Claire Strickett wrote a blog post titled Hunting Byron Sharp in the Wild (December 2016).

« Sharp and his colleagues at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute argue that if we want to grow our brands, the primary question we should be addressing when we plan our marketing comms (especially our advertising) is actually: “On what occasions / at what moments in their lives could our brand come to mind for consumers?” — then working hard to get ourselves there by identifying the memory structures associated with those moments. These moments the Institute call category entry points (CEPs), and the more of them your brand can get involved with, the more “mental availability” you have, and the more stuff you are likely to sell. »

« To take one example: Coca-Cola originally tended to come to mind only when people thought “What can I get from the drugstore to revive low energy,” because it was sold as a tonic, via soda fountains, with vaguely medicinal promises. Now, thanks to decades of advertising and marketing, Coke comes to mind when people think a huge range of other things, including “What could I get for the kids’ party”, “What could I order at the bar if I’m the designated driver”, “What shall I mix this booze with”, “What can I do to perk myself up this tedious office-based afternoon”, “What might increase my slender chances of surviving this hangover” and so on and so on. »

« It’s worth stopping here to think about what role the more traditional view of brand positioning (the “what” not the “when”) still has — because we absolutely can’t afford to dismiss it entirely. Sharp discourages us from focusing on what brands mean to us (brand attributes), so strong is his focus on when brands come to mind. He describes the role of brands as creating “meaningless distinctiveness”, rather than the accepted branding god of “meaningful differentiation”. »

« if your brand comes to mind in a CEP but brings with it a whole load of negative associations (it’s bad for me, the service is terrible, it’s overpriced — or in Deliveroo’s case, they don’t treat their drivers properly…) then you’re really not going to get very far. »

« This is where brand attributes like “trustworthiness”, “innovation” and “value” really do matter, a great deal, as do good product propositions. Arguably, however, these attributes are more powerfully created and reinforced by customer experience and interaction with the brand than by marketing and advertising comms, along with that other powerful driver of brand perception — PR. (Indeed, if your marketing comms talk about, say, great service while the actual customer experience is excruciating, you’re only going to make things worse.) »

« As a brand strategist, this means that the questions we need to ask are, in this order:

  • On what occasions in our consumers’ lives do we want our brand to come to mind? What chances are we currently missing? Where are our competitors beating us in the battle for mental availability? Do we have competitors in those moments from products in other market categories that we hadn’t realised we were in direct competition with?
  • What are the memory structures associated with those moments? (This is the lovely traditionally planner-y human insight part.)
  • How can our comms create links to those? — through memorable, distinctive, consistently branded creative that creates powerfully embedded conscious and unconscious connections that play out even after a considerable time-lag.
  • How does the way we (inter)act — and are seen to act – combined with the reality of the products we create – give people a good reason to choose us once they’ve thought of us? (This is the traditional brand positioning work, combined with a focus on customer experience.) »

« Make consumers remember you exist at as many relevant moments as you can. »

« And, at the same time, give them a reason to be glad they remembered. »

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