May 22, 2019

Our Brand Needs To Get Younger

Your creative team is far more important than you realize ... and I'll bet that the typical reader (likely a marketing or analytics expert) doesn't spend much time analyzing "how" merchandise is presented.

I know the digital folks like to A/B test different presentations, but that's not really what I'm talking about.

Instead, I'm talking about the general "theme" that the creative team tries to convey to the customer.

Twenty years ago I'm working at Eddie Bauer, and there's a new team in town ... the brand marketing team. They felt that the "brand" needed to get younger (this is a common theme, one I don't necessarily disagree with). However, this team was given control over creative, and that's about it. They only had one lever to pull. So they pulled it.

We had imagery that just killed ... I recall a rocky river somewhere in Idaho on a chilly cloudy spring day, featuring a steely dude with graying hair wearing jeans. That imagery just killed. The brand marketing team wanted to go younger, so in the "spirit of the brand" they replaced steely graying hair dude with twenty-somethings carrying a canoe over their heads on a comparable Idaho river ... rock hard abs and all.

Here's a quiz for you. Which creative presentation performed better?
  1. Steely Dude with Graying Hair.
  2. Twenty-Somethings with Rock Hard Abs.
The answer, of course, was (1).

Does this mean that the brand marketing team made the wrong decision?

Not necessarily.

There are consequences for all decisions we make.

If you try to "go young" you'll offend those who "are old" and sales will decline.

What was missing?

A credible awareness program.

If you are going to "go young", you have several options, and taking the core brand younger seldom works. What can you do?
  • You can budget a sales decline of 20% and if Management / Ownership agree, go get younger and rebuild the business. Nobody likes that option, of course.
  • You can budget a sales decline of 10% and invest heavily in an Awareness Program and commit to the program for several years. Nobody likes that option, of course.
  • You can create a whole new brand from scratch and lose money for years and hope that the brand takes off. Nobody likes that option, of course.
Notice a theme?

Nobody likes the investment required or sales hit necessary to cause a brand to "go young".

However, we have no choice. If we want to change, there's a cost associated with making change happen. The core business is already close-to-optimized. Changes sub-optimize the business in the short-term.

Yeah, we've got a lot to think about as we consider where our businesses are headed over the next five years, don't we?

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