It struck me, whilst waiting for a train at Harpenden Station the other day, that big brands are the wallpaper of our lives. Whether they're colouring advertising billboards, radio or TV ads, it's the big brands that have the power to reach-out to a nation, set a mood and set its expectation.
Take a look back across the decades and you'll find that the brands driving our economy are those brand advertisers able to buy campaign space on big billboards and primetime TV. Sitting on the platform of Harpenden Station the other day I noted that every big billboard in sight advertised the website of a digital business.
It's not that long ago that we were a nation obsessed by whiter-than-whites, clean floors and unsanitary, blocked u-bends; thanks to the soap brand war being played out during TV ad breaks and on 48 sheet advertising billboards up and down the country.
Many of those soap ads were what we now regard as howling clichés and others were absolutely ghastly. Many a 40+ adult still shudders at the thought of the Shake 'n' Vac advert.
The big brands which dominate ad breaks and billboards are the brands with the highest disposable incomes which allow them to carpet-bomb annoyingly crass yet ultimately memorable ads into our daily lives. So take a glance-up from your phone right now and see which brands are owning the billboards of today.
Soap powder ads are now no longer the wallpaper of our lives for we now have the internet. The 48 sheet posters now advertise websites. Big posters market big, slick websites for financial services and their campaign messages reinforce what you're watching on TV, skipping past on video channels and subliminally absorbing as you are remarketed to on websites and social media.
We now choose between websites like we used to choose between soap powders yet we are not as brand loyal as we once were. Soap powder advertising used to exist for buyer retention, to assure buyers that they're buying the right brand for their family and for their pocket. Today's advertising is all about pushing websites which let you make comparisons, switch brands and find deals.
Today's buyer is more fickle than your average brand-loyal buyer of the '70s & '80s. Today's buyer compares prices and specs as they walk retail aisles, today's buyer has less patience and wants the right information at superfast speeds. Today's buyer evaluates your business solely upon the quality and quantity of information available to them at their fingertips.
Today's buyer is an expert at comparing websites, accomplished at browsing the good websites and bouncing off the bad websites. Today's buyer has less time for what you say you do and expects to find on your website precisely what you can do for them.
Your website isn't only competing against your competitors down the road; your business website is competing against the expectation that it'll perform as well as the user experience offered by big-budget websites built by our nation's superbrands. In the face of such competition, do you really think your 5 page, self-built, home-knit website is really all that good now?
I remember having a conversation with Steve 5 or so years ago about the future of online retailing.
If I recall, we pretty much agreed that anyone who sold a product that had no "quality" dimension e.g. CDs, white goods etc. would disappear entirely from the high street and go pretty much exclusively online. Only those businesses that offered a product or service where you wanted to be able to "feel" the quality e.g. clothing or they offered a convenience factor e.g. fast food would survive the retail revolution that is online.
However, five years later, with the advent of buy three sizes and send two back for a full refund even this has proved to be wrong. The power of online is staggering in both convenience and also accessibility. Look at Next for example. Order any time up to 12.00 midnight for next day delivery!
The only problem with this model is the delivery has to be made somewhere, although with the advent of click and collect services (with we can help by the way) even this problem is being addressed.
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