I remember my first job assignment. I had to plan to launch a telecom service in a whole region representing 65 million people.

In those days, emails were all that we had to go digitally ballistic in India, and, a banner was something that you printed on 6 feet of white cloth and hung between lamp posts.

It was all about outdoors and print and ‘in shop’ displays and, ‘innovation’ was when you went beyond your brief and did mall branding, building wraps and 3D glow boards. In fact you were assured of a promotion if you did cluster branding at no extra pressure on the budgets and fit in a road show or a van promotion to scream out your products and brands from a microphone handled by an enthusiastic (and terribly underpaid) young promoter with a Brand T Shirt, Denims and Funny shoes (and a baseball hat – branded at that).

Those were the days, when the challenge was about getting a full page ad out on time and then tracking the ROI. It was about matching swatches and deliberating on copy and then praying that the press didn’t screw up the late edition.

I would be up at 4 am morning and drive down to the newsagents to see the first print before the papers went out for delivery. The days, when the colours were awry and the format all screwed up, I used to send defensive texts to my boss and hope that I had a job at EOD.

And things did go wrong. Murphy was the guiding principle and there was little one could do other than blaming someone else for it.

We got by.

It was all about consistency and tone. There was a Primary target audience and the rest came in through what was known as the ‘Umbrella effect’. These afterthoughts, were the Secondary targets. Segmentation was rudimentary and ‘After Marketing’ was more of a thought than practice.

Iconic campaigns were those that were consistent through decades in their mssging and tonality. Some of the campaigns that were really iconic in those days were Hamlet Cigars and VW polo.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/api/edit/embed?embed=%257B%2522created%2522%253A0%252C%2522lastModified%2522%253A0%252C%2522type%2522%253A%2522video%2522%252C%2522owner%2522%253A%2522%2522%252C%2522title%2522%253A%257B%2522localized%2522%253A%257B%2522en_US%2522%253A%2522CDP%2520Classic%2520ads%2520-%2520Hamlet%2520Cigars%2520%25281966%2520-%25201997%2529%2522%257D%257D%252C%2522description%2522%253A%257B%2522localized%2522%253A%257B%2522en_US%2522%253A%2522The%2520comprehensive%2520set%2520of%2520Hamlet%2520Cigar%2520adverts%2520from%25201966%2520to%25201997%2520including%253A%2520%2527Music%2520Teacher%2527%2520%25281966%2529%2520%2527Launderette%2527%2520%25281968%2529%2520%2527Venus%2520de%2520Milo%2527%2520%25281974%2529%2520%2527Tennis%2527%2520%25281975%2529%2520%2527Robot%2527%2520%25281977%2529%2520%2527Cowboy%2527%2520%25281978%2529%2520%2527Car%2520Wash%2527%2520%25281981%2529%2520%2527Pink%2520Shiny%2520Dome%2527%2520%25281984%2529%2520%2527Photobooth%2527%2520%25281986%2529%2520%2527Wall%2527%2520%25281990%2529%2520%2527Hangman%2527%2520%25281996%2529%2520%2527Glow%2520Worm%2527%2520%25281997%2529%2520Classic%2520ads%2520from%2520the%2520Collett%2520Dickenson%2520Pearce%2520%2528CDP%2529%2520agency.%2522%257D%257D%252C%2522author%2522%253A%257B%2522name%2522%253A%2522olliedann%2522%252C%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fuser%252Folliedann%2522%257D%252C%2522provider%2522%253A%257B%2522name%2522%253A%2522YouTube%2522%252C%2522display%2522%253A%2522www.youtube.com%2522%252C%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252F%2522%252C%2522favicon%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fs.ytimg.com%252Fyts%252Fimg%252Ffavicon-vflz7uhzw.ico%2522%257D%252C%2522request%2522%253A%257B%2522originalUrl%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DNIckHmwZAeI%2522%252C%2522finalUrl%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DNIckHmwZAeI%2522%257D%252C%2522images%2522%253A%255B%257B%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fi.ytimg.com%252Fvi%252FNIckHmwZAeI%252Fhqdefault.jpg%2522%252C%2522width%2522%253A480%252C%2522height%2522%253A360%257D%255D%252C%2522data%2522%253A%257B%2522com.linkedin.treasury.Video%2522%253A%257B%2522html%2522%253A%2522%253Ciframe%2520class%253D%255C%2522embedly-embed%255C%2522%2520src%253D%255C%2522%252F%252Fmedia.licdn.com%252Fembeds%252Fmedia.html%253Fsrc%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fembed%25252FNIckHmwZAeI%25253Ffeature%25253Doembed%2526amp%253Burl%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fwatch%25253Fv%25253DNIckHmwZAeI%2526amp%253Bimage%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fi.ytimg.com%25252Fvi%25252FNIckHmwZAeI%25252Fhqdefault.jpg%2526amp%253Bkey%253D03fb819bf74246bf972444a07b738ad0%2526amp%253Btype%253Dtext%25252Fhtml%2526amp%253Bschema%253Dyoutube%255C%2522%2520width%253D%255C%2522640%255C%2522%2520height%253D%255C%2522480%255C%2522%2520scrolling%253D%255C%2522no%255C%2522%2520frameborder%253D%255C%25220%255C%2522%2520allowfullscreen%253E%253C%252Fiframe%253E%2522%252C%2522width%2522%253A640%252C%2522height%2522%253A480%257D%257D%257D&signature=AfFccSZA30j-oEQhDlhfW1BQLHwS&uid=30594Take a Dekko at the Hamlet ads above. Over 30 years, the brand stuck to the same line of thought, and then, just at the cusp of the Digital revolution, when they changed it – it just didn’t seem effective enough.

Now take a look at the two ads below. They are both essentially the same ad. From different eras though. The look and feel have changed, so have the characters – but the targeting (though in different geographies), tonality and messaging are the same.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/api/edit/embed?embed=%257B%2522created%2522%253A0%252C%2522lastModified%2522%253A0%252C%2522type%2522%253A%2522video%2522%252C%2522owner%2522%253A%2522%2522%252C%2522title%2522%253A%257B%2522localized%2522%253A%257B%2522en_US%2522%253A%2522VW%2520Golf%2520GTI%2520Mk2%2520TV%2520ad%2522%257D%257D%252C%2522description%2522%253A%257B%2522localized%2522%253A%257B%2522en_US%2522%253A%2522Watch%2520the%2520original%25201980s%2520TV%2520ad%2520for%2520the%2520Mk2%2520VW%2520Golf%2520GTI%2520from%2520the%2520UK%2520using%2520a%2520Princess%2520Diana%2520clone%2522%257D%257D%252C%2522author%2522%253A%257B%2522name%2522%253A%2522Eurotuner%2522%252C%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fuser%252FEurotuner%2522%257D%252C%2522provider%2522%253A%257B%2522name%2522%253A%2522YouTube%2522%252C%2522display%2522%253A%2522www.youtube.com%2522%252C%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252F%2522%252C%2522favicon%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fs.ytimg.com%252Fyts%252Fimg%252Ffavicon-vflz7uhzw.ico%2522%257D%252C%2522request%2522%253A%257B%2522originalUrl%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DMxd6Q69tb8A%2522%252C%2522finalUrl%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DMxd6Q69tb8A%2522%257D%252C%2522images%2522%253A%255B%257B%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fi.ytimg.com%252Fvi%252FMxd6Q69tb8A%252Fhqdefault.jpg%2522%252C%2522width%2522%253A480%252C%2522height%2522%253A360%257D%255D%252C%2522data%2522%253A%257B%2522com.linkedin.treasury.Video%2522%253A%257B%2522html%2522%253A%2522%253Ciframe%2520class%253D%255C%2522embedly-embed%255C%2522%2520src%253D%255C%2522%252F%252Fmedia.licdn.com%252Fembeds%252Fmedia.html%253Fsrc%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fembed%25252FMxd6Q69tb8A%25253Ffeature%25253Doembed%2526amp%253Burl%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fwatch%25253Fv%25253DMxd6Q69tb8A%2526amp%253Bimage%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fi.ytimg.com%25252Fvi%25252FMxd6Q69tb8A%25252Fhqdefault.jpg%2526amp%253Bkey%253D03fb819bf74246bf972444a07b738ad0%2526amp%253Btype%253Dtext%25252Fhtml%2526amp%253Bschema%253Dyoutube%255C%2522%2520width%253D%255C%2522854%255C%2522%2520height%253D%255C%2522480%255C%2522%2520scrolling%253D%255C%2522no%255C%2522%2520frameborder%253D%255C%25220%255C%2522%2520allowfullscreen%253E%253C%252Fiframe%253E%2522%252C%2522width%2522%253A854%252C%2522height%2522%253A480%257D%257D%257D&signature=AXper-DbgIavjebP2a9qL5zfKa0g&uid=46563https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/api/edit/embed?embed=%257B%2522created%2522%253A0%252C%2522lastModified%2522%253A0%252C%2522type%2522%253A%2522video%2522%252C%2522owner%2522%253A%2522%2522%252C%2522title%2522%253A%257B%2522localized%2522%253A%257B%2522en_US%2522%253A%2522Volkswagen%2520%2527If%2520Only%2527%2520TVC%2520%2528Jamaica%2520-%2520ATL%2520Automotive%2529%2522%257D%257D%252C%2522description%2522%253A%257B%2522localized%2522%253A%257B%2522en_US%2522%253A%2522Jamaican%2520Songstress%2520Denyque%2520stars%2520in%2520this%2520updated%2520remake%2520of%2520the%2520classic%2520%2527If%2520Only%2527%2520Volkswagen%2520%2528VW%2529%2520Ad.%2520When%2520everything%2520seems%2520to%2520be%2520going%2520wrong%2520in%2520her%2520love%2520life%252C%2520Denyque%2520contemplates%2520getting%2520rid%2520of%2520it%2520all%2520-%2520exes%252C%2520photos%252C%2520mementos%2520and%2520briefly%2520her%2520Volkswagen%2520keys.%2522%257D%257D%252C%2522author%2522%253A%257B%2522name%2522%253A%2522ATL%2520Jamaica%2522%252C%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fchannel%252FUCDCJjksbrqetoXbsLUtgrIg%2522%257D%252C%2522provider%2522%253A%257B%2522name%2522%253A%2522YouTube%2522%252C%2522display%2522%253A%2522www.youtube.com%2522%252C%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252F%2522%252C%2522favicon%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Ffavicon.ico%2522%257D%252C%2522request%2522%253A%257B%2522originalUrl%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DIMgFPhmUIyM%2522%252C%2522finalUrl%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DIMgFPhmUIyM%2522%257D%252C%2522images%2522%253A%255B%257B%2522url%2522%253A%2522https%253A%252F%252Fi.ytimg.com%252Fvi%252FIMgFPhmUIyM%252Fhqdefault.jpg%2522%252C%2522width%2522%253A480%252C%2522height%2522%253A360%257D%255D%252C%2522data%2522%253A%257B%2522com.linkedin.treasury.Video%2522%253A%257B%2522html%2522%253A%2522%253Ciframe%2520class%253D%255C%2522embedly-embed%255C%2522%2520src%253D%255C%2522%252F%252Fmedia.licdn.com%252Fembeds%252Fmedia.html%253Fsrc%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fembed%25252FIMgFPhmUIyM%25253Ffeature%25253Doembed%2526amp%253Burl%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.youtube.com%25252Fwatch%25253Fv%25253DIMgFPhmUIyM%2526amp%253Bimage%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fi.ytimg.com%25252Fvi%25252FIMgFPhmUIyM%25252Fhqdefault.jpg%2526amp%253Bkey%253D03fb819bf74246bf972444a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seems to have changed from the 80s to the new millennium. Of course the cars have changed, as have the models and the look. But both are topical and entertaining. Both give the same message.

Of course the Golf ad has changed now, and has ended up less iconic for it, at present. Maybe in time, they will revive the iconic status through a new message.

One can understand why they have changed. After all, the whole idea of being reliable has been firmly established through generations and target segments. Therefore it’s time to move on to other bells and whistles.

The question is – In these times of fast moving Digital reality – can 30 year contextual consistency be possible. Even further – Is consistency possible – or even required?

Consider this –

A hypothetical brand of Sports Cars – Wings – Has a range of variants in various price segments – The Wings Mark 1. This car has been there for 50 years, marketing successfully across the world based on a single tag line – Feel the wind in your hair. The visuals have changed – however the ethos and tonality have remained the same across time and geographies.

Tremendously successful, this brand suddenly finds their sales falling in their targeted age segment of 25 to 40, but finds a rise in another segment.

Pressed into the job, their market research agency makes a few startling discoveries –

  • The product is highly contemporary – with all that the target segment demanded
  • The pricing is right for the segment
  • Awareness is high but ‘Intention to Purchase’ is falling in their intended target category

Delving into campaign effectiveness, the agency finds

  • Despite their consistency in mssging and using different traditional and digital media, the target group is not really moved by the overall advertising
  • VOX from a few of the respondents – ‘Wind in your hair’ is such a 90s thing – feels rather backdated. The Merc SLA on the other hand…….”
  • There is a serious problem in communication effectiveness with the intended audience

Further, the agency discovers

  • The category of buyers between the age of 40 to 55, who have literally grown up with this iconic brand, finds a lot to identify with.
  • They can more than afford it and their pride of possession index is consistent – A bit like a baby boomer buying a Harley while cruising the Wall Street.
  • They don’t really care about the messaging – They don’t even remember having seen the ad – They just know about it from their younger days.

Commercially

  • The brand was not doing too badly at all
  • Its just that it did not sell as many in the intended segment
  • The segment had moved without the Brand being aware of it

So, did the Brand segment wrongly? Does the brand need to retarget?

I think not.

If anything – I think that the brand needs to expand its target – bring in more people into the fold. But sure as that – I think that the brand needs to reinvent itself.

It needs to Multi Target – It needs to have different segments as its Primary Target and it needs to talk to each one of them differently. While they can probably afford to be consistent in branding, their tonality and content in communication for different segments – needs to vary. Lastly, they can’t afford an overlap in communication because – the wrong message to the wrong guy can lead to a lost sale – and worse – multiple messages to the same segment can lead to a confused perception resulting in bad word of mouth.

However, they needn’t worry overmuch. Today, Big Data makes it possible for us to talk to the customer directly – even if the group size is just ONE. Today it is technically possible to have the same page layered with different content and served to different segments depending on their persona. Mass media today is amazingly precise. Digitally speaking, I can, if I have the wherewithal, have a different message and tonality customized for every single potential customer I may have. (If customer X identifies more with Jay Z, than Michael Bolton, who is the preferred icon for customer Y, then my language and tone for talking to both should ideally be different)

Its time, I believe, to challenge age old concepts of marketing. Consistency is good. I have no doubt. It protects the ethos of the Brand. However, I believe, that in certain categories it’s time to turn around and ask the Brand – ‘Do you really want your Ethos to be protected? Or do you want to break free from the narrow confines of human suppositions and charter a course which allows you to optimize?’.

After all, we human beings, don’t wear the same clothes at all times. We don’t talk the same way with everybody. Why should the brand?

In times that are so consistent in their rapidly changing dynamics, is it even possible or necessary to hang on to ancient marketing ideals. Or is it time to recognize that horses for courses in not only possible, but a necessity – Specially for certain product categories.

Time to see if the walls need to be broken down. Time to find out what’s on the other side. Maybe, all things said and done – This is the Berlin Wall Moment for Marketing.

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