One does not want to be questioned in early morning. People allow the passivity of morning laze to vanish slowly at its own pace. One does not expect to be shaken out of his or her slumber with a shocker. It is incongruous. It is shocking. It is upsetting.
A few days back this is what precisely happened. While people were barely out of their lingering slumber, a front page ad punched their face with a question: ‘Ever thought of a shirt without stitches?’ it continued, ‘unveiling on October 2, the greatest innovation in shirts yet’. The brand in this case was Arrow. For most of us it is an impossible. A shirt is created by the process of different pieces of a fabric sewed together. It indeed is shocking proclamation. It challenges a firmly held belief.
But why shock people (read potential customers)? People are subject of information warfare. They are bombarded with messages far more than they can cope with (one study estimates daily exposure at 3000 or more). Two mechanisms come to their rescue: adaptation and perceptual filtration. Adaptation is about getting ‘used to’ (organism adjustment) a kind of stimulation ( ad noise, temperature). Filtration is about selecting a small portion of total stimuli. So how do marketers navigate these impositions?
Customers pulling out of information processing poses a great challenge for marketers. They generalize that most brands are ‘similar’ in a category. This is caused by the absence of tangible product differentiation and almost similar brand imagery. This can push even so called branded products into a downward commodity spiral. Brands become commodities with distinct forms but indistinct substance. The repeated buying is often mistaken for brand loyalty. Brand stickiness does not manifest commitment rather absence of a better option (perceived similarity).
Streufert and Driver’s theory seeks to explain the effect of stimulation on behavior. Stimulation derived by a customer from the environment is determined by the disparity between stored knowledge in the environment (brand) and information he or she actually receives. A store or brand or movie is like an information chunk. The repeated use of a brand or visit to a store reduces the disparity causing the stimulation level to go down. A situation of over familiarity with a brand or movie or store is likely to cause boredom. Boredom is a negative affective state and customer would look out for ways to get back of an appropriate stimulation level. One such option is to look for ‘new’ unfamiliar brands (brand switching). So what does it hold for brands?
Marketers can cope with the cessation of stimulation or customer boredom in two ways: launching a number of brands and rejuvenating brand. HUL’s big portfolio of toilet soaps brands- Lifebuoy, Liril, Hamam, Lux, Rexona, Dove, Breeze and Pears allows customers to remain in their fold even when brand switching occurs. Second strategy to keep customers stimulated optimally is to keep adding newness to a brand in order to compensate for the decline in the stimulation. This is reason why brands keep adding newness (discrepancy enhancement) by way of new ad execution, new packaging, new flavors, new endorsers, new flavors, new colors etc.
Arrow’s new stitch less shirts aims to add newness to a category pulled down in stimulation level by similarity and over familiarity. The brand is being refreshed and energized by adding a new unheard of attributes- ‘no thread, no needles, no stitches, no scars, just perfection’. Brand is conveying to customers- you thought a shirt is a shirt is a shirt. But it is not true- Arrow is different, it is stitch less. Come discover the difference, enter in the new world of stimulation, and kill boredom.