Making the case for bland advertising

There is a definite movement for brands to focus on customer service and experience versus the chest beating “catwalking” that brands can get up to, says The MediaShop Johannesburg’s Managing Director Dashni Vilakazi. The fact is that heritage brands or brands with long longevity have already done the hard work.

“Let’s be honest, to consumers brands are all the same, only differing in how they answer a specific need or want at any given time,” she says. “Traditionally, branding has been about differentiating, standing out from the crowd. But by the sheer enormous number of brands out there, it seems as if they’re stepping over each other, desperately trying to impress. Conversely, those that are focused on their customers are winning at ‘blanding’ and retaining, and even growing their market share.

Look at brands like Google, Uber, Microsoft and Airbnb, their brand identities are set in harmony and simplicity. They don’t run massive campaigns trying to disrupt or stand out from the crowd, because they are already outside of it. Rather, they resonate with effectiveness and efficiency, focusing instead on their brand promises, customers, and sustainability.

Brands have often been likened to people – they can be loud, modest, proud, or understated. Those that are currently succeeding can be likened to the quiet guy in the corner of the party. They’re focused on building their business, creating products that are sustainable, empowering their supply chains and most importantly, ensuring excellent customer service and passing great deals onto the consumer. They are the blanding champions.

Marketers and brands are realising that the customer must come first and that they have a responsibility to the environment they operate in. Brands are not created in a vacuum – they evolve and are typically crafted by their strengths and weaknesses. Do you believe brands when they tell you how different they are to their competitors, or do you believe brands that stand out more by their actions? This is how we differentiate the branding from the blanding.

I think the sector that does blanding well are the tech companies which seem to be intentionally blanding. They have strong identities and visual language for sure, but they live and breathe their products. Their strength is in their consistency, in their behaviours, actions and service to their customers.

As a marketer I’d challenge my clients by asking these questions: what is your USP, why do you need to stand out, and will you do that through your logo or through your actions? Brands that are succeeding and getting ahead have already reached their adulthood or their developed stages, now is the time to consolidate and focus on your core business.

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