Stage 1: Indifferent

Having a brand at the Indifferent stage for too long is a recipe for disaster.  If you’re new, you want to get to the Like It stage fast.   If your brand is falling from grace, it could soon face obsolete.  Shrinking share, falling sales, squeezed margins.  And the spiral continues.

How the consumer sees an Indifferent Brand:

Consumers have no real opinion of your brand at all.   They don’t care or they are completely bored with your brand.  They are not aware; they could be confused your concept or just not interested in what you are saying.  They will stick to their current brand of if they do buy your brand they see it as a commodity.

Why is your Brand Indifferent?

You have let yourself be a product commodity and you’ve not yet created a brand surrounding that product.   There are four reasons why you are at the Indifferent Stage:

  1. You sell but you don’t market:  You are not doing a good job creating any difference between you and any other brand option.  You might be “selling” your product, but it’s likely as a commodity, and you are only commanding a price that the market will bear.  There’s no price premium.   There’s no loyalty.   The only repeat business you get is from the effort you exert, and there’s a very low return on effort.  Out of sight and out of mind for most of your consumers.   This means you’re in a spin cycle of continuously pushing your product on the market.  It becomes a very supply side driven brand with no pull from the consumer.
  2. You are a new product:   You’ll automatically be at the indifferent stage, because the consumer has no clue who you are or what you do.   Everywhere you turn, people are hesitant and reluctant to back you up.  It makes gaining distribution very hard or any support from key influencers.  If you can’t captivate the consumer or you are not solving something that they can’t get from their current brand, then you’ll get stuck at the indifferent stage and your brand will likely die.
  3. You have fallen from grace:  You became stagnant and even complacent in the market place.  You act like you don’t really care, so guess what, the consumer won’t either.   No new products in a while, and you’ve been passed in the marketplace.  You’ve cut back on marketing activity.  The momentum is not there, and little by little you’re starting to erode.  A shrinking consumer base, cut back on the distribution combine for a squeeze on share.  With a shrinking sales base, costs creep up, margins get squeezed.   The spiral continues until some type of turnaround re-ignites the brand or you go out of business.

    The most notable fall from grace is the Sony Walkman, which was such an integral part of the climb to the Beloved Brand status. The only news Sony is making is the layoff announcements.

  4. You are a hated Brand:  While you can argue that hate is an emotion, it’s not a good space to be in.   Many utilities, insurance companies, airlines or financial institutions fall into this zone.   These companies exert positional power over the consumer–never really trying to cultivate a relationship–choosing to maintain the power instead.  But one day, things change and the positional power is gone, and so to is the brand.
Indicators of Indifference
  • Very skinny brand funnel.   The starting point to a healthy brand funnel is to create enough awareness and consideration at the top of the funnel.  Without that, the efficiency of the funnel is never realized and you’ll see extremely low purchase intent and zero repeat sales.   A skinny funnel is the death nail for new brands.

    A healthy brand funnel requires strong awareness and familiarity at the top, or else there will be almost no purchase or loyalty lower down the funnel.

  • No Effort means No Sales:  You brand is completely reliant on selling.  You’ll notice that when you take time off selling or you aren’t on promotion, the sales completely dip down.   In the spirit of return on effort, this means your brand is 100% reliant on effort.   If you’ve got a great new brand you’re trying to gain traction in the marketplace, the effort is worth it.  But if you’re just another commodity, then the selling becomes a constant drain.
  • Low margins and profits:  With a small sales base, you can’t hit the volumes need to drive economies of scale.  Also, since you’re constantly selling, price and distribution become your only levers you can use.   You’ll be much more susceptible to price cuts in order to stay competitive—which could be in the form of discounts or promotional spending.  While advertising might seem expensive, it’s actually much more efficient than the labour costs of a selling effort.
  • Share squeeze:   There is always a constant stream of new entrants into categories.  As consumers are indifferent about your brand, with each new successful competitive entrant, there’s a constant share squeeze and your brand bears the biggest brunt.   Shrinking consumer base deserts you for what’s new.  Retailers delist your skus first, to make room for the new and better brands.
How to get beyond and get a bit more Liked
  • Win over a key niche:  It would be advantageous to win over a small base of those who will love your brand.   This gives you a loyalty that helps drive efficiency in how you run your brand.   It also allows some word of mouth to spread, which grows the base slowly over time.   However, never forget this niche and always reward your most loyal consumers.  Going for a mass play while neglecting the niche will backfire on you.
  • Capture the Mind first:  In general, people think before they feel.   To get to the Like It stage, you need to drive Awareness of your brand and communicate the difference that it offers.  Keep in mind, brand awareness without a leaning towards consideration and purchase is useless marketing, because you need to drive awareness of what your brand is all about and why they should buy it.  And while consumers are the end in mind target, you might also need to capture the minds of the distribution channel to back your brand as well as any other key influencers on the purchase decision.
  • Mind Shift:  This is where you need a turnaround and change the consumer’s view of your brand.    You need to re-invent yourself almost like a new brand.   Maybe pick a niche or find new news that can help re-enforce that a change has taken place.  This is not easy, as people love to put labels on everything in life.

    Not long ago, Aveeno was a small bath bead brand that no one cared about. Aveeno re-invented itself, able to leverage it`s strength as an oats based brand to become a powerful Beloved Brand.

  • New News:  For a new product, it’s all about driving awareness and consideration.  It requires a clear communication of a compelling concept with a product that can back it up.   If the concept is better than or equal to the product, then drive awareness with advertising.  If the product is better than the concept, then focus on driving direct trial for winning over new consumers.  For an innovative new product, focus on a niche of early adopters, who become the  heart of the new brand—and will be the ambassadors that spread the news to the masses.
  • Listen:  The brands stuck in the hated space likely need to do a better job listening and reacting to the consumers. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and fix some of the leaks to the system.  If we can convince these powerful institutions they will be even more powerful by having a relationship with the consumer, they will be on the way to create a brand instead of a monopoly.
Brands will not survive long at the Indifferent Stage.   The drain on profits is a recipe for bankruptcy.