A few months ago, my husband convinced me to book a trip to Disney World with our 16 month old daughter, so that he could run the Star Wars Half Marathon. It didn’t take that much convincing on his part, but it wasn’t the family trip to Disney that he was focused on. It was the promise of a race filled with storm troopers and photo ops with Chewbacca, BB-8 and Darth Vader.
It got me thinking about classic brands that never go out of style (and why my husband would pay $350 for a
Star Wars-themed race). Everyone in the world, or at least the United States could name the movie if someone said, “May the force be with you.” Though Star Wars as a franchise and a story has evolved to introduce new characters and actors, each new Director has tried to stay true to George Lucas’ vision, and the brand’s incredible and lasting awareness and loyalty are testament.
I recently attended the ACT7 Experience in Oxford, Mississippi, where I heard from a number of magazine media industry executives and thought leaders on why print matters. During the opening keynote, Brian Hart Hoffman of Hoffman Media spoke about how the consumer is at the center of each brand “wheel.” He made a simple yet poignant remark that stuck with me:
“Readers don’t change as fast as we do. We spend 365 days a year thinking about our brands and our Instagram and our Facebook and our newsletters and our magazines and what’s going to be in the next issue. And we get really excited and come up with 12 new things and it’s easy to want to change. But if you think about your readers, they spend maybe 6-7 days—a few hours of those days—per year with your title. They’re not bored. They’re just getting the hang of what you’re doing and they really just want you to stay the course. You can show them new and interesting things, but within the diet of what you’ve presented to them. Don’t feel the need for constant change.”
As a leading media planning and buying company, we constantly have our ears to the ground to discover the next Snapchat or hyper-targeting technology to bring to our clients’ attention. But time and time again, what they end up running with us are mostly tried and true solutions. Print magazine ads, programmatic, or endemic site sponsorships. They add on trinkets here and there, but the majority of our business is based upon classic (or the new classic) media. And while media companies have to change with the ever-evolving landscape, what Brian said is a good reminder. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
When brands do try to change too quickly or too often, the message often misses the mark with their core consumer. Examples abound, across advertising campaigns as well as products.
Recently on my hour+ commute to work, I’ve heard new Coca Cola ads on the radio. Growing up in a Coca-Cola household (Pepsi was a bad word), I have a long-standing relationship with the brand, and generally associate it with happiness, friendship, and family. The new ads speak about using Coke as a specific food pairing
(e.g. pair Coke with paella, or Coke with lobster). In my house, and in Coke messaging throughout my life, Coke goes with everything, so the new messaging stands out as inauthentic to me.
Both M&Ms and Lay’s Potato Chips have debuted flavor challenges in the past few years, in an effort to drive brand buzz and interest new consumers. However, you couldn’t pay me to eat Chili Nut M&Ms or Chicken and Waffles-flavored Lay’s. Instead, you can bet I’ll reach for the original or BBQ bag at the grocery store every time.
And, as a once-a-day Starbucks coffee drinker, the recent Unicorn Frappuccino phenomenon had me shaking my head. While I know Starbucks products appeal to consumers of all ages, Starbucks loyalists had nothing but negative things to say about the ultra-sweet and unnaturally-colored drink that felt like a gimmick.
In sum, as we all move at lightning speed to bring the newest and best to our clients (B2B or B2C), I encourage us to heed Brian’s warning, and to remember our consumer. Chances are that they are fans of your brand or company for a reason: because they feel confident in what they can expect from you. And while new, outrageous products or brand alignments can seem like a shiny new object to boost sales, perhaps we should focus inward to discover out-of-the box ways to be more profitable, rather than risk consumer loyalty with off-brand messaging. In an ever-changing world, consistency can be the key to success.
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