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Living in a State of Brand Neutrality

Today, we eat, shop, and drive through our mobile devices. We solve unexpected problems and make big decisions at the moment. We are more loyal to the need of the time than any particular brands.
Even though we live in the moment, most of the marketing dollars are not in the moment. This gap creates three breeds of brands; passive, active and neutral. Active brands, which are in tune with today's reality, have the edge.
Let's take a closer at these three breeds.
Passive Brands: The Dreamers
Passive brands lead with traditional advertising, regardless of the channel (e.g., TV, radio, print, and digital banners). They don't require the audience to participate or co-create the experience. They just need them to pay attention.
The problem is that this model requires a lot of money, time and discipline to work; Mass media is expensive. Changing attitudes through passive comms takes time. And most brands lack the discipline to stick to creative platforms for years.
If you have deep pockets like GEICO, this model still works. GEICO spends nearly $1 billion annually on advertising. They have had a consistent message “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance” for almost 20 years. If you are not in this club, you might want to consider a different approach. You want to involve consumers with the brand through experiences.
Active Brands: The Beautiful Constraint
Active brands focus on engagement ideas. They live in the moment and requires hot triggers - a call to action. The goal is to get people act and co-create the experience. They born out of necessity given the lack of resources to do mass media. Most of the start-up's brands follow this route in social platforms.
The convention in the industry is that we cannot "build" brands through actions alone. We need to expose our audience to an "Ad" for enough time to establish an association in the consumer minds. I respectfully disagree. Actions change attitudes faster than attitudes change actions, as Adam Ferrier described in the Advertising Effect. People tend to align their feelings with their actions to justify their behavior. The principle is called cognitive dissonance in psychology.
Neutral brands: Stuck in the Middle
Neutral brands do both, active and passive communications. Most of the brands fall into this bucket. They follow the old AIDA model (Attention, interest, desire and actions), which is a linear journey. e.g., People watch an ad, then go online to search more and so on.
My beef with this model is not that doesn't work. It's that we can take a faster road. Why do we want to walk when we can run? People don't follow a linear journey. Most of our exposure with brands are happening through interactive devices. Plus, planning for both, passive and active comms, requires more work, time and resources. Today time is of an essence. A few months late to market can make or break your brands.
Hence, here we are living in a state brand neutrality. Trying to do everything under the marketing roof to mitigate risk and cut ours loses. The problem is that playing safe is the most dangerous thing that we can do. To get an edge, we need to make our brand live the moment.


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