20140414_StrategyCorner_Romero_Brands get involved

Brands, get involved!

By Gem Romero, Head of Planning Ogilvy & Mather, Barcelona

 

At this point it would be absurd to argue that we live in consumer societies. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep, we consume. First a coffee, then the water in the shower, a bus ticket to go to work … In fact, we go to work because we ourselves are a product that we sell to those that employ us. It is consumption what determines the structure of our societies and thus our lifestyles.

In this context of continuous consumption, brands have become important subjects in our societies, since they articulate the relationship between the productive capacity and the business culture of offerers, and the needs and desires of demanders.

Well, assuming this, I cannot stop wondering how brands can live with their backs to what is happening in the societies in which they operate. Why is it that brands do not consider including in their meanings, or even their actions or messages, themes that are clearly important in the markets they serve and that have to do with the needs and desires they satisfy? Why do they always avoid doing it? A very simple way of gauging the enormous gap between what matters to people and what matters to brands is by comparing the contents that each of them posts on the walls in Facebook. Brands and people often seem to live in completely different worlds.

I will try to give two examples in order to better explain myself.

 

EXAMPLE of a brand that has taken a position on something important that is happening in its market

In Spain, beers, or most of them, offer benefits related to territorial identity. That is why no brand dominates the Spanish market. There are different leaders for each of the areas that comprise the State.

In Catalonia there is a brand that has always represented Catalan identity: Estrella Damm. And it is the one that has indisputably dominated the Catalan market. For two or three years, Catalonia has experienced political upheaval; for reasons that are not relevant here, approximately 60% of the Catalan population have adopted pro-independence postures, wanting to separate from Spain. In view of this situation, Moritz, a small brand that was positioned around self-expression benefits related to modernity and creativity, decided to evolve towards the benefits of the category itself, identity, and position itself as a pro-independence beer. The title of the book published by its director evidences this: Catalonia, a new brand in Europe. This change has not been the only variable in its success, but in no time it went from approximately 1% of market share in Barcelona to 10%, in a market with huge entry barriers.

 

EXAMPLE of a market where no brands take a position on something very important that is happening

The market of feminine hygiene (in general) is demanding, it seems to me, greater commitment from the brands that serve it.

A few months ago, in Spain, the Government decided to change the abortion law: to a much more restrictive law. Surveys show that 85% of the women in Spain are against that change. The street is heaving with demonstrations, so is the internet. Why have no brands that build their proposals on women taken a stance on this theme? Not even an open posture. Doesn’t any brand have an opinion on this issue? Doesn’t any brand see that its opinion can help it to be stronger? Doesn’t any brand think that there is a higher risk in appearing less convincing with its current propositions on “what matters to women” if it does not get involved in such important issues to its target?

 

In the USA, where the consumer society (hyperconsumer, Lipoveski would say) is more recognised, it is easier to find examples of brands taking a stance; for example, there are many campaigns with regards to the laws regulating gay relationships.

Taking a position should not always be considered from a strategic viewpoint. I.e., that stance does not always have to form part of the meanings that make up the brand and its value proposition, as in the case of Moritz. Taking a stance can be tactical. By taking a stance through a message or action with regards to something, brand meanings can be built that have little to do directly with the issue in question.

To illustrate this, take this tactical use of positioning –  a simple tweet sent by the Community Manager of Mediamarkt in Spain on 12 October 2013, the National Holiday: “Watch the legion or come and see the new 4K TVs or the Samsung Galaxy Gear? Live in the XIII century or be a citizen of the XX century?”

With this message, which took its critical stance in the form of celebrating the national holiday, Mediamarkt reinforced its irreverent, bold, sassy and young personality. It did not ascribe unpatriotic or anti-militarism meanings to the brand.

 

Brands taking a position is something that we should think about more often, because of social responsibility and its efficiency in brand building.

 

 

Foto: „Feuer 2“ | zettberlin | photocase.de

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