Call them what you will but brand advocates, ambassadors, and influencers — a small but vocal group of people coveted and coddled by brands large and small — have a disproportionate clout when it comes to marketing and communications.
It’s time for CPG marketers to re-think when and how they engage with a group of forgotten consumers that has far more influence than evangelists when it comes to a company’s bottom line. Lapsed and waning users, in addition to brand rejecters, can give marketers valuable insight they won’t hear from those singing harmoniously in the brand choir.
Influencers, after all, can’t offer much help in understanding the part of the story a marketer doesn’t know. For instance, why do some people reject a brand outright? What’s standing in the way of repeat purchases? Or why do light users “like,” but not “love” a brand?
Case in point: recently, a premium laundry brand faced the grim reality of steadily declining usage. The company had a lot of research that revealed most category shoppers shared similar short-lists of brands they buy. Its brand was considered to be best performing on all the key attributes. Except sales didn’t bear this out.
Brand executives at the parent company were baffled. At first, they wanted to observe and talk to their brand loyalists to see which best practices might be applied to non-users. In market research, “prospects” are broadly defined as those who aren’t outright rejecters and say they’re “open” to potentially using that brand. That’s a pretty low bar. And it obscures the need for understanding that there are very different kinds of prospects—some more important to a brand than others.
So this company agreed to identify and consider different kinds of prospects. Among them:
Among other key insights, this marketer learned that many lapsed and declining buyers often came to the aisle fully intending to buy its brand but were switching in the heat of the decision-making moment. Often, a rival’s price, promotion or new packaging gimmick was enough to make them reach for another offering. But some shoppers shared that the brand’s communication seemed geared toward heavy users and didn’t say anything interesting to an on-the-fence shopper.
By “walking an aisle in her shoes,” observations of and conversations with shoppers revealed ways that the marketer and its agency could help the silent majority who said they felt overwhelmed by the countless options in that aisle. Some of these folks are deal-hunters who consider purchases carefully. Others, “repertoire” shoppers, make impulse purchases and are tempted by new product features, such as scents, from familiar brands.
Based on these insights the company developed an ad campaign and new product formats aimed squarely at repertoire shoppers with switching tendencies by highlighting unexpected functional product benefits—beyond scent—to stake a position that competitors simply couldn’t replicate. And, knowing packaging was by far the most important touch point, they increased the amount of product in their standard package to make those crucial moments in the aisle more of an apples-to-oranges comparison so that the brand wasn’t being used as inspiration for finding “the same thing,” for less. And, guess what? Brand sales are on the uptick.
It’s often hard to convince marketers to look beyond their most loyal and connected users—especially when social media makes them more accessible and connected than ever—but it’s critical that they do. The opposite of brand love isn’t hate—it’s indifference. By taking the time to talk to declining and non-user groups and learn what will make products relevant to them, marketers can glean important insights. Sure, hearing the truth hurts sometimes, but it also helps in the battle for market share and sales.