One of the reasons brand management is a really exciting and dynamic profession is because of the peculiarities associated with the consumer in different cultures. In May 13, 1931, Neil H. McElroy drafted the famous 800 word memo which has come to define modern day brand management. In the memo, McElroy argued that companies should assign a separate marketing team to each individual product brand, as if it were a separate business. This is despite a “house of brands” or “endorsed” brand architecture. The Brand Man memo stated a few things which hinge on succeeding through an understanding of consumer culture;
o Where Brand Development is heavy and where it is progressing, examine carefully the combination of efforts that seem to be clicking and try to apply it to other territories that are comparable.
o Study the past promotional and advertising history of the brand, study the territory personally at first hand – both dealers and consumers in order to find out the trouble.
o After uncovering the weakness, develop a plan that can be applied to this local sore spot. It is necessary, of course, not simply to work out the plan but also to be sure that the amount of money proposed can be expected to produce results at a reasonable cost per case.
While brand marketing has evolved quite a lot over the years, the origin still emphasizes how fundamental “consumer culture” is to successful planning. This brings me to one of my earliest definitions of a brand which says that “a brand is a strategic cultural idea“. Another popular marketing quote says that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I personally don’t see any brand being successful without a thorough understanding of its consumers and this just begs the question; who exactly is the consumer?
A lot of marketing professionals are probably conversant with the socio-economic classification of A, B, C1, C2, D and E. While this might have been a great learning template to understand the consumer, I believe there should be a more innovative way for insight analysis in these recent times. While business owners are adopting new technology to improve their products and services, we as admen should be developing new tools to understand the consumer. Below is a sample consumer profile;
Vivian is a senior procurement officer in a foreign exploration and petroleum company doing business in Nigeria. She is 39years old and from one of the Niger-Delta states. She is one of two daughters of her parents and her elder sister is married to a politician back in the region. Vivian owns a serviced apartment in 1004 and stays with her bestie Michelle who is an interior decorator with clients in Lagos, Abuja and Port-harcourt. Vivian is unmarried but very much in love with Michelle in a way that society does not approve. She attends one of the famous local churches where the men perm their hair as she has been told that this will be a great place to find a husband. Her friend Michelle is more globally inclined as she was born in Dundee so she really doesn’t care and lives her life the way she deems fit. Some of Vivian’s colleagues suspect that she is dodgy but feel like it’s none of their business. Vivian hardly cooks at home and believes in eating out and getting food delivered from her favorite spots using the upcoming apps. Her experience with the men in church shows that they are only out to get her money so she has given up on that and just wakes up every day to live her life. She hates driving so is frequent user of the popular rider company in Nigeria. She also attends the gym every weekend to keep shape and is a member of a running club. She goes to a members-only lounge sometimes when she’s bored of staying at home. She never misses her holidays which she mostly takes with Michelle and she’s always looking for new places to go each year. She has had a few advances from men at work but they are all married and she knows even if she agrees it would only be for fun.
Vivian’s profile has been cut short for the purpose of this article, however, the point being brought out here is that, understanding Vivian as a consumer isn’t something that can be done via desktop research. A lot of people might not even believe a consumer like Vivian exists. As Neil McElroy said, it is necessary to study the territory at first-hand; both dealers and consumers. The profile above highlights various aspects of Vivian’s life which are touch points for businesses and brands to engage with her. They include but are not limited to her residence, her sexual orientation, her career, her vacation interests, her healthy lifestyle, her preference for social hangouts, religious inclination, etc. All of these are pointers to how a brand could choose to engage Vivian and this has become more psychographic than demographic.
My thoughts are, the best way to understand the consumer brackets that exist today require a lot of innovation. I have found that Nollywood is constantly churning out stories and while some of these could be clearly unintelligent, they do have some societal truth in them. Ad men should adopt a more out of office approach to observe at first-hand the current trends and profile-types that exist. Templates would certainly do no good at this stage. I look forward to products being developed from intelligent insights and trend reports; some sort of research and development if I could say. It is necessary to understand that the consumer is changing every day and right now there are Nigerian consumer brackets that have totally been ignored because people believe they do not exist. Further to this, the strategies being used to address some consumer brackets are inefficient because the insights are only scratching the surface. In the end, this is about producing results at a reasonable cost.