Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in Mar-Apr 2012

Living on the blind side

The dangers of working with a narrow brand focus.

A story regarding a study that revealed that the number of pedestrians in the US killed or badly injured while using headphones had tripled in six years, recently caught my attention. The study warned of ‘inattentional blindness’ whereby headphones cause distractions that lower the resources the brain devotes to external stimuli.

Thinking about inattentional blindness, it struck me that there is a broader context to the term in the world of brands. In fact, the term mirrors the main problem brands are faced with today, irrespective of their origin or category.

In Pakistan, the majority of brands seem to be taking life one day at a time, doing their ‘critical daily chores’ in the hope of becoming masters of their own destiny. The problem is that they tend to become so focused on executing campaigns and sales promotions and meeting weekly targets, that they often blindside themselves to the larger context which the brand operates in, and this often at their own peril. To name just a few, here are some blind spots brands easily fall prey to.

Promotion blindness

Promotions deliver great results; well almost always. The moment you launch a sweepstake, insert a coupon in a magazine or offer a discount, your cash register goes into singing mode. With the world screaming recession and consumers screaming inflation, promotions seem to be a promising solution. However, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can also be bad.

Lesson Go slow on promotions. Don’t let short-term monetary gain blind you and stop you from building long-term equity for your brand.

Safety blindness

Safe bets are no bets. Bets are meant to make you win or lose. However, to deliver an incrementally good performance, you may fall into the trap of making safe, rather than bold decisions. Safe bets will make your brand ordinary, and people don’t like ordinary people; they fall for the superheroes because they make them feel good.

Lesson Raise the bar. Move out of your safety zone and make bold moves.

Spreadsheet blindness

Spreadsheets are great. And who loves numbers the most? Those notorious financial managers. Personally, I love to visualise spreadsheets as big football stadiums with one-inch boxes overflowing with numbers. It is important that businesses realise that brands belong in the ‘stadium’; they are like living beings putting up a great show to inspire audiences (us humans; you, me…) to come to the stadium. In other words, spreadsheets come in different shapes and sizes and your brand needs to find the one that suits it best.

Lesson Don’t let your spreadsheet rule your brand. Let your brand deliver the spreadsheet whichever way it wants to.

Product blindness

You assume your consumer will fall in love with your product and start to promote it on every imaginable platform the moment you tell them about it. This is like assuming that Elvis Presley will rise from the grave and declare you to be the best singer in the world based on your shower singing skills. No. Consumers like emotional connects. They like to know who you are before they enter into a relationship with you on Facebook.

Lesson Stop shoving your product in your consumer’s face. Ensure your product is welcomed into your consumer’s space.

Rationality blindness

Businesses run on logic but brands run on emotions. Humans are emotional beings; do not expect them to follow your two plus two equals four formula, or to take out a calculator every time your brand speaks to them. Give them a break; let them hire an accountant to do their calculations while they revel with your brands on their person and their minds.

Lesson Stop putting facts and more facts in your campaigns.

Be emotional every now and then. It’s good for your brand’s general health.

Past tense blindness

Human beings (especially brand custodians) love to talk about the good times, good experiences, good relationships, good memories. However, be sure not to head down memory lane on your next encounter. Call your wife by your former girlfriend’s name and kaput goes your relationship. The same applies to your brand.

Lesson Don’t get stuck in the past. Focus on the future and how things will be different for your brand every next moment.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid inattentional blindness.

1 Enjoy randomness
It works wonders. Take yourself out of a decision or a situation from time to time. Approaching a situation again at a different time or level or mindset works wonders. It will help you see the unseen.

2 Contextualise your decisions
Think beyond today. For every key decision, think what it will deliver immediately in the short term and in the long term. Don’t base your decision on a single term.

3 Go beyond the category
We all get stuck in our problems and your problem is the category you operate in. The more you get stuck in it, the more you let your category drive your decisions. Think beyond it. Learn from what is around you. If your sales are good, see if sales in other categories are as good and use logic to work out why. This will make you more attentive.

4 Be a consumer
Stop being a brand custodian. Would you, as a consumer, ‘love’ what you get from your brand?

If the honest answer is ‘yes’, then you are on the right track!

Naimul Abd is GM Marketing at a leading retail company.