May 2016
Just Because You Can... Doesn’t Mean You Should

Jeffrey Spear - President, Studio Spear

 
Jeff Spear

I am constantly asked what the next “hot” trend in consumer products will be. What I fail to understand is why so many marketers are clamoring to invest in something that’s not part of their core competency, a logical extension of their brand or confirmed as a consumer essential.

 

I have no doubt somebody made a nice chunk of change from their low- or no-carb products, or is still reaping rewards from America’s fascination with all things spicy and “ethnic.”

It seems that, unless these new ideas gain the kind of traction that Starbucks has enjoyed, either something else comes along to steal the limelight or the “new” idea simply fades away.

If you want evidence, simply go to the grocery store and look at the antioxidant “super juice” crowd. Pom Wonderful did a fabulous job attracting attention to this category with its bulbous bottles and impressive health claims. These days, there seems to be an endless supply of juice brands entering the marketplace, either in the center of the store, produce department, or refrigerated dairy cases. The bottom line is that I’m not seeing as much pomegranate juice on the shelves as I did a few years ago.

At one point in time, I was seeing reports about trends in packaging and brand presentation that implied “less is more.” Apparently, simplicity was becoming the buzzword for marketers in nearly every sector. While a number of marketers employed minimalism and an austere aesthetic to prove brand and/or product value, this was merely a passing fad.

What amazes me is the number of companies who are willing to invest in “what’s new” and pursue trends instead of re-investing, enhancing and strengthening the position of their established brands. If it was a good idea at the start, why does it need to be overhauled? Why are there so many marketers who feel it is better to jump on the “emerging trend” bandwagon than to confirm their value proposition with a meaningful and substantial competitive challenge?

It seems that, instead of taking the time to invest in, fully understand and maintain relationships with their loyal customer base, and attract new customers at the same time, marketers appear more willing to change their brand strategy (and in some cases abandon their mission statement) to make a few bucks.

Okay, the big dogs such as Kraft, Campbell’s, General Mills and AnheuserBusch have deep pockets and can easily dismiss high-priced disappointments as effortlessly as most of us draw breath. And there is so much momentum in their virtually impenetrable core brands that potential for real and meaningful damage is negligible. But to think that everyone should be constantly chasing “what’s new,” or can afford to be trend savvy, seems wasteful and counterproductive.

I’m a big believer in quality. For manufacturers and marketers, it means doing what you do best and sticking to your guns. Products that were good ideas at the start and have earned consumer approval from the beginning do not necessarily need drastic makeovers. Especially when these products have benefited from ongoing investments in subtle brand maintenance along the way (ie: Oreo, M&Ms, Hershey).

When pursuing R&D and introducing new products, I feel it is more important to be sure you’ve identified a real and lasting need. To make something that gives real purpose to your organization and, in some way, enhances the quality of life for your customers..

I’m not naive enough to believe that trends are pointless. I understand that many of the brands we consider “icons” are facing real pressure from “what’s new.”

What I am witnessing, however, is that consumers are not so dumb or easily mislead. They can tell the difference between a passing fad and a truly meaningful offer. While there is no doubt that money can be made on fleeting trends, providing real and enduring value and maintaining integrity over a longer term seems to be the way to maintain consumer loyalty and confidence. I am noticing that the marketers who have chosen this path are the ones who seem to enjoy greater organizational stability, brand durability and sustainable growth.


 

If the time has come to overhaul, update and re-invigorate your brand image, or you'd like to change up your marketing program, please call 866 787 8761 - ask for Jeff Spear. You can also contact Jeff via email: jeff@studiospear.com.

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