| January 09, 2019
This quote from Seth Godin was recently posted on Kantar’s Workplace, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic”. It is the sort of simplistic platitude that seems to resonate with an awful lot of people. And it might work when it comes to selling advice, but most people do not want a relationship with the brands they buy.
I am all for a good story, but when it comes to brands in most cases what I really want is some tangible help. I use brands to help me get something done (even if it is trying to gain social status). I replied to the post as follows,
“Story-telling will never overcome a bad experience. And I do not want a relationship with my toilet paper. This is just another Godin generic platitude that should be added to the fairy tales of marketing.”
Jane Ostler then asked if I might have been persuaded to buy Andrex toilet paper because of the puppies featured in its advertising. My answer is yes, but not because I want a relationship with the brand. And not because I think of puppies every time I buy toilet paper.
I would buy Andrex because it is the obvious choice: instantly recognisable and slightly more instinctively appealing than the alternatives. And this marginal advantage would mean nothing if my experience of using Andrex was not a good one. Without getting too gross about this, if Andrex did not live up to delivering the basic need of a clean bum it would not sell no matter how many ads for puppies the brand put out there.
Laura Keeley stated that she loved her toilet paper because it is environmentally-friendly and donates money to building toilet facilities for people who need them. But here again, the brand is solving a need, even if it is a higher order one. I too use a green toilet paper - but I hate the fact that it is thin and the two-ply often comes apart when I am using it. Do I have a relationship with Seventh Generation? If I do it is dysfunctional and analogous to ‘we have to stay together for the children's sake’. I am willing to put up with a bad experience because I care more about doing right by the planet.
Brands tell stories in order to gain attention and, if executed right, build an affinity with the brand that will last over time. But if the brand cannot walk the talk it does not matter how good the story is, people will not give the brand a second chance, there are too many good alternatives out there all vying for attention. And if there is a ‘relationship’ involved, for most brands it is a low-key, barely-appreciated and instinctive one barely worthy of the label.
And what about magic? Magic happens when a brand does something unexpected which makes life better in some way. I just wish it happened more often. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.