Fewer, Lesser, Blander

Fewer, Lesser, Blander

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If you ask ten people for the description of a ‘brand’, you will get ten different answers. The problem, you see, is that with all the different definitions going around, few actually know what a brand is, and more importantly, what value a brand can hold.

Take FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) for example. Once again, it all started with money and greed and companies striving to give their shareholders more, at any cost. These companies have meetings – ‘brainstorms’ on ways to cut costs in order to make more money.

I was privy to a number of these meetings with a big yoghurt brand. Someone in marketing or production or even sales comes up with a great idea: change the milk to a cheaper grade and save money. Make the plastic cup smaller and save money. Turn fruit into fruit bits and then just fruit flavour and save even more money. All the while increasing the price.

Draining value

Each of these ‘double-whammy’ ideas creates a spike in sales and profits at a particular time of year. Which instantly becomes an expectation from the shareholders for next year, only they expect it to be bigger. So begins a never-ending cycle of taking away all the value you came to love in a product in the first place.

A number of very big, very ‘successful‘ companies run their business in this cost-cutting manner. Which inevitably means they do the bare minimum when it comes to marketing and advertising too, again to keep costs down. What they don’t realise is that these misleading sales cycles are in a downward spiral. By devaluing a product and failing to build loyalty through advertising, the end result is inevitably that customers will seek better value, at a better price, elsewhere.

As competition in the marketplace becomes more prolific, more and more companies find themselves losing out on a lot of sales before they have to spend a lot of money re-investing in their products. All of which could easily have been avoided.

Winning back customers

I am very happy to report that the yoghurt company in question did reinvest. They put back all the things they took out and added in more and turned a bland, tasteless product into a leading brand once again. They won their customers back too.

But not all companies and marketers do. I bought a packet of chips/crisps tonight, again a leading brand. It was a large packet (125 grams) and it was less than a third full. Even in a bag half the size there would have been room.

You’ve all heard the joke “I bought a bag of air today and was surprised to find a few chips in it”, but all joking aside, there comes a point when psychologically ‘fooling’ the customer takes away all sense of the brand promise, to the point of fraud.

Just take a look around. Notice how small a slice of bread has become? Chocolates, lollipops, containers of coffee are two-thirds the size they were not too long ago. Fast food, especially, carries the evidence of my point. Which means very few marketers are looking at the bigger picture. Long-term strategies are a thing of the past and instead of looking to the future, instant gratification is the order of the day.

As long as it is all about money, I am not sure what the solution is. But if we continue to diminish everything we know and love, we need to ask ourselves: where it is going to end? Where are we headed?

Mick Blore
Mick Blore is a founding partner of Original Forever, a creative agency that specializes in big ideas born of extraordinary creative strategy. For more information visit www.originalforever.co.za