Why your last campaign didn’t work
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday September 2, 2011- Readers of my blogs will know that I’m a major proponent of the mental “cage” in consumers’ minds – that web of prejudice and beliefs which makes each of us who we are. We spend all our lives building these cages, because they make us feel emotionally secure. There is a cage for everything, from sexuality to soft drinks, from religion to rum.
We spend all our time looking out at the world from our cages, confirming what we already thought (“I always knew he was no good” or “diets don’t work, so I never try them”), because it makes us feel safe and sound. And we do not want to change our cages – we are very comfortable within them, thank you.
What forms the cages are actual life experiences; I once ate a banana and felt sick, now I never eat them again (true story). It’s as simple as that. We all do it; you can probably recall some of yours. Political parties are a favourite example, so are football clubs or cricket teams.
We have cages for products and brands as well; some of us prefer one brand over another, some never touch one category (I refuse to wear sandals, ever) and so on. It’s the human mind in all its infinite complexity at work.
Now here’s the crux: advertising and PR don’t build the cage, so they can’t change it. Please repeat: they can’t change it. That’s why sampling is often more effective for winning new customers, and why promotions always fail to do so (instead, they reward existing customers or transient buyers).
So your campaign failed because it assumed that consumers were waiting for news from you which would change their behaviour. Not! as my kids used to say. They don’t want to change their cage because of anything you say, and they will ignore or re-interpret what you say to keep their cage intact.
For years, Harris claimed “a better quality at a better price”, but (as we know from research) consumers re-interpreted this as “a lesser quality at a lesser price”, which was perfectly acceptable in many circumstances. Harris succeeded on that basis, and continues to do so.
So if you want your next campaign to succeed, try probing the consumer’s cage first. Good market research will help you find a way in.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Greg Hoyos. Greg Hoyos is the principal of GHA DDB headquartered in Barbados.