The clutter of brands vying to ‘overmarket’ themselves by cluttering up the advertising space and quickly, even the online space, is putting so much pressure on them that the idea of ‘unmarketing’ and still winning could well sound highly desirable. And this is not impossible either, though not necessarily easy.
In all the crush of brands vying for consumer attention, there have been some brands that have drawn and retained consumers in spite of not advertising at all, or very rarely. Such brands have mostly had four things in common: relevance, consistency, credibility and very important, differentiation.
Look at the likes of Starbucks, Ferrari, Body Plus and Google — all brands that established themselves without advertising. All have had these four strengths. Any one factor could predominate, while the others chip in as supporting strengths. It is not that these factors are missing in successful brands that do advertise, such as Apple, but they are what give the brand that does not advertise immense strength and connect.
Starbucks created the notion of a ‘third place’ — something between home and the workplace where people could interact over a cup of coffee. It re-made the ‘coffee experience’ as a ‘Starbucks Experience’, with no advertising.
Iconic car brand Ferrari does not advertise. Yet it attracts people passionate about design and speed. Exclusivity and selective word-of-mouth through its customers is its strategy, as its dealers select and invite buyers.
When Anita Roddick set up BodyPlus, she established two connections with consumers — recycling and no animal testing. BodyShop as it was renamed never advertised. Its ethical values gave it it financial value and in 1990, after going public, L’Oreal paid $1.4 billion to buy it.
Google rode on unique differentiation — it became a major powerhouse without advertising and subsequently, has advertised sparingly. One of its four strengths, consistency, when combined with relevance, requires that it constantly innovates.
A brand needs to keep refreshing itself. Indian brand Hawkins, which has retained consumer loyalty despite hardly any advertising, commands 32% of the pressure cooker market. It would need to look at consistency-relevance because of competition from nearly 100 brands, especially TTK Prestige with its 30% market share. Hawkins sells on credibility and consistency.
At an individual level ... in a new, ever-connected world of Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and the ‘need’ to be visible on them, the threat of being glazed over exists. To stand out, it may make more sense for a person to first get ‘unpresent’ from such spaces. Then create your advantages – relevance, consistency, credibility and differentiation – and find avenues to get that across to those who matter.
The writer is consulting editor-business at HT