There are certain brands that I pursue and alternatives to which I automatically reject.
UK readers may understand when I say that it is Heinz - and no-one else! - that makes proper baked beans, tomato ketchup and, most of all, Salad Cream.
(Not sure how to explain the last one there - sort of vinegary mayonnaise for masses I guess and the subject of a great piece of brand reinforcement a few years ago when the makers 'withdrew' it from the market only to reintroduce it after the resulting outcry from Joe Public!)
There are other brands out there of course, but all inferior to my taste buds. There's no explanation really for this other than that I like them and I trust the brand.
They all taste the same, argue other people.
NO. THEY. DON'T!
A number of food outlets these days are catching on with the menu making the specific point that the baked beans come from Heinz. It fair warms the cockles of my heart to see as it validates my trust in the brand.
That's a rather minor example of course. It's mirrored elsewhere though. I prefer to fly Virgin because I trust the service I'll get on a 12 hour flight to the West Coast while you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming over burning coals before I'd subject myself to the friendly skies as defined by United.
Of course this does work the opposite way around. Two other brands I trust automatically are Banana Republic and Apple. So the crushing disappointment when the summer range at Banana Republic doesn't come up to muster is magnified all the more.
And don't even get me started on the iPhone 5!!!
Too TRUEAll of this is by way of preamble to what looks like an interesting notion from Forrester Research which argues that it is indeed trust and what you know, not buzz and hype, that builds the 21st century brand despite all the hype and hoo-hah around social media outreach and branding strategies.
As Forrester's Tracy Stokes notes:
"When I first moved to the US from the UK, grocery shopping at the West Lafayette, Indiana supermarket took forever. What took so long? No, it was not the slow pace of a small Indiana town. It was that I didn’t know any of the brands.
"So every selection from pasta sauce to laundry detergent to shampoo was a new decision. I had no relationship with the brands. No frame of reference to know which ones to trust.
"Every time we go to a grocery store or a drug store, we make a multitude of purchase decisions. Our brand relationships are a shortcut in that decision-making process, we select from a shortlist of brands that we trust."
Forrester polled 4,500 US online adults and found that household name consumer packaged goods brands that have been around for decades often control mindshare and thus market share.
For example, US consumers ranked Crest, Gillette, Dove (in the health and beauty category) and Kellogg's, Heinz and Kraft (in the food and beverage category) ahead of all other brands.
Stokes concludes from this:
"Trust, not buzz, is critical for building a CPG brand so brands must focus on earning consumer trust to build a strong, sustainable brand."
Longevity does count, she adds:
"Old guard CPG brand are more trusted than upstart brands. Household name brands like Heinz, Kellogg’s, Coke, Crest, and Gillette are what we call TRUE brand leaders...But newer brands like vitaminwater struggle to resonate with consumers."
Part of the problem is that consumers are technology-empowered with access to more information on brands than ever, according to Stokes colleague Roxana Strohmenger.
"Armed with this information, they are telling brands where, when, and how they want to engage. This new world has sent marketers and the brands they support into a tailspin — they are losing control of their brand message and are losing trust with consumers."
So what's to be done for the poor harassed marketer? Well it just so happens Forrester has a possible solution in the shape of its TRUE Brand Compass Framework. This is pitched as being:
designed to guide marketers to achieve the right balance of building a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential. We found that focusing on these four dimensions ensures success in three key performance metrics that are necessary to securing brand resonance in this consumer-empowered world: brand preference, brand referral, and brand pricing premium.
The framework is built around four key dimensions that each significantly influence brand resonance. These four dimensions are:
Or TRUE (you see what they did there?)
Just like Salad Cream in fact.
A couple of Forrester examples to illustrate TRUE in practice:
Dove: Consumers rank Dove strongly on critical category attributes of "providing a consistent experience every time I use the brand" and "having products/services that consistently deliver on their promises."
Forrester sees Dove's 'Campaign for Real Beauty' as a bold move that eschewed storytelling norms to change the way women are perceived and how they view themselves.
Dove has grown from a $200 million soap brand in the 1990s to a $4 billion mega-brand, overtaking rival Olay in the process and knocking it further down on Forrester's brand ranking.
Gatorade: Sports fizzy drink firm Gatorade's marketing strategy attempts to affiliate the brand with athletic performance - "enable athletes to always perform at their peak" - backed by scientific research for its products.
This has had the result of enabling it to beat Coke on the brand ranking among the core target audience of twenty-something men with a dominant 46 percent share of the global sports drink market and $4.7 billion in brand value.
The conclusion: don't get carried away by the desire constantly to pursue the 'next big thing'; the current big thing is quite probably what will survive.
Or as Stokes notes:
"Too many brands today are caught up in the need for creating buzz — gathering likes and social marketing cooler talk — at the expense of building a critical foundation for trust."
I still really like Salad Cream.
Graphic: Forrester Research