The brand and customer relationship is premised on an irrebuttable cordiality, with a give and take understanding. Often, this relationship is tested during economic downtimes viz-a-viz, customers won’t necessarily spend less—but they will buy less. They will buy fewer throwaway clones and spend more on only a few quality essentials against a fair-trade price.
From banks forced to reduce charges arising from Government policies to brands faced with a tedious task of marketing to Generation Z and foreign policies stifling growth, brands are now looking for new ways to lure consumers. The latest, buzziest effort after the much talked about marketplace feminism or femvertising or what have you is branded content (to publish stories that look and feel journalistic).
The key strategy of branded content or “native advertising” is to hide the ady imperative, and/or even the brand altogether so readers think they’re consuming a familiar newspaper or magazine. This is supposed to make brands seem more reliable, familiar, and indispensable. But it’s a sham—a shortsighted attempt to trick consumers into opening their wallets.
For the brands that have been able to achieve some measure of success; a recourse to unconventional methods or extra-ordinary actions had been deployed
Tales abound of numerous cases of frustrated brand and advertising campaigns that ended up giving the brand itself a rather negative image instead of positive. Take for example the present milk and cocoa war going on in Nigeria’s FMCG industry between Nestlé Milo vs Cadbury’s Bournvita and WAMCO’S Peak Milk vs Hollandia. This are classical misrepresentation of a Brand in a confused marketing strategy in order to win back brand share, loyalty and ROI.
Also, presently banks in Nigeria have resorted to laying off of staff; a major bank who decided not to lay off served stringent work terms to its staff. The ones that could not cope left voluntarily.
Branded content itself may not have been an all time panacea. Debranding shouldn’t be confused with visual debranding, something Comme des Garçons did years ago, and Viceland does nowadays. Such visual identities could be the result of debranding, but they are not the end goal. The real goal is a well-made product. A camouflage strategy also complicates an already too complex world driven by hidden agendas. It’s misleading to use a totally different set of qualities or good stories to sell a product that has intrinsically nothing to do with a brand’s original qualities. Hiring a top filmmaker won’t improve the quality of your product. You could even say that the better the stories, the more dishonest the companies are being.
Since the ’90s, there has been a significant backlash against overt advertising—resistance to Coca-Cola sponsoring sports events at schools; to children designing Nike shoes in class; to toddlers singing along with Barney. Social media has only made it more treacherous for brands that try too hard. Just ask injoo mobile phones in Nigeria and DiGiorno Pizza (United States) hence brands started adopting subtler tactics. With native advertising, brands tell stories on popular platforms—and tell them in a way that is nearly indistinguishable from the stories readers already consume. By matching the message to the platform, brands can draw loyal customers and maybe even make their content go viral. Or so the thinking goes. People are more likely to follow a happy, undemanding brand instead of bonding with real people and real-world problems. A brand will never ask you for help, confront you with difficulties or opposing views.
As branding is just a form of communication, it will never disappear, but the focus will shift. In a debranded future, the shift among brands from investing in marketing communications and campaigns to investing in design thinking and product development should also allow less fortunate people to buy simple and quality products.
Prices will reflect real value, not the conceptual value branding bestows. Maybe makers will find a way to subtly brand their product by adding their signature to the product itself, omitting packaging altogether. Products will be stripped of branding codes and constructed imaginary worlds. The only information on packaging will be features such as origin, the intentions of the maker, the production process, and the environmental impact. All of this will of course be a kind of branding as well, but stripped to its core.
So if you’re a start up or company, instead of throwing money yet at another branded content campaign, go back to the original notion of a brand. Fine-tune your product’s quality, design, and its durability. Become a producer of timeless innovations instead of surrogate spirituality. It will make your consumers’ lives, simpler and yours more profitable. Don’t throw a new product on the market if it’s not intrinsically better and more durable than what already exists.
We don’t need more branding; we need fewer, better-quality products and People will find you.
Till I come your way again on social media and marketing I still remain my humble self – Jimmy Adesanya.
Photo credit: intentionally designed
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