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A question I see a lot of lately is “how can we get consumers to be involved with our brand?” Companies want consumers to think more and raise their involvement with brands to gain a competitive edge. Historically this has only been the realm of lifestyle brands like Harley Davidson. One category that might lend some hints to how to raise involvement is sports. Sports fans are the trailblazers in terms of taking involvement to new levels.

This is clearly evident in a new ESPN short film regarding the lengths to which some fans go with this obsession, taking it well beyond their day-to-day lives. While I don’t think consumers will get to this level with everything, there may be lessons to be learned from sports about raising involvement and creating loyalty.

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According to the philosopher William James “all of our life is nothing but a mass of habits,” as picked up by a recent New York Times piece by Jonah Lehrer.

It’s true. We give little thought to what we do, once done. It doesn’t mean we can’t reflect and think or feel about what we’ve done, it’s just that we easily continue to ‘do.’ And once we do anything enough, it’s tough to stop.

Lehrer points out that recent scientific inquiry is coming to the consensus that habits are really just an extreme form of learning. Like those of us who swim or play the piano a lot, once you have it down, you just go at it.

The same may be true for shopping and the brands we buy. Products that communicate and convey messaging in line with our habitual natures are likely successes. Lehrer points to a case from Charle’s Duhigg’s recent book “The Power of Habit” where the P&G brand Febreze didn’t become a hit until it incorporated habitual behavior into its product messaging.

Seems that consumers neither understood the product nor its benefits when it debuted. That’s until P&G  revamped the advertising campaign to bundle its use with perfoming the usual household chores of making the bed, cleaning the kitchen floor, and then spritizing Febreze into the air as part of the usual routine. Nothing new, but an integral part of habitual weekend cleaning. Bingo!

The lesson learned? Don’t make ‘too’ much out of your product or service.  We see a lot of that here at W5. Clients spending so much time on differientating themselves or making their product or service special and novel. The goal, we think, is rather to communicate that it’s a part of the norm, the ordinary, the mundane of every day; bundle the product into accepted habits and practices: find a slot in the routine of people’s life, highlight it in a nuanced manner, and you’re home free. You are swimming with the tide.

So much has been said, read, and posted about Steve Jobs in the months since his passing. While so much was known about Steve Jobs as an innovator, marketer, and world-class jerk, It’s been interesting to hear more about who he was, personally and philosophically – to really get a sense of what made him tick. Maybe he was too guarded in life, and all of this insight about him was only able to emerge after his death.

The above video is a great example. He’s not talking about a specific product…even technology in general. He’s talking about a philosophical approach that guided the way he sees the world. This becomes even clearer in this article. What’s becoming clear is that he had big ideas about the way the world worked. These ideas made it possible for him to see something most of his peers missed. He was able to take something confusing and make it simple – to take something ugly and find a way to make it elegant.

 

recent USA Today article brings to light the growing trend of referring to food products as “artisan, ” with the number of “artisan” products in store shelves having doubled in the last four years. The word “artisan” implies that a product has been created with care by a craftsperson, yet these seem to be mass-marketed and -produced products. (Nevermind the fact that the  “artisan” refers to to craftsperson, while “artisanal” refers to the product itself.)

Now, when a company sub-brands its product as “artisan,” as is the case with Tostitos chips or Domino’s Pizza, what does that say about the rest of their products? Seems to me that the flip-side to going up-market with a sub-brand is that you’re admitting some sort of deficiency in the rest of your products. At the very least, it raises questions…

– Are “regular” Tostitos not as tasty as their “artisan” counterparts?  
– If my “artisinal” Domino’s pizza is hand-crafted, what about the rest of their pizzas? 

Like “organic” and “natural” before it, “artisan”seems to be the next ill-defined food buzzword.

Check out this beautiful little video from Chipotle, illustrating their position in support of sustainable farming. With Willie Nelson covering Coldplay’s “Scientist,” this animated short by Johnny Kelly shows us one farmer’s rapid expansion, crisis of conscience, and return to simpler times. Though it’s already spreading like wildfire on the web, Chipotle plans on showing it in movie theaters this fall. Enjoy.

Interesting little article from the WSJ about the throwback trend in consumer packaged goods. While the trend itself isn’t all that remarkable, I found the “Chip Flashback” sidebar amusing. Here’s a simple recipe for creating a throwback package:

  • Colors: The brown, orange and yellow palette is ‘very time stamped’ to the 1960s. Limitations in printing techniques also meant that only a few colors could be used.
  • Letter Blocks: Often used by TV shows and stations in the 1960s to highlight color-television technology, says Mr. Murphy.
  • Typeface: ‘Doritos’ is in a dramatic but playful serif font typical of the 1970s, says Mr. Wallace. (Serif fonts have feet at the edges. Sans-serif fonts do not.)
  • Flat Design: Before computers, shadow effects and colors that gradually blended into one another weren’t common.
Follow these rules and your brand can go retro, too.

Beautiful animated infographic (watch it here) from the folks over at Flowing Data. It tracks the expansion of Wal Mart (and Sam’s Club) across the United States from a single store in Arkansas to the ubiquity we now know. Enjoy

Beautiful video about the barrage of commercial messages we contend with every day. In the words of the video’s creators…

Award-winning Typo-Animation that gives you a clear impression of the enormous amount of visual stimuli that plague us every day. Due to the immense scale of the visual bombardment, the commercial effectiveness has become utterly dubious.

What I love about this video is that it doesn’t demonize or condemn advertising and branding – it simply questions its effectiveness. All of this visual “chatter” ensures that the viewer is unable to engage in a “conversation” with any one brand.