"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I've written a long one instead." - Mark Twain
Welcome to the hyper-information era. There is so much information around us that we don't know how to handle it anymore. Bound within the trappings of inelastic 24-hour days, we are now forced to digest an ever-increasing flow of information. A new epidemic has hit the town. They are calling it "information indigestion."
How much can we remember?
There are only so many things that a human being can remember consciously. And all our rational decision-making capabilities are linked to what we consciously remember. It is this limited rational brain that marketers talk to most times through their 'logical' messaging system - 10 reasons why you should buy my product, five explanations why my product is better, three things to remember when you are comparing my service to my competitors. And so on…
When consumers were living simpler lives and buying fewer brands and products, they had the luxury of spending a lot more time listening to the logic of the marketer and evaluating why their washing powder was better than their competitor's. And hence why their sari was whiter than all the other white saris in town.
Can't handle the overload
Consumers' lives, and hence the marketing world, are not as simple anymore. The first crisis is just the sheer number of categories a person has to reckon with. Fifteen years back, most consumers did not have to think about things like mobile phone, internet, e-mail, broadband services, home security, DTH media, social networking, amongst many others. No denying that these made our lives better, but they have also taken memory space in our thinking brain.
Adding to the crisis of numbers is the crisis of choice. Too many brands to choose from. Too many pitches to listen to. Too many options to evaluate.
If we look around, it is evident that we have to engage ourselves with many new products and services that didn't exist 10-15 years ago. To the skeptic, the point is best made if she is asked to open her wallet and asked to count the number of cards she carries there. The numbers of cards have a story to tell.
Thanks to all the brand conversations and the resulting information overload, the idea of consumer loyalty is dying. Consumers are fast becoming flirters, moving from one brand to another without much thinking. The brand is fast becoming a 'commodity'. Consumers are buying into better products, not great brands.
Time for a marketing detox
In the world of great branding, less equals more. The gospel reads: Say less, say it well, build a connection and let the consumer be.
Great brands know the secret of simplicity. They know that all brands are essentially in one business - making life better - whether by solving a problem or by offering a new kind of living. And that's what they singularly focus on - tell us how they make our lives better, as simply as possible. Louis Vuitton tells you how your journey gets better. Harley shows you the road to living a life of freedom. Lufthansa tells you how much that moment of 'getting home' matters. Closer home, Fevicol tells you how it helps in joining things.
What is the bare minimum that needs to be said for it to make sense and be persuasive enough? This needs a fine balance.
The statue of David revealed itself once the artist chipped away the unnecessary stone around it. Great brands will reveal themselves once their marketers learn to chip away the unnecessary.
The writer is Senior VP, Quantum Consumer Solutions