Test of Character
07 Feb 2012|Paul Cowper
Let’s take bottled water. How many different promises (or propositions) can you use to sell water? It’s refreshing, it’s hydrating, it’s healthy, it’s sometimes tasty, and it’s good for your body, your brain, even the world. It’s sourced from places far more beautiful than where you live and sometimes it’s fizzy. Actually, that’s a pretty impressive list of different ways to sell something which many of us take for granted. The website “finewaters.com” which claims to be the definitive resource on bottled water, says there are 150 water brands in the UK alone. All of these brands use one or more of these 8 promises in their marketing.
This proves the point that it is possible for a category to have more brands than there are selling propositions. The question is how do they co-exist and how do they compete? Well the truth is that the proposition is only part of the story. People choose and build an affinity with brands not just because of what they do, but also because of the way they do it.
This is the elusive bit. We can all describe what it is that a great brand does, but it’s much harder to capture the brand’s style, its way of being and how it mirrors today’s culture. And yet having a strong character that’s culturally relevant are the things which often set really great brands apart.
Think of Innocent. A much loved and much lauded brand heralded by many in marketing workshops, “why can’t we be more like Innocent?” What’s their selling proposition? Fresh, healthy juice in a bottle – hardly defensible is it? But what’s made the business big and the brand memorable was Innocent’s style, it’s unique and ownable way of doing fresh healthy juice. The look and feel, the tone of voice, the playful, lovable naughty-boy back of pack cheekiness, the characterful knitted hats just when culturally we were looking for cool way to express our creativity (and do some good) – that’s what we really fell for. Finally a brand that stood up against the same old tiresome corporate brand speak which made us all weary. Yes, the product had to deliver, but it had to do it in a way that would engage us. And without that unique style, that way of delivering, stand out character and its “cultural cool”, it’s just a pricey juice in a bottle.
Yet this mysterious style or character that the brand has is so often undervalued. So too is the way a brand can tune into what’s happening in the world around us to make their promise more relevant and engaging. It’s always easier to call to mind brands that do this well (Redbull, Pepperami, Nike) than those that don’t. But next time you go to the supermarket, take a minute to look at brands around you and you’ll probably realise how many brands there are that lack real character or cultural appeal and feel out-dated. Each and every one of them is, to some degree, a missed opportunity.
Written by: Paul Cowper, Added Value UK
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