at the intersection of brands, media and culture

When Brands Attack – Modern Marketing Trends

In advertising, Brands, communications, marketing, strategy, trends on October 27, 2008 at 5:50 pm

The economy is in the crapper, pocketbooks are tight, there are way too many brands in the world all competing for less money. The old terms like share-of-wallet only worked when the wallets were open and there was money in them ready to be sent out in the world to satiate our needs, wants and desires…if only temporarily.

As outlays shrink, brands HAVE to get more aggressive with their marketing to even maintain share. For that to happen, it helps if brands have been thinking about this all along.

In comfortable times, brands should still be managing their equities, building their customer base, creating loyalty and solidifying differentiation. This is all what really defines something as a brand. But as a great Warren Buffet quote goes, it is “in the times of low tide that you find out who has been swimming naked.” (Or something to that effect.)

The brands that are successfully playing offense are doing so on product differentiation. To simply scream louder and behave as a schoolyard bully will not win you points in this market. Playing the trump card that you have been holding will.

Apple is aggressively going after Microsoft by not just using product differentiation but now using Microsoft’s own advertising against them. Clever, witty, truthful and Apple has built up the equity and credibility over the last few years to play some hardball.

Progresso is going on the offense against Campbell’s with full page ads noting that they have no MSG, whereas Campbell’s does. Taking one product advantage, leveraging it and making it matter. This is how brands play offense. Campbell’s retort that Progresso tastes watery by comparison is subjective and sounds less authentic. Ironically, General Mills owned Progresso likely only removed MSG from their soups after previously being attached by Campbell’s sub-brand.

Dunkin Donuts is going after Starbucks with a taste test campaign touting its better tasting coffee. In this case the claim works better since the perception is that Dunkin Donuts is also cheaper. Whereby cheaper and better tasting always sounds better. Dunkin is also still perceived as an underdog which generally get more traction out of aggressive marketing.

Bottom line: when times are tough and money is tight you have to have clear product differentiation supported by a strong brand. Consumers aren’t going to take a lot of risks with their limited resources and therefore want to be more confident and have a clearer rationale for purchase.

  1. If only we knew a cheerleader (perhaps an old roommate or an assistant media planner) that could inspire our clients with the chant… “Be Aggressive! Be Be Aggressive!”

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