Twitter, sandwich, donkey, economics & advertising

Marks + methods - Chicken Blog Post
Marks + methods - Chicken Blog Post

Twitter, sandwich, donkey, economics & advertising

A few tweets made a popular restaurant run out of chicken sandwiches in a week.
Are we missing something here?

Twitter & sandwich

The end of the last decade has shown us what brands actually mean to their followers. Brands meant so much to them that they started a small battle on twitter and ended it as quickly as they started.

In Aug ‘19, Popeyes, an American fast food restaurant chain started making chicken sandwiches for the first time and they posted about this on Twitter. Chick-fil-A, another American fast food restaurant chain, also tweeted about their already famous chicken sandwich claiming that they invented it. Popeyes, being cocky for a while, replied to that tweet whether ‘they’re doing alright’. It all started off on a lighter note but escalated quickly. Fans and followers of both the brands came on board and continued retweeting this issue until it took a ride across the country. Popeyes claimed that their sandwich is the best, which was challenged by Chick-fil-A, which has been making sandwiches for a long time now. Eventually, both the companies sold sandwiches like never before. No amount of advertising has helped them run out of food in their entire lifetime.

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While both the parties occupied the battlefield, a third player entered. It was another American fast food restaurant chain named Wendy’s. With no intention to win the war or conquer the followers of the former, they just tweeted with peace. They said their chicken sandwich is the second best. They tried to have a bite of the market and eventually succeeded. After a week or so, it was reported that Popeyes’ sales soared in a short period and one of its store even ran out of sandwiches one day

The philosophy of the ass

French philosopher Jean Buridan expounded about free will with a hypothetical situation of an ass/donkey that is hungry. He asks, if there are two identical (in appearance & quality) haystacks lying equidistant from the ass, which stack would it choose to eat? For this, the philosopher’s answer is rather sour. Buridan argues that, unable to choose one, the ass dies of hunger. There are other versions of the same paradox with different variables, but the point of interest is about choice between two equal objects and equal forces.

If we read the chicken sandwich story against this philosophy, it appears that when we ought to choose one among two options, we try to evaluate the available options considering different parameters or wait for the conditions – in which we are placed – to change. So, if the object is a sandwich, we will not die of indecisiveness of course, but would choose any one or just walk away disliking both. As an add-on, if we have a third option to evaluate, as in the case of the chicken sandwich ‘tweet war’, what would we do?

The economics of searching

Suppose you decided to change your car, what would you do first? You go see what is trending in the market and you may read some reviews about the options you are considering. Then you may take a test drive and then get home one which pleases you the most. For all this, you spend some money and time. The sum of this money and time is defined as ‘search cost’.

So, at a nano level, suppose you are searching for a good chicken sandwich. Given a chance to decide on one chicken sandwich (so that you need not try different sandwiches later in your life) how much would you spend? Now that there are three options at hand – Popeyes, Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s – one would obviously try all the three and pass their judgement. Because the search cost is too less here, it works. Unlike Buridan’s ass, we settle down with at least one. The search cost helps us to choose between equal looking options.

The argument may seem flimsy but it apparently sold more than anticipated.

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Marketing or advertising or just proper branding?

Now the debate stops at the Wh- questions – the whats, whens and whys. No party in this case advertised extensively but managed to sell what they wanted to sell. People may argue that it is just a momentary marketing technique, which burns out in no time. But isn’t all advertising short-living in nature and isn’t selling the ultimate goal of any advertisement? So, why did tweets work in the place of advertising?

There could be multiple reasons for this to have worked out so well such as the season, the brandscape, history of the respective brands and the brand equity they possess. As professional brand consultants, we see something basic here. It is the presence of these brands on social media and right branding that worked like magic. Brand advocates and followers, who usually hibernate, rise to the occasion to defend their favourite brands as in the case of the chicken sandwich. Advertising may not work all the time but branding does.

Slowly, brands are acknowledging the fact that the brandscape has moved from magazines and billboards to social media.

Branding for Millennials + Gen Z

Branding for Millennials
Branding for Millennials

Branding for Millennials + Gen Z

21st century seems to be running on steroids and so are the youngest generations. The millennials and Generation Z are moving with this unbreakable flow and there is no looking back. Both these generations live and work closely but identify themselves apart from each other. Some obtuse experts say, the worst fear of both generations is FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. Others say they enjoy JOMO, the Joy Of Missing Out.
Well, both are wrong.

Marketing clan suggests brands to study these two generations as fast-moving cohorts sharing similar interests. Some brands did that but failed to leave a mark in the market though. As a result, Gen Z entrepreneurs took charge of this void and began consulting so that brands can make a way in the long haul. What these entrepreneurs are saying is that millennials and Gen Z are not cohorts but just individuals seeking individual attention.

Like every new generation, Millzys (Millennials + Generation Z) too have made their lives a little amusing. They have a million opportunities to grab from and a hundred choices to make every day. However, they have less time to spend. They live in their own world. Internet is their basic need. Job-hopping is a part of their profession. Connectivity is a social norm. Freedom of expression is the new normal. They are ready to take risks. They have no problem being gig workers. They choose brands wisely, but are not repulsive to new choices. Environment protection stays on top of their checklist. They are pennywise and brand conscious. If the brands talk for them, they reciprocate without hesitation.

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Recently, we stumbled on a comment in the Instagram account of a famous athlete brand. It was posted under an image the brand uploaded as a part of one of their campaigns. It reads, “Why does this comment section feel like family?” With this one comment, our digital branding research, which was progressing in one direction, drifted into the modish branding techniques. We started with the question, ‘Since when did peeps start treating brands like family?’

It was a question worth wondering.

According Morgan Stanley report published two years ago, India will have 500 million Millzy population by 2020 and their spends are expected to cross 400 billion dollars. With this fact in mind and figures in hand, a few brands tried to impress this group by trying to talk to them – like them. One of the trials included brands using the acronyms these two generation use frequently. All these efforts went unnoticed. The truth is, even if Gucci says Gucci (another term for ‘good’ that Millzys use) Millzys are not going to buy it. We found that they just expect brands to be what they actually are. The only character they expect from serious brands is brand purpose because Millzys have a story for why they buy what they buy. If a brand can tell their story, they come closer to the brand.

Now brands are consciously advertising in a narrative way. Advertisements are creating more content than content creators. This is the new normal for brands. In this plethora of stories, some are liked, some are disliked and most of them miss the targets. Because these people are so connected to each like no other generation, if they find a promising brand story, they suggest to their friends. The network effect works its way here. Peer-reviewed preferences are a result of this effect in branding. So, digital branding starts with a moving brand story and it all eventually moves towards consumer experience.

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It took a while for brands and branding consultants to discover the fact that Millzys are not digital-savvy but are digital-natives.

Millzys feel they have a moral responsibility to save themselves and the earth from dying. The other generations may not know this but they are very much concerned about this pressing issue. With no power at hand and not much money to spend for such a huge cause, they are waiting for their chance to change the world. We found that they are liking brands which are more environment friendly and transparent with their processes. Most of the heritage brands and the conglomerates failed to break this blinding wall. A few heritage brands even criticised new-age brands for being jumpy, reactive, approachable, interactive and responsive. But what these heritage brands do not know is that Millzys are gravitating towards new-age brands for being all the above. Why do you think those people admire and loveTesla, but just have a liking towards other automotive brands (only) because they have a history? Those heritage brands can no longer can afford being dogmatic.

Therefore, Kim Kartavyam? (What to do?)
As branding consultants, we first drive every brand to know thyself.
Then we help them stay relevant.
Next, we make them relatable.

Environmental Branding: Meeting strangers

Environmental Branding: Meeting strangers.

James Joyce once said that if Dublin suddenly disappeared from the Earth one day,
“it could be reconstructed out of my book [Ulysses]”.

Now, let’s talk about strangers for a while.

If a stranger walks into your room, what do you want him to know?
what do you want him to see?
how do you want him to feel?
what would you tell him?

Let’s be strangers for a while and walk into some place, like a stinking parking lot. Traffic cones, reflectors, entry & exit signs, fire extinguishers, water sprinklers running all over the ceiling and bare walls; except these, we do not find anything to feel or see in a parking lot. Yet, there is always something that communicates with us in these places. Some brands utilize parking spaces to communicate with their customers. This is why we see different kinds of parking systems. Some divide the parking space into alphabetized blocks and some use numerals. Every wall may act like a traffic director, carefully guiding us. Before we say ‘where on earth is my car’, environmental branding comes to our rescue.

Let’s walk into a museum now and a hospital next.
Unlike parking lots, museums do not pose bare walls. In fact, if it is an art museum or an art gallery, no wall is left un-hammered. Museums try to take us back and forth in time with prehistoric relics, dinosaur fossils, ancient civilizations, sculptures, utensils, paintings and what not. Some museums are housed in centuries old buildings and some in newly designed ones. Wherever it may be, the environment just blends into the era which the museum posits. It is here where wayfinding and environmental branding marry design to walk us through every gallery. We might not be knowing this, but behind every good ‘A visit to the museum’ school essay, there lies an intelligent branded environment.

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No hospital would want us to feel more sick. It is not that the walls and windows cure our illness, but they can ease our visit for sure. Good hospitals always possess segregated departments, time saving routes to pharmacy and intensive care units and easy walk-in & exit paths. Environmental branding escorts us all along our way.

A subtle brand identity is also mixed up with environment so that our visit remains as a soothing experience in our memory.

Let’s now walk into the knowledge hubs – schools and universities – to experience how strange it feels to get lost. This is a place where structured segregation and systematic architectural planning takes place. Numerous departments, labs, lecture halls and millions of books sit in the same vicinity. Numerous flights of stairs, huge walls, giant facades and wide, open spaces offer a great chance to communicate with people. A student should be able to find the book he/she is supposed to carry to the lecture, pick a coffee at the cafeteria, collect passes for the play in the evening on the way, and reach the class on time. It looks like quite a task but environmental branding and wayfinding makes it easy. Educational institutions provide great opportunities to experiment with new communicative ideas. Most successful environmental branding projects happened in educational institutions.

Let’s now walk into stores. Stores are the only places where branded environment/environmental branding can be felt overtly. Irrespective of the size of the store, branded environments can pull or repel the customers. A store can offer an immersive experience to the stranger. The most talked about Apple stores, where we find ‘Genius Bar’ and the glass staircase (which was patented by Steve Jobs along with the designer) also fall under overt branded environments. In stores, we unknowingly take routes because they are built that way. Some stores have different entry and exit doors. Some do not have an exit in the middle. So, all that happens between entry and exit can be influenced by environmental branding.

The latest co-working spaces, corporate workplaces, libraries, airports, stadiums, bus shelters, movie theatres, the largest complex and the smallest store, whichever place it may be, branded environments meet, greet and guide the strangers towards the brand.

We at Marks+Methods comprehend environmental branding as a concoction of psychology and decision making. Here, everything boils down to only one question – ‘If a stranger walks into your room…’, which is our method. When we meet someone new, we would want them to think about us and understand us for good. A dialogue, a relationship and an association starts with a person who was once a stranger.

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The 20th century literary giant James Joyce is a celebrated writer all over the world. He was both famous and infamous for his detailing in his writings about the city of Dublin, the capital of Ireland. His most famous novel ‘Ulysses’ is an account of the happenings of one day in the life of the protagonist; yet the novel runs for more than 700 pages. He writes explicitly about many streets in Dublin along with markets, a church, a hospital, a pharmacy, a college, a national art gallery, a museum, a bank, a bridge, a school, a hotel, a famous tower and so many more locations which are actually present in Dublin.

Joyce decocted Dublin into his writings. He was so sure that the entire city can be rebuilt – as it is – even if the city gets erased all of a sudden. Branding and branded environments is all about this nexus with the environment. When a brand owns its environment or surroundings, it helps in building brand identity within a stranger, turning him into a customer and a patron.