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Deepening the connection


Marketing tricks like the BOGOF have remained the standard of brands for a long time, though some companies have foregone some of them in favour of alternatives.

IKEA, for example, bucks the classic retail trend of odd product pricing – instead of their STEFAN chair going for £17.99, they opt for a round £18. They’ve made the very conscious decision to add the extra penny back on for the sake of portraying a more transparent customer approach.

Yet as long as there’s been marketing, there’s been marketing ‘tricks’ – techniques to tempt customers into a sale. In its most simple form, time-limited offers and BOGOFs play on the most basic of consumer behaviour, tricking your brain into thinking you’re getting a great deal. Short-term tricks like this work well for low consideration, inexpensive products, but when it comes to pricey or repeat purchases, brands need to consider more long-term strategies to win over customers.

Marketing that actively builds emotional connections with consumers has become the primary means of doing this. For example, TV ads can seem like mini-movies in the way they use a full ‘hero’s journey’ narrative tear-jerker to tug on prospective customers’ heartstrings. Whatever the medium or format, brand messaging that gets an emotional response has consistently been shown to trump product-led efforts.

This has been proven as part of the study of behavioural economics. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman posited that our decisions are not made as rationally as we’d like to think. That our intuitive ‘System 1’ processing, from which our emotional responses come, is responsible for providing us with that reassuring gut feeling that makes a product or brand feel ‘right’ for us. The content-obsessed digital age has given an emotionally led ‘System 1’ approach to marketing renewed energy, with the brands telling the most emotional stories often getting valuable earned reach through social sharing. However, the problem is that pretty much everyone else is trying to jump on the content bandwagon in the same way. So, what can brands do to hold our attention?


A clear and defined brand ‘purpose’ is probably the answer. As our cynicism to the marketing machine continues to increase, brands need to show that they stand for something better and more progressive than simply making a profit – and the ones that do this well are reaping the benefits. But for it to be done successfully, it needs to be both well-conceived and sustained over time.

In 2017 there were some high-profile cases of brands missing the mark. These included the cringe-worthy efforts of Pepsi to appropriate the protest movements happening at the time, and Heineken’s arguably misplaced attempts to tackle issues of sexism, bigotry and transphobia.

By contrast, the brands that do it well are those with a worthwhile and relevant purpose built into their fabric – with a set of values that they live by. In short, they know that sustained actions speak louder than words and are content to prove their purpose and worth to customers, time and time again.


This may be easier for new brands, which are able to bake these values in from the very start. Monzo, the self-proclaimed ‘bank of the future’, is a good example. Born out of the frustrations of using traditional banks, it is managed solely through a smartphone, and oriented towards budgeting for the younger, money-conscious consumer. It has resulted in huge success, with most of its signups coming as a result of that holy grail of marketing efficiency for any brand – word of mouth.

Some more established brands have also done this successfully. More often than not it’s those that started with a clear brand purpose that are striking a chord with the new breed of consumer simply by finding the right means of engaging them. Nike, with a brand purpose that is (and always has been) to ‘bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’, maintains its success by engaging its audience in authentic ways that are designed to live up to that, such as Nike Running Club and the Nike Training Club app.

This isn’t to say that older brands are doomed if they didn’t anticipate when they started that consumers would demand a deeper connection. It just means that if they decide to focus on a bigger brand purpose as the basis for building that all-important emotional connection with customers, they need to carefully consider what they will actually do for their customers on an on-going basis to live up to it.

Fred Brinton, Senior Planner, TMW Unlimited

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