Martin Lindstrom, brand specialist extraordinaire, who appeared on the cover of Time in 2009 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, kept his audience captivated for an entire day, sharing valuable insights at a conference in Johannesburg last Thursday. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Buy-ology spoke about Branding and the Digital Marketing Revolution.
When I asked Lindstrom after the event if he had any specific advice for the media industry he replied, “If you are in print stick to century classics, stick to your own terms don’t try to compete with online, if you are in TV don’t compromise on video quality always broadcast in HD, find the strength of your medium and stick to it.”
He unpacked multiple innovative ideas during the day that included fun catch phrases such as: “sleep with your customer”, “smash your brand” and “Wow, Pow, Chau!”
“Wow, Pow, Chau,” refers to our insatiable desire to capture things and put them up in the cloud. Wow (we record the event), Pow (we share the event on social media), Chau (we move onto the next most interesting thing). Lindstrom predicts, “In the future ordinary people will have their own marketing plan and create a personal brand.”
“Our brains have changed,” says Lindstrom. This is an evolutionary drive to build a new set of skills that enable us to deal with the wealth of information available. He has coined the term, ‘instant gratification generation’ for the youth. According to the PEW Research Center’s internet project research, conducted in September 2011, the average 21-year-old has played over 25 000 video games, exchanged 1 250, 000 e-mails, instant messages and sms’s, spent 67 000 hours on their phones and 65 000 hours online and have gone to school in the little time remaining. With this information overload our brains are being rewired so that we are more able to multi-task. Adults can concentrate on 1.3 channels at the same time, whereas tweens can absorb 1.4 channels.
Neuroscientists did brain scans to see which part of the brain was activated when people used their cell phones, they suspected that it would be the area connected with cravings and addictions, but what they discovered was that it is the brain centre connected to love.
So, having established that we are in love with our phones, Lindstrom pointed out that we currently live in a ‘customer centric generation’ and encouraged brand engineers to, “sleep with their customers.” When asked by an editor of Cosmopolitan what the ideal sample size for this type of market research was, he said 15 people per campaign would suffice.
This was more literal than one would imagine, it got down to the root of all marketing campaigns, really getting to know your target audience. Lindstrom suggests that the best way of doing this is to first identify who your customers are and then go stay in their homes for a couple of days and nights. During this unconventional, yet highly effective form of market research, gather information through informal observation and conversation about your customers’ preferences. Most importantly, determine who they aspire to be. The next step, if possible, is to spend a couple of nights in the homes of their role models.
“Find out how to target your brand to the group who are leading the game and the rest of your audience will follow,” suggested Lindstrom. He spoke about brand ROI (return on investment) and how it took 5% of informed people to influence an entire group. “Consumers trust consumers more than the media,” commented Lindstrom. He emphasised the persuasive power of word-of-mouth in the decision to buy.
The information overload and the multitude of options that the modern consumer has at their disposal is overwhelming and the job of the marketer is to help the customer make product decisions. Lindstrom made another prediction, “Contextual branding is the future”. The advertiser must understand where the person is and where they are at – what their interests are and then show why the brand suits them best, or better yet show their aspirational group rating it as the top brand.
Lindstrom revealed insights from his book, Brandsense, 85% of the decisions we make are not conscious, but are guided by sensory stimuli and our emotional reactions to these. He explained, “We use our senses to evaluate because they are our trust determiners.” In his newest book, Brandwashed, Lindstrom reveals the ways we are manipulated by companies to buy their products, he recommends using honesty and ethics in a campaign, “align perception with reality, if there is a mismatch, either one must be adjusted.”
The decision making process happens both in the physical and in the virtual word. Lindstrom noticed that many marketers have a skewed conception of the impact of digital, “We are fundamentally human beings and most decisions are made in person.” Our purchasing decisions are to a large degree emotional with some logic interspersed into the process. Most often, we will do preliminary online research, then we will seek out physical interaction to get a sense of the product, we will go back online for post research, to confirm that we were right and then go to a point-of-sale and purchase the product, because we enjoy the physical interaction, it makes us feel special.
So why after you have slept with your customer and created a sense of trust in your brand, would you smash it? Lindstrom explains that Coke were the first to come up with this concept. When the first Coke bottle was designed, the instruction was that even if the bottle was smashed into a thousand pieces, you could pick up a shard and recognise that it was once a Coke bottle. This requires a high level of consistency in your brand’s symbols.
Once you brand is smashable it can be launched. Lindstrom says, “A key component is timing, seed a product into society slowly. Use somatic markers, the book marks in our brains.” In other words associate the brand with a dramatic, unforgettable event and get people talking. Lindstrom’s advice was to, “kick start conversations,” because, “conversations change consumer behaviour”.