencing this 'perceived reality' highlights an aspect of Sensory Branding that's there for the taking. Just consider being presented with a nice glass of wine this Christmas. The perceived reality of your drinking experience will almost certainly seem superior if you've just heard the sound of a cork popping when compared to that of a parallel universe - where you've just heard the sound of a screw cap.

Understanding what sensory cues can transmit vital brand equities, activate ‘System 1’ style communications and generate altogether deeper brand experiences has to be worth shooting for as the New Year begins.

In my first article of 2019, I will explore 7 Advantages of Sensory Branding, illustrating each with an example pulled from around the world. In the meantime, consider making 2019 your Sensory Branding tipping point - and take a leap on the sensory side.

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