By Dimitris Paximadis, member of KEMEL
The USP and the brand image
Advertising, as the main means of communication, has gone through many characteristic stages in the last decades. In the 1950s, advertising had to communicate the only selling proposition, the USP (Unique Selling Proposition), which differentiated the product from the competition, even if it was the “blue and green beans”. But with the advent of technology, all products have become synonymous with each other, and this strategy has grown weary and ineffective. The 60’s followed, the era of brand image, creating a real revolution. Brand image is the perception of consumers about a brand, combined with the emotions and images that accompany it. Think BMW’s brand image compared to Rolls Royce or VW.
The era of positioning
Then came the era of positioning strategy – which proved to be an effective way for the advertiser to differentiate his brand from the competing ones, giving it logical and emotional values, and identifying it with high priority consumer needs for certain segments of the public. Product features coexist, but what matters is how the product is placed in the mind of the consumer, in relation to the competition. Until recently, advertising sought to communicate an ideal combination of product and emotional advantages of a brand in order to “transport” the consumer from ignorance to knowledge, interest, desire and finally to the desired action, in order to buy the advertised brand. This was the model of the Learn-Feel-Do advertising pyramid which was essentially a monologue where the advertiser speaks and the consumer listens.
The role of key specializations (PR, Promotion, Direct Marketing)
At the same time, and often independently of Advertising, Public Relations sought to present the public face of the business, Sales Promotion sought to increase sales by offering a specific benefit – usually financial – over a period of time, and Direct Marketing sought, through two-way communication, to achieve immediate response or even sale. In most cases, the advertising company was responsible for the communication strategy and its implementation, using, especially in Greece, television as the main medium. The other specializations-disciplines- if and when they could, followed the advertising positioning, so that there is communicative consistency and continuity.
The end of the communication one-way.
But advertising, being the main means of communication, and being one-way – creates and sends messages – in an age where the consumer, thanks to the evolution of digital technology is now largely in control of the situation by choosing the medium and the content of communication, was becoming less and less effective. Worse still, it left no room for marketers to effectively manage the possibilities of interpersonal communication offered by information technology.
Some advertising firms, mainly companies, saw the business opportunity, developed as a group of companies or individually, and became Brand Relationship experts, that is, experts in managing the brand-customer relationship, what we now call Total Communication. Total Communication identifies and strives to positively influence all the important personal contacts and experiences of the customer with the brand. Because the brand is the total of the customer / consumer experiences, from his contacts with a product or service. Experiences that come not only from the advertising, but also from the quality, the packaging, the presence in the store, the promotions, the price, the image of the company, the way the service manager answers the phone, the instructions for use, even and how the company website is designed. Total Communication uses all the conventional and digital tools of marketing and communication, in order to minimize the “gaps” between the existing and the ideal consumer-brand relationship. Digital technology, the Internet and especially Database Marketing, today allows us to more effectively manage the contact points of consumers and brands, at which of course, in online brands such as Amazon.com, the interactivity of the brand-consumer relationship is absolute. Because what is required in modern marketing is the correct handling of the brand’s long-term relationship with the customer / consumer, which leads the customer to say “This is my brand”