Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different. — Michael Porter
Just about every brand marketer talks about winning the battle at shelf. But there is another battleground that is too often ignored. Many brands may be much better served by focusing more on winning what I refer to as “the second battleground,” that is driving frequency of use to shorten the brand’s purchase cycle.
This second battle occurs every day in the home or purse or car. People choose whether they want to use the product or not. Which frozen meal will I make? Should I clean the bathroom? Will I be consistent about taking my fish oil? Which breath freshener will I use?
What happens when a consumer buys a product, but then never uses it? It may just be forgotten, relegated to the back of the pantry or it ceases to be an important part of the consumer’s life. Choices that happen every day away from the retailer can have a dramatic effect on brand sales by shortening or extending the brand purchase cycle.
According to research done by GrowthSpeed Partners, focusing on driving frequency of use can lead to significant sales gains: by shortening the overall purchase cycle from 77 to 72 days brands can see a usage lift of 6% or more.
Too many marketers either assume that a good piece of brand communication (an ad, their packaging etc.) can do both: drive sales at shelf and usage at home, or they don’t really think about the second war at all. The truth is, there is no perfect formula for doing both. However, there are scarcely studied approaches to each goal—specifically in advertising.
If we look at how the brain controls purchase behavior, its clear that it is memory that influences purchase behavior—that is, memory created by past brand experiences, including advertising. Therefore, triggering the right memories becomes crucial.
A simplified way to do this is to identify which memory system of the brain plays the biggest role in “storing” memories that help the decision-making process of purchasing the product in the first place vs. using it more frequently post purchase.
Triggering Product Trial
The semantic memory system stores conceptual, rational news/ideas such as pricing information, reasons to believe around new flavors, colors, statistics, etc. We can call this the conceptual memory system. This is the memory system to target with the goal of driving product trial. This ad from Kellogg Nutri-Grain should be full of all of the factual information about the product to drive that first purchase.
Triggering Usage Frequency
The procedural memory system is grounded by the five senses. Advertising that showcases taste, smell, the way the product feels, the way the packaging sounds when opening it, the crunch of a chip, even a place the brand lives, reminds and motivates consumers to keep using the product. Nestlé KitKat has been specifically speaking to this memory system since 1937 with its “break” advertising strategy, commonly known as physicalmemories.
While any given ad can obviously deposit memories in both memory systems, the emphasis of each approach is best when customized by business objective: trial or usage frequency.
The Memory System That Triggers Both
The third memory system, the episodic, should play a strong role regardless of objective. This is the social memory system because it taps into emotion to store autobiographical events that have to do with relationships—both with others as well as the relationship with the self. Marketing techniques like word-of-mouth, testimonials, product reviews and the use of social media are successful because of their interaction with the social memory system. The still-memorable “I’m a Mac” ad campaign is a great example of tapping into the social memory system based on stereotypes. This campaign essentially served two purposes: 1) To get PC users to switch to Apple (trial); and 2) To get Apple users to love the brand even more (frequency).
If you are searching for a way to grow your brand, there may be a battle that you can start winning right away – by focusing on driving brand usage and shortening the purchase cycle. It is a strategic choice you may want to consider.
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