There's a very real possibility that this post will reveal more about my poor eating habits than it does about the real relationship between brand, product and advertising, and how people really buy things. But fuck it, I'm going to plunge ahead anyway.
I don't know if you've seen them in the shops, but I like those Eat Natural cereal bars. You might have seen them, they come in loads of different types, each with different coloured wrappers.
More specifically, I like the Dark Chocolate With Cranberries And Macadamias one. I have one here in fact. They come in a dark red wrapper.
I probably buy about three of these a week, give or take. That would make me quite a heavy buyer of the product.
To your typical brand consultant, brand director, or ad agency, I probably look like a 'fan' of the brand. They probably see me as someone who 'loves Eat Natural' or feels some affinity for the brand and 'what it stands for'. They probably see me as 'brand loyal'.
But here's the problem, and where a large number of these people are getting it really, badly wrong – they're wrong about that. They don't really understand consumer behaviour, and why people make the choices they make.
Let me explain.
You see, if the shop doesn't have that particular bar, I never buy the other, slightly different ones that Eat Natural make.
It's the combination of the particular fruits (the cranberries in particular) with that little bit of dark chocolate, that I like. The fact that it has some what you might call 'healthy' ingredients, but with a little hit of dark chocolate.
If another brand made a bar with similar ingredients, and the Eat Natural bar wasn't there, I'd be far more likely to buy that other bar with similar ingredients, than the others ones that Eat Natural make.
But as far as I've seen, there isn't another brand making a similar bar. So, if this particular bar is not in the shop, more often than not I won't even buy any cereal bar at all. I'll just get some chewing gum or something.
I'm not loyal to the brand. I just like the product. I buy it habitually, but it doesn't take much for me to break that habit. I'm not desperate to buy from that brand. In fact my only 'relationship' with the brand is that it is a constant - a promise that the bar will be the same as the last time I bought it.
And this is where many, many people in advertising, and 'brand experts' and brand managers and marketing people go wrong. They assume the important relationship is between the consumer and the brand.
The real important relationship is between the consumer and product. More specifically, the consumer's problem that is solved or need that is fulfilled by the product.
Brand loyalty as presented by the brand babble brigade, is a mirage in the desert. You imagine it to be there, you would love it to be there. You think you can see it. But it doesn't really exist.
It's just a proxy measure of a different behaviour.
Now to crack open this cereal bar...