By Rick Barrack
You can learn about branding and brand loyalty from the unlikeliest places.
Take “The Newlywed Game.” (Bet you didn’t see that one coming – but I did say ‘unlikeliEST’!) Specifically the original version that premiered in 1966, with the eternally young Bob Eubanks as host.
I happened to catch a re-run of it on the Game Show Network recently, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, the premise is as simple as it is effective: recently married couples are split apart in two rooms and asked questions to determine how well they know their spouse. They are then each put in front of a live studio audience and asked to guess their spouse’s answers.
Hilarity, as well as full-on yelling matches and actual divorces, ensues.
It’s not only terrific entertainment, but a show that contains some fascinating things that the astute observer can pick up on and still relate to today. Namely, how HARD it is to remember little details about your spouse! Especially in the hyper-branded world we live in.
For example, my wife is working out five days a week now—she’s an absolute machine, and the results are simply phenomenal, Olympian even. If she were to come home one day and say, “Rick, I think I can do a little better than this,” I would absolutely pack my bags and go. She looks that good.
But do I even know what model sneakers she wears to the gym?
What her favorite soap is?
What her preferred choice of deodorant is?
Which fragrance she’s currently wearing?
What her favorite Snapple flavor is?
Which brand of toothbrush she uses?
What her favorite clothing brand is?
And how long has she been using those specific brands and products? Has she always used them? I don’t really know. And yes, we’ve been married twelve years.
Come to think of it, I have no idea what my kids’ top brands are right now. And I buy most of them!
As designers, we have access to acres upon acres of macro-information, quantitative and qualitative research, trends reports, competitive analyses and psychographics, but do we even know which brands the people closest to us are loyal to and why?
Not to say that I know NOTHING about the brands my wife uses. Indeed, I DID notice recently that she had started using a new health and beauty brand. Now, truth be told, I only knew this because I oversaw the redesign of the package. But I still thought, with a smile: “Cool, sleek, breakthrough modern packaging wrapped around high performance and efficacy. Nicely done, Rick. Nicely done, indeed.” However, she soon went to another brand. (Was it the one she’d been using all along?) Should I have been a little offended? Why, yes!
Or actually, no, as I’m not exactly the target market for the product. But it goes to show that even though her husband, her partner in life and love and laughter, oversaw the redesign of the package, for whatever reason it didn’t fit her needs. In other words, she made the leap of faith, landed, gave it a shot and turned right back around.
That package design can play a crucial role in influencing consumer purchasing decisions is undeniable, but as my own anecdote shows, refreshing or reinventing a brand’s visual language is no guarantee of loyalty. Certainly it’ll get someone to try a product, but there are myriad other factors (price, performance, culture, availability, etc.) involved in making that relationship work. Not unlike a marriage, if you think about it.
Which got me thinking. . . if brand loyalty can be compared to marriage. . . wouldn’t it be great to see a spin-off of that 60s TV show called “The Brand Newlywed Game”? A show where designers are paired up with consumers and asked to guess each other’s answers to brand questions? I’m not sure what would ensue, but it would be riveting TV.