Enough has been written about the miasma of commoditized product offerings in crowded shopping aisles with increasing retailer arbitrage and reducing margins. Equally, there is more hard evidence than ever before on the shifting power equation from omnipresent brands to digitally connected consumers.
The consequent workplace tensions of being forced to work within old world paradigms to new marketing issues are an agony for many of us. One could well compare these tensions with conservative and liberal approaches to civic problems, both well intentioned, but one far too withdrawn into the past, while the other far too speculatively into the future.
What is then the real path to progress?
A starting point can be found in the acknowledgement that conversations, rather than perceptions, are the new brand currency. The author had written in a previous article that, in a content hungry era, consumers seek engaging experiences that they can share and talk about with their community. Brands need to find a way into this ‘interesting-ness’ so that they can be the fodder for conversations between consumers.
The question remains on how to go about achieving this?
Enter the ‘Quirky Brand’; where the day job of every marketer is to embed some unexpected quirkiness into his otherwise competitive and extremely relevant, but commoditized, product or service.
At its most ephemeral, it is the everyday Google Doodle, the customizable name on the Coke Can or the slice of lime on the Corona Beer Bottle. Equally, it is also the little towel sculpture left on every Marriott bed by the housekeeping staff of the day, or the simple scribble by the Starbucks Barista encouraging you to have a good day.
The author continues to remember the sheer child-like delight in discovering that the door of the Hitachi refrigerator opened both to the right and to the left, but never together; a delight that no appliance brand has been able to replicate, before or after that experience.
And then, who can resist the sheer temptation of the Toto brand of Japanese bidet toilets, complete with a control panel, sensor controlled seat warming, piped music, and temperature controlled automatic water jets, not to mention the chiming ‘arigato’ in a female falsetto at the end of the experience, while automatically shutting the toilet seat?
Now more than ever, brands need to do something surprising, provocative, outrageous or plain joyful at a personal level to elevate every moment of interaction into an unforgettable experience.
Quirky needs to do funny, weird, odd, cute or silly that is also fun, intelligent, smart, witty and awesome. Quirky comes from the human heart, not from the factory floor. Quirky uses technology to engage and entertain, not just fulfill its functional purpose.
The advantage? Quirky Brands create consumer conversations. They excite the consumers who are bored and looking to be engaged. And, most importantly, Quirky Brands push people to reach for the give-away in the supermarket aisle, purely because it tries harder to entertain them.
While these positives are desirable, on the other side of the coin, such brands also require marketing to go beyond the 4P’s of functional fulfillment. It pushes marketing to become more intuitive, celebrate creativity, take more risks, and potentially, be open to become the butt-of-consumer-jokes.
Crucially, it catalyzes marketing to think beyond researching relevance to consumer needs, and think about orchestrating human delight.
As more brands get enveloped more often in the fog of ‘sameness’, there is a real opportunity to embrace consumer ‘interesting-ness’ through the consistent application of Quirky.
All it calls for is for brands to become more human and less crassly commercial, to think beyond mere positive perceptions and develop the quirkiness gene of the brand.