If you spend any time (as I do) on the number 51 bus, you may note the popularity of Adidas among a particular segment of consumers. They aren’t coming back from the gym – it’s just default clothing. They bought Adidas rather than the unbranded variety not because it’s cheaper or better quality. When consumers buy, the value they are getting comes from the way they feel, not from the clothing itself. Adidas is not a clothing manufacturer: it is a marketing company.
Consider now the foaming at the mouth that occurs when Apple releases a new product. You might argue that people buy iPhones to fulfil a need, like make a call, or play a game if they’re bored at a bus stop. In 2007, I would have agreed with you – the first iPhone did something that no competitor did. Today, the difference in functionality versus the common / garden variety is minimal. Yet, users are compelled to buy.
People buy because of the way Apple makes them feel. Stylish. Different, despite the fact that lots of other people bought it too – and this is the interesting challenge for Apple marketing. Dorfman probably has an iPhone. He does not embody the brand. Seeing him with an iPhone should diminish Apple in your eyes.
Same goes for Adidas. The brand is about athleticism and achievement. Many who wear it are not. How can this be fixed?
First, a famous failure.
In 2005, Daniella Westbrook was photographed with her daughter wearing Burberry. She was a soap opera actress who the press claimed had addiction issues, and Burberry was supposed to be high fashion. The result was failure for the brand, as exactly the wrong segment of mass market consumers started wearing the easily recognisable Burberry check pattern. It took a long time for Burberry to regain a place in the fashion world.
This failure occurred because the target consumers saw the wrong people wearing Burberry. In the absence of any other messages, they defined the brand.
Prevention is better than cure
Both Apple and Adidas prevent this problem occurring in the same way – they shout louder than Dorfman. Apple stores everywhere, with just the right kind of friendly hipsters ready to tell you it’s easy and magical. TV ads. Outdoor. The right kind of celebrities showing off their iPads. Adidas does too – a whole host of stores, filled with impressively fit people. Ad campaigns. Footballers. Olympic sponsorships.
These ad campaigns don’t exist to remind you that the company exists, or even (really) how good the products are. They exist to tell you exactly how you should feel when you see the logo or step into the store. Most importantly, they shout loud enough to drown out Dorfman – a constant challenge for any mass market brand.