Consumers aren't buying brands to keep up with the Joneses anymore, writes Karl Treacher. BRUSSELS SPROUTS ARE like the testes of the vegetable world. Who in
their right mind likes Brussels sprouts? People generally like the concept of a Brussels sprout rather than the experience of eating one. A recent survey found that 43"/" of people who indicated an above average interest in Brussels sprouts were significantly dissatisfied following a consumption test. Furthermore, 74"/" changed their opinion, pledging never to eat
another Brussels sprout ever again. It is relatively easy for humans to buy the idea of a product or service in the absence of personal experience; in fact, the success of most above-the-line advertising and promotion depends on us doing exactly that. However, poor personal experience can erase our cognitive purchase in a matter of seconds. Why? Because our experiences in life contribute to an emotional marking system that in combination with cognitive references, guide us and allow us to make decisions. So, 'thanks for the psycho-babble and vegetable genital imagery' I hear you say. Well
if you are a marketer and don't fully understand the human decision-making process, (beyond Buyer Behaviour 101), then you are effectively guessing as to whether your brand concepts and communication will be received by your market as intended. Some of today's best performing brands are not there by chance. These brands have recently recognised that to affect human behaviour, decision making and personal preference structures, brand communication must do more than just follow the tried, tested and very temporary communication procedures that appeal to the human ego. Marketing to the human ego is called 'Egoic marketing', and is any message that appeals to a person's sense of inadequacy or superficial desire. Maslow would have referred to this
I Ap,il 2006
form of marketing, as communication
projecting images in general, particularly ones
appealing to 'affiliation or esteem needs'. More recently, behavioural psychologist Robert Cialdini would, I imagine, Iiken this form of influence to 'social proof'.
that reflect an obsession with money over
0ne of the most obvious examples of egoic marketing is seen in luxury car advertising. Polished silver, shiny black leather and overt expressions of jealousy from the Joneses or the couple next door. We have watched brands advertise concept after concept that are supposed to evoke feelings of inadequacy with our lot in life and fuel our desire to have more or better in order to be more or better. So why do so many brands appeal to this perceived sense of need, lack and competition? Go and f ind a 15-year-old girl and ask her about what is important to her. This should give you an insight into this particular marketing rationale. The values that are most prominent during our teenage years are all about projection of personal image.
lifestyle. Making loads of cash to gain the imagined admiration of those around us when we are old and decrepit is now the realm of dinosaurs lost in their own misplaced identity. Unless marketing luxury cars, tweed jackets, cigars or French champagne, look closely at the changing values of your market, So what does this all mean? lt means that many brands are for one reason or another pressing a button covered in cob webs instead of the hot one when appealing to their customers. lt means that, in general, humanity follows trends and the more recent trends indicate that people are making choices based on more genuine and authentic needs, rather than the perceived need to impress others. lt means that the best performing brands are those spending the time and resources to deeply understand not only stated customer needs, but also pre-empt
Teenagers care more about what other people
specif ic needs based on human trends.
think than they do about almost anything else. The development of personal identity and insatiable search for approval dominate a
means that if you are reading this article and are engaged with communication partners stuck in an egoic positioning war with your competitors, then your brand is competing on the wrong playing field. Brussels sprouts are only ever going to be Brussels sprouts. Whether people buy them
teenager's time, resources and energy. ln the 1980s corporate America hit its teens and as such dictated values to its business and cultural partners of materialism, greed and financial obsession. The mid19BOs, coincidently, were also the years that
many of today's leaders developed their understanding around human influence and busi ness.
Emphasis on the projection of egoic-based image was well accepted by brands and customers alike in the '80s as people bought into the concept of'he who appears to have
due to a concept conjured by a well communicated value proposition or simply because they just like the taste, one thing is for certain, fewer people these days will be carrying a bag of sprouts home to be the envy of the neighbourhood. More people are buying because they genuinely want something rather
than buying because they think others do. ln today's market, ego is a dirty word.
the most wins'. However this way of thinking steadily lost impact as Western society embraced the concept of 'one life' and
intel I igence group Brand Behavrour.
'lifestyle'. People are now less interested
kar Ltreac her@ bra
Karl Treacher is the CEO of brand nd
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B6Cf Pub ication