“You are all individuals… I’m not!”

A friend of mine and I were discussing the problem with politicians and their utter fascination with themselves. Their whole purpose in life is to keep themselves in power – they care naught for the people who vote them in to serve, or the good of the country.

My friend said it reminded her of the old Brand Manager Syndrome. For those who don’t know, it’s that disease that afflicts Brand Managers whereby they believe the whole world is as interested and excited about their brand, as they are. The assume every consumer awakes each day with unabated enthusiasm to have a relationship with brands.

Brand Manager

I’ve seen Brand Manager Syndrome affect all sorts of seemingly intelligent people. They become utterly convinced that consumers spend all their waking moments concerned about the brand proposition of their toilet paper for example. Even worse some believe that because of technology, customers are more engaged with brands, whatever that means.

They believe there are hordes of punters in supermarket aisles posting questions to their social networks before they buy, “should I get the low-fat strawberry or sugar-free apricot yoghurt? Check out my Instagram photo and ‘Like’ so I can make a decision please.”

They don’t realise technology has become so easy to use, that a “Like” has almost no value at all and reflects a disengagement of ongoing thought, rather than a connection and more ‘engagement’ – but that’s another blog.

An article in the press yesterday confirmed what many who study marketing history already knew – we’re a boring lot. That’s not a reflection on our intellect or sparkling personalities, rather it’s a comment on our purchasing habits. We buy the same brands with monotony and it takes quite a bit of effort to get us to switch brands.

Research in the 80’s (or it could have been 70’s) revealed that the main reason a particular brand of tomato sauce was number one, had nothing to do with advertising, or strategy planning. Rather, we bought a specific brand because most of us grew up in homes where the tomato sauce was stored on the kitchen table, along with the salt and pepper. Every day our family ate meals with this brand of sauce staring us in the face, whether we used the sauce or not.

People were conditioned to believe a table was not set unless it had tomato sauce in the middle. So they bought the brand they grew up with and put it on their table, or as table habits changed, in their pantry. And their kids bought the same brand of sauce when they moved out – in fact mum probably packed a bottle for them, along with other essentials.

family eating sauce

Other research showed that the majority of consumers are set in their brand preferences by the time they reached 35. They have no desire to switch brands. It is much easier to grab the brand they know than face the pain of change. We are creatures of habit. Our nature is to resist change unless it makes life easier. As a species we are inherently lazy and prefer the path of least resistance.

Here’s a quote from the article based on research by Professor Byron Sharp and published in his latest book Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice:

Brand loyalty is not as strong or passionate as companies like to think” he said. “Consumers adopt brand loyalty as a strategy to simplify their lives… it’s neither because they have decided that a particular brand is the perfect one for them, better than all the others, nor that they feel a great emotional bond to it.

Read more: http://tinyurl.com/c8mcaj4

Direct marketers have known for decades that the most profitable customer in the world is a first-time pregnant mother. Now before you jump down my throat claiming sexism, it’s a fact. The increase in spending in a household when the first baby is due is unlike any other time in a couple’s life. They buy all manner of pregnancy assistance gadgets, baby stuff, nursery stuff, maternity stuff and more. Almost none of which is bought again when the second child is due.

It’s why baby clubs became so big in the 80’s and now online. If you can become a preferred baby brand you make a lot of money during a child’s pre-school life. It’s a rare parent indeed who will switch nappy brands mid-stream, just because another brand is cheaper than the one they buy. The threat of rejection by the baby is too risky.

beware nuclear nappies
beware nuclear nappies

Banks and telcos have been making it too difficult to switch brands for years. Try changing home loans or phone plans and you suffer the consequences. It’s easier to stay put than go through the hassle of change. They purposefully set out to confuse punters so they cannot compare options.

Most marketers don’t understand their advertising must give prospects a reason to switch – a compelling offer or proposition to trial. They think the ads must be about the brand, not the customer.

I have to go now as I’m out of routine. I haven’t had my usual caffeine hit from my favourite coffee-maker. I’m late checking my email and you’re just lucky this is not a video blog, I really need to get dressed:)

P.S. Credit to Monty Python for today’s subject line.


  1. G’day Malcolm. if I had read this missive 20 years ago, it might have dissuaded me from developing our DBM/SCAN tracking service! Fortunately my optimism prevailed and we have been documenting FMCG relationship marketing programs in the U.S. ever since. Think about it: I would not have had a business if the activity was not occurring. These days the pharmaceutical marketers are major users of CRM, among others. Nonetheless another thoughtful message for a Friday!

  2. Hi John

    I thought you provided the data to marketers so they could make the offers to get customers to switch? You would be the goldmine they need to generate new customers. people rarely switch packaged goods brand because they see a brand ad. It’s usually because of an offer at POS or because their favourite brand is unavailable…

    • Companies hire us because we track what programs their competitors are running over time. Not just creative samples but the actual targeted media plan to specific ‘seeded’ consumers with various demographic profiles. We behave as consumers would, responding to offers using many different profiles so that we continue to receive program materials. In some cases we assume passive behaviors to see how long we continue to receive messages. Analysis provided to the manufacturer is also available to their agencies. These days most CRM programs are triggered by registering at a brand or third party website. Good weegend!

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