Why brands are under pressure to be useful
Dear Brands, you are under pressure. Of course you still need brand love, but it’s no longer enough to be loved. The same applies to differentiation. Since the brandscape is overcrowded, being different no longer makes a big enough difference. No, today, to be loved and desirable, you must also be useful.
Are you being useful?
Now a brand must be useful in our lives – to me, to my wife, to my neighbor, useful to the world, to those in need, and the others too. Be useful. This is why Mars decided to invest Euro 1 billion in ecology, and the friendly M&M’s have become an advocate for wind turbines. Because you absolutely have to be useful.
The players of the new digital economy have given a new meaning to usefulness and have given it value. Who could have imagined, just 10 years ago, that this word “usefulness”, clearly one of the least glamorous in the dictionary, would become the star of every marketing strategy? Above all, one of the non-negotiable needs of millennials, these demanding consumers of the new millennium. But wait, aren’t we all millennials in 2018?
The care revolution
Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, known collectively as “GAFA”, have made everything available at the click of a button, and have put consumer care in the spotlight. Uber-ization is nothing more or less than another way to make life a little easier. But we love it, especially if the driver – as a bonus – opens the door for us. We want to be served. We can overlook that the brand might not be quite so caring when it comes to the rest of society. After years of the tyranny of happiness, welcome to the tyranny of care: I want to be the center of your attention. Thus, to the value of usefulness, now you need to add the value of care. And that’s true whatever the market or category you’re in. What has Nespresso changed most in the coffee category? It is neither taste nor quality; it is care. What else?
What are you giving, not selling?
It’s not enough to be useful to my life, to suit my daily routine, but please, dear brand, could you also serve others, the planet, the environment or world peace. Just look at Burger King and our friends at Y&R Auckland, who, with Operation McWhopper, mobilized crowds and sparked conversations about unity and world peace. The campaign received a Creative Effectiveness Golden Lion at the Cannes Awards in 2017. By doing good for others, brands can do well for themselves. It is a friendly way to spread good, goodness and good vibes. And it works. Because you have to know, dear brands, in this new world, when you give, you get back. There is justice after all.
Is utility killing image?
One of the big problems facing brands of the 1970s is they were built primarily on the value of image. In my younger days, I dreamed of traveling the world in my Levi’s. But a look at global brand rankings suggests people aren’t dreaming of Levi’s and Coca-Cola any more, they want PayPal by their side. Brands in apparently unglamorous categories such as vacuum cleaners – think here of Dyson – are showing other brands how simplifying people’s lives is incredibly appealing. The technological romance of the brand is outstanding, considering we are only talking about vacuums and hairdryers. This is the value of usefulness, I’m telling you!
Amazon vs. Apple
It’s for all these good reasons that Amazon is primed to win the next battle of GAFA. Apple has for 15 years cultivated the brand as delivering empowerment at your fingertips, and being the object of desire that you show off and that makes you feel special. But in this new era of usefulness, service and usage value, it seems that “Ms Amazon” is seen as more caring than “Mr Apple”. And it’s likely that when I decide which home assistant will live on my kitchen table, it’s the care factor that might make all the difference. Everyone gets their turn.
As for me, I remain convinced that love is not dead. On the condition that it’s useful, of course.
Cet article est extrait du rapport BrandZ TOP50 France, établit par Kantar Millward Brown et WPP. Il s’agit du classement des 50 marques françaises les plus valorisées dans le monde, publié en décembre 2017.
Accédez au rapport complet et au classement.
VP Head of Strategy
Y&R is one of the leading and most iconic global marketing communications companies. We operate as a Global Boutique, connecting deep insights from local business needs and consumers with strategies and objectives that travel across borders.