Article one in a series responding to the ongoing Byron Sharp versus Mark Ritson debate about the value of brand perceptions.
In a nutshell
- New knowledge is always emerging in the discipline of marketing, with thought leaders often sharing conflicting view points.
- The recent debate between Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson oversimplifies the world of marketing and forgets the nuances of practical application.
- At TRA we believe that emotional connection with a brand is predictive of future behaviour.
- Context is the key to effective marketing. We need to apply the scientific findings to our particular context – the category, the competitors and the business and brand challenge.
For those of us interested in the power of marketing to drive business success, now is a challenging time to be involved in the industry. Along with all of the new media and experiential opportunities, there is a rapidly advancing and scientific understanding of the discipline. This is led by a wide range of strong thinkers with ever increasing access to data, experiments and advances in a range of disciplines such as psychology, anthropology and economics. We are constantly being told that everything we thought we knew is wrong and there is a new reality we need to embrace. Sometimes this is the case and sometimes not.
In this context it can be tempting for practitioners to throw their lot in with the latest new idea or get behind a particular thinker or leader in the industry. In the extreme this leads to a place that could be descried as a tyranny of absolutes. This is not a good place to be as any casual look at the state of US politics at the moment would clarify.
An example of this tyranny of two ideas is demonstrated by the ongoing discussion between Byron Sharp, Mark Ritson and Koen Pauwels. The central tension is the direction of causality between attitudes and behaviour.
Different or distinctive
One view holds that attitudes to a brand are drivers of behaviour. The implication for building brands is that a focus on changing or building different attitudes to my brand will lead to greater consideration and purchase. An example of this would be: if I could get more people to think that my brand is ‘made with local ingredients’ they will be more likely to buy my brand in the future. This is especially the case if they are in the ‘authentically natural’ segment.
The counter view holds that the direction of causality is in the opposite direction. Attitudes follow from behaviours and are essentially post-rationalisations of past behaviour and are a product of people creating a ‘consistent narrative’ to justify past behaviour. The implication of this is that I would reject an effort to change or build attitudes to my brand focusing my efforts more on activities designed to drive behaviour change more directly, such as better visibility at the point of purchase.