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Consumers aren't buying brands to keep up with the Joneses anymore, writes Karl Treacher. form of marketing, as communication 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, I4"/o changed their opinion, pledging never to eat

appealing to 'affiliation or esteem needs'. More recently, behavioural psychologist Robert Cialdini would, I imagine, liken this form of influence to'social proof'. One 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

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

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

depends on us doing exactly that. However, poor personal experience can erase our cognitive purchase in a matter of seconds.

competition? Go and find a 15-year-old girl and ask her about what is important to her. This should give you an insight into this

in life marking system contribute to an emotional with references, that in combination cognitive 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

particular marketing rationale. The values that are most prominent during our teenage years are all about prolection of personal image. Teenagers care more about what other people

Why? Because our experiences

brand concepts and communication will


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 April 2006

think than they do about almost anything else, The development of personal identity and insatiable search for approval dominate a 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 f inancial obsession. The mid1980s, 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 the most wins'. However this way of thinking steadily lost impact as Western society embraced the concept of 'one life' and 'lifestyle'. People are now less interested in

projecting images in general, particularly ont that reflect an obsession with money over lifestyle. Making loads of cash to gain the imagined admiration of those around us whe we are old and decrepit is now the realm of dinosaurs lost in their own misplaced identit Unless marketing luxury cars, tweed jacke 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 inste; of the hot one when appealing to their customers. lt means that, in general, humanity follows trends and the more recenl trends indicate that people are making choices based on more genuine and authent 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 nol only stated customer needs, but also pre-em specif ic needs based on human trends. lt means that if you are reading this article anr are engaged with communication partners stuck in an egoic positioning war with your competitors, then your brand is competing o the wrong playing f ield.

Brussels sprouts are only ever going to be Brussels sprouts. Whether people buy them 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 enr of the neighbourhood. More people are buyir because they genuinely want something rath than buying because they think others do. lr today's market, ego is a dirty word.

Karl Treacher is the CEO of brand i

ntel I igence grou p Brand Behavrour.

ka r Ltreac h e r@ bra n d be h av i ou r.





Wearing leg warmers  

Brand expert Karl Treacher discusses the decreasing relevance of egoic marketing, as we witness consumers today making choices based on more...

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