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In the short time I’ve been in Asia, I’ve come to appreciate colour in a whole new way. Where in the West we tend to associate colours with functional or emotional attributes (eg, red for stopping power, blue for being trusted), in Asia, colour is invested with a much deeper significance. Each one has a different story and meaning behind it, which gives a unique insight into the culture at hand.
Thailand is an interesting example. Many foreigners are a little taken aback to find that everyone, from kids to businessmen, tend to wear yellow on a Monday. Colour plays a significant role in Thai culture, with each day of the week associated with a specific one. These associations come from ancient beliefs that still hold significance in modern day Thailand – many believe that wearing the colour of the day will bring them good luck. Yellow is considered particularly auspicious … according to Hindu myth, the god Phra Isuan captured 14 angels and turned them into powder. He wrapped this powder in a yellow cloth, sprinkled holy water onto it and turned them into the yellow Moon.
These days, wearing coloured t-shirts is more likely to display loyalty to the reigning monarchy. For example, the Thai’s much-loved King Bhumibol happened to be born on a Monday – so since 2006, Thai people have worn yellow shirts every Monday as a sign of love and respect. Following a three week stint in hospital, the King emerged wearing a pink shirt and blazer. The media and retailers picked up on the trend, and a shop owned by the Crown Princess sold out of 40,000 pink shirts in one month alone. Yes, the colour pink became the new yellow in Thai fashion…
An American chewing gum company didn’t have as much luck when they launched with green wrappers in China a few years ago. After a period of no sales, they discovered that green has very negative connotations. The colour is associated with infidelity – a cuckolded man is shown wearing a green hat. Needless to say sales significantly increased when they changed their wrappers to pink (Surya Vanka, University of Illinois), which is much more positively associated with good luck.
A Japanese manufacturer shared a similar fate when they tried to sell black scooters in India. While black is considered stylish and sophisticated in Japanese culture, in India, it’s regarded as inauspicious, negative and represents a lack of desirability. It’s no surprise, then, that not too many mothers were keen on their sons driving ‘death’ scooters! Again, sales improved significantly when they removed black from their colour palette.
So as these colourful tales suggest, it’s important to understand the stories and meaning behind colours within Asian societies. They give an insight into the unique perspective of a particular culture. They also illustrate the need for major consideration when choosing the colour palette for a brand or product than may be necessarily needed in the West. Because in Asia, a colour isn’t just a colour, after all…
Grim reading all this economic crisis stuff. Just hearing recently that there are now 80 million Europeans at risk of serious poverty and 20 million of these are children. Yes, very grim news indeed.
But just as necessity is the mother of invention, marketers will always find new approaches and methods to respond to this ever-deepening crisis. You may have heard that Unilever is now employing the same marketing tactics it uses in the developing world in some of Europe’s most failing economies. In Spain, it’s launched Surf washing detergent in packs of just five sachets – just enough for a weekly load of washing; while in Greece, Unilever is developing new low cost brands to staunch its losses as consumers move to cheaper private label alternatives.
Well this is all very clever and represents the smart thinking we’ve come to expect from Unilever, but where does this leave us all for the foreseeable future? As household budgets come under ever more scrutiny and consumers are literally counting the pennies, retailers and brand businesses are having to align themselves with the rapidly changing consumer behaviour to survive. Brands need to be nimble and adapt, just like Unilever, and provide products that meet our immediate needs. Focussing on the weekly shop and creating formats that have just the right amount for a week’s use, as Unilever did with Surf, is certainly one way, but overall the situation is more complex.
Though consumers are more tolerant of discount brands and private label and are switching on those non-brand critical items, it is not the case that we’re seeing an ever-deepening plunge into base level value. As they say, there can only ever be one cheapest product in the store and even value brands need to be able to distinguish themselves with an authentic attitude and appeal. They may be cheap but that doesn’t mean they can’t inspire consumers with an engaging and unique brand story.
The reality is that we’re moving into a much more fragmented market place. Yes, there is a growth in the value end but there is also growth in the top of the market too. It is more about the growing divide between the haves and have-nots. The big question is what is happening in the middle to the everyday good solid products that used to be the engine room of growth and profits? Many of these brands are in danger of losing their identity and are having to fight for the right to survive by carving out a unique space they can own and defend. Being a ‘good all rounder’ brand is no longer enough, as the old adage says, a brand for everyone is a brand for no-one.
So what’s the opportunity? We can expect the fragmentation of markets to continue as demographics and economics splinter further. Brands will need to be ever more adept in aligning themselves with more niche consumer groups both in brand presentation and product delivery. What price is a brand that can capture what is sure to be a swathe of poverty pensioners or become the champion of the large family with a low income.
With all this depressing news around there’s only one thing for it….. I’m off for a beer…
We’ve created quite a few challenger brands over the past couple of years. You could say we’ve got a bit of a name for ourselves doing it. Debbie & Andrew’s and The Saucy Fish Co. have been our biggest success stories to-date, resulting in Design Effectiveness Award wins and new clients frequently requesting “Can you do me a Saucy?”
Of course, we’d never roll-out a like-for-like project, but one thing that’s becoming apparent when tackling this type of work is Innocent-fatigue. Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of brands trying to ‘be their mate’ – following a huge number of challenger brands taking on Innocent’s ‘cutsie’ tone of voice.
Instead, nostalgia is becoming a key trend – as consumers cling to the comfort of familiarity. Having said this, brands need to be rooted in reality. Interestingly, this viewpoint is reflected in an article published by Future Lab recently. It highlights a trend for brands to openly show their weaknesses and admit when they get it wrong – because we admire honesty in brands, just as we admire honesty in humans.
At the end of the day, it’s difficult to trust a brand (or a person) who comes across as too perfect. Ultimately, even the best diamonds have a few inclusions. For me, it’s all about keeping the experience real and believable. Know your place in people’s lives, and don’t overstep the mark.
The success of IKEA’s kitty-themed viral ad is as much about conversation as it is about cute, furry animals. Since it’s airing last week during The X Factor, the ad’s been viewed on YouTube over 800,000 times, while the making-of-the-ad documentary has had over two million views and counting.
With these stats, IKEA joins the ranks of the Old Spice Man (>20m views), Cadbury’s Drumming Gorilla (>4m views), Tipp-Ex’s Hunter Shoots a Bear (>8m views), and countless other brands that have produced viral blockbusters.
Writer and ad man, Leo Benedictus, reviewed the IKEA ad in the Guardian and explained the general theory behind creating a viral wonder:
Do not produce overt propaganda…just spend your budget doing something really spectacular, and film it…If you please people, you’ll win their admiration, and have a viral hit on your hands.
IKEA, Cadbury, Old Spice and others have demonstrated the truth of this statement through creativity and content that makes viewers ask: “how did they do it?” This question points to the real secret behind the success of viral videos like these.
Kraft, who manufacture the iconic Australian spread, Vegemite, have released a spin-off version of their yeast-based product. Kraft ran a competition to name their new cream cheese-vegemite blend, and the winning name, ‘iSnack 2.0’, was officially announced during last weekend’s Australian Football League Grand Final. Kraft hopes its iSnack 2.0 will bring the Australian favourite into the pantries of the younger generation.
However, like Vanilla Coke and Fanta Cherry before it, changes to many long-time favourites often meet with contention. Just four days after iSnack 2.0 was publicised, the Australian t-shirt company, Epicfailstore.com, printed their opinion.
Tag. Food and drink, FMCG, Naming