I yell, therefore I am
Due to my job, I am an avid walker among store shelves. I analyse the packaging, the brand names, the prices, the ways in which the products are displayed on the shelf and their communication strategies. For quite some time now, I have noticed a certain ”exacerbation” of the language and the communication strategies that are being used. Products that pretend to be a brand or even some brands that are changing their discourse into shouts are becoming more and more common in the communication area. Jokes – unsalted or grotesque ones and speech forms that lack a message or which have an unclear content seem to be the norm these days. Their desire to be different from the others is taken to an extreme level (otherwise, as it is taught in the marketing textbooks – differentiate yourself!) which surpasses the message and the information. This option contradicts the theory of communication itself which, in essence, says that the transmitter must always communicate information to the receiver. A minimum amount of information, I must add.
My parents, who have been university professors ever since I can remember, have taught me to open my mouth only when I have something to say, to communicate, to criticize or to praise – and then to do it in such a way that can be easily understood. They have also warned me many times that talking without thinking just for the sake of ”saying” something and just to be part of the conversation, will negatively affect my relationships with people. In other words, they taught me to communicate efficiently and to always put myself in the shoes of those I want to get in touch with so that they can easily understand what I have to say. The substance and the manner matter the most, not the noise! A common-sense rule that has to be taught to every child. No one is perfect and I don’t say that I always succeed, but I often remember my parents’ golden rule.
Personally, I have always believed in the information that was ”wrapped” in such a way as to resonate with the target audience, whether we are talking about a yoghurt or a chocolate packaging, a TV spot or a print layout. One day I was talking to a fellow colleague of mine who said: ”Where is the strategic planning? Are we using this strategy only when talking about campaign planning?” We had an interesting conversation that revealed that he and other colleagues – nota bene, the guild of brand consultants and designers – have about the same opinion, only with minor differences, about what is happening at the moment. Another fellow colleague, who is quite the joker sometimes (even now I don’t know if he made a joke or he spoke seriously about this) told me the story of how, recently, the Romanian brand manager of a famous perfume brand, that is written with a single ”N”, was constantly writing the name of the brand with two ”N”s. Of course, we laughed very hard about it, as the situation was very absurd. The totally illogical situation in which a brand manager who does not know how to spell his own brand name, corroborated with the, not at all strategic ”shouts” in the media, makes me think of a despair of the destructive messages of brand equity, substance and value. Shortly, I am sure that notoriety and other sophisticated indicators are extraordinary. However, in the long run, brands will suffer, some irretrievably, due to the lack of balanced brand and communication strategies.
The cause for the heads rolling on the screen, people getting electrocuted in the pit, squirrels dancing the samba, purple puppies hitting the cobblestones and feathers floating in the milk is not interesting at all. It is interesting why these ”jokes” that do not build the brand become a phenomenon. I consider it a result of short-term thinking, without a strategic approach of the subsequent implications. A famous advertising agency which has its own slogan that is extremely good (perhaps even the best one in my opinion) – ”The well-said truth.” Rhetorically, I can ask where the truth is. Pragmatically, I wish I could take the money from those who pay for milk feathers. In reality, I have a problem communicating with them.
Of course, we rather remember the funny guys who always tell funny jokes. They quickly gain notoriety, get the attention of girls and entertain their entourage. They are accessible and make us laugh. That’s what we remember about them. It’s harder to resonate with those who talk to you seriously and measuredly and who actually say something. But when you need what that serious guy has to give, you will turn to him, because he has substance. And if you are a little level-headed, you will want to have him as your friend. With the funny guy, you can go for drinks and to pick up women but he will most certainly disappear from your agenda when you find another companion with better jokes.
One day ”the crisis will pass and the stones will remain”, today, tomorrow or in a year. The stones are those brands that, in this difficult period of time, built and continued to differentiate themselves from the others by having substance. The consumer will ultimately impose a discipline of brands by the nature of the changes in their perceptions of consumption and the scale of values. The real attributes, the strategy, the attitude of partnership with the consumer, the efficiency, the prices and the communication strategies focused on advantages and real differentiation will only have a lot to gain from this. Brands are long-lasting tools.
I will recommend you a good movie, with a lot of packaging and advertising, a parable that takes place somewhere in the future. It’s called ”Idiocracy,” written and directed by the unbeaten Mike Judge, pour le connoisseurs.