Home > Steve Davis > Hung Parliaments, Branding and Special K with Forest Berries

Hung Parliaments, Branding and Special K with Forest Berries

I went to Woolworths recently to pick up some groceries and had a marketing epiphany.

I had decided it was time to restock on some Special K with forest berries and discovered that Woolies does not stock that flavour of Special K. So, without hesitation, I put the few items already selected back on the shelf and trotted to Coles at the other end of our local shopping mall.

There was no pang of guilt or remorse in leaving Woolies behind. In fact, it was a simple decision. Neither of the lame, empty positioning statements of the two multinationals counted for anything during this decision process. All that mattered was that despite having 99% identical products on offer, I needed something in the 1% and that was a deal breaker.

I think Australia has just demonstrated the same lesson in marketing to our major political parties. Let me explain.

Supermarkets own “bland” branding

The reason Coles and Woolworths lack the diehard followers who would cross town to shop with them is that almost everything they offer is identical, it is offered in an identical way and few of us sense any value in their offerings. For example, Woolies’ Fresh Food People line, despite all the advertising, means nothing to me when I visit the store and see their bananas are all solid green or brown and bruised, or their punnets of tomatoes include some going mouldy (which happens often there and at Coles). Meanwhile, Quality food costs less at Coles is a meaningless line because the difference is typically only a few cents and Woolworths often discounts the things on my list.

So we are left with shoppers going wherever is closest or on the most convenient route for multitasking a journey. I am sure a few still follow the folly of driving to three different supermarkets chasing a few cents discount while burning more money up in their cars than they save at the till. These latter shoppers might represent radically-swinging voters.

How does this translate to political marketing? Quite directly, I believe.

Me too marketing can be a shortcut to a slow death

Despite having different advertisements, Australia’s major political parties paid the price for taking a “me too” line in the recent election campaign. Just like Coles and Woolies leave us underwhelmed when pushing Coke specials (because we know that other one will have similar offers around identical brands), so too did the parties work hard to make the same basket of goodies sound unique. Incredibly, a Liberal party pushed a Labor industrial relations policy and a Labor party sounded just like the previous Liberal government on the issue of immigration.

So, just like with supermarkets, when both party leaders sound the same, consumers can easily and lightly shift their brains into neutral or go with “the other one” if they are promising a more finely-tuned policy close to a voter’s heart with no fear that the consequences will be dire. A number of Liberal voters I have conversed with, felt safe voting Labour on the strength of the National Broadband Network because they discerned little to worry about in having the “reds” take power because they were only a “very faint red”  these days! Likewise, some Labour voters I conversed with were planning to vote Liberal after hearing the Liberal party’s Murray River policy. Again, these stripe-changing positions would be unheard of in an environment where the two parties actually stood for something different and substantial.

Parties, and marketers, do themselves a disservice when they try to be bland, one-size-fits-all options.

I can’t get passionate about either major party, nor can I get passionate about either of the large supermarket chains.

The question is, can people realistically become passionate about your company, your brand, your product, you?

What are you doing that sets you apart from the pack with an offering that is likely to resonate deeply, very deeply, with members of your target market?

What are YOUR forest berries?

  1. November 11, 2010 at 4:07 am

    i like to wine.
    all the time.
    and in rhyme.

    ahaaaa great points steve – i reckon we all agree with you and it was reflected in the election for sure. results are never fantastic and i do believe loyalty starts with an offering. an offering that makes me go “wOw”. TYPICALLY for me its good customer service.

    my daughter has started working for IGA. prices are relatively similar, you get used to the smaller product range however the customer service far outweighs all the negatives. the staff (including my daughter) are trained in customer service, good manners and what to do, when. they are exceptional at this.

    big chains to me dont mean better anything. id rather pay an extra $5 a week on the grocery bill to have a more pleasant experience. yes, it means that much to me.

    i pay private health insurance to get better health care for my children and yet the political parties cant provide a better health care system – so what are we to do.

    we live in the land of big. big lobsters, big oranges, big supermarket chains, big governments. perhaps we need to refocus on the little things.

    we seem to have gone wrong with so many of them.

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