Small is the new big
Am I right ladies? OK...hear me out.
The world of marketing / advertising / branding is heading is one direction; think smaller.
> A personal tweet from a big brand can turn a person into an advocate overnight.
> A six second video can have the impact of a thousand 6 minute videos.
> Think flash mobs, gratis Coke machines, choirs singing in airports, you’ve seen the stuff.
Small Time Mentality
There’s something incredibly exciting about being small. It means you can react quickly to change and explore avenues that bigger brands would have to jump through dozens of hoops, just to get close to. It also means that customers can connect with their retailers on a much more personal level.
I know the name of the guy in the corner shop I visit once a month, but nobody in the Morrisons I visit every week. As consumers we like to give our money to the little man, the local who’s putting his daughter through Uni, we love to see an underdog succeed.
And when companies like Starbucks are dodging taxes like Neo dodges bullets, it’s not hard to wonder why. I read in Design Week last week that they were trialling their first non-Starbucks branded store. They’re calling it ’The Reserve’. They use terms like ‘undesigning’ the interior by using raw metals and electrical conduit on show. Sound familiar? Yep, we see it in independents across the country. They’ve seen the rise of the quirky little cafes & they want a piece of the pie.
Small Coffee Shops
Let’s stick with coffee shops for a minute as an example. Why does our Fera walk an extra 10 minutes, past 5 national coffee shops, to get to Tamper in Sheffield centre?
Why does she meet with her friends at The Depot in Kelham Island and not Caffe Nero?
Is the coffee any better? Probably not.
Is it any cheaper? Nope.
Fera craves a smaller experience that the big boys just can’t give her. She wants to feel part of an intimate club. The cool coffee shop club.
But just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you can’t profit from a little small-time mentality.
> BrewDog rather than Carling
Look at these chaps, the owners I guess. They look scruffy & ‘hands-on’. They look like people I might know, not crazy-rich business owners. I like that.
> Urban Outfitters, not Next
Here’s a global company, who position themselves like independents. A little rough around the edges. They make their audience feel like they’re discovering a great piece in a little vintage shop, but they aren’t, they turned over $3.1 billion last year. Clever.
These are big brands that are proactively playing on company small traits. Not trying to appeal to everyone. Pushing their founders to the forefront. Reacting quickly to how consumers change. Making you want to be part of the gang. Look at Google, in the worlds top 3 brands, they’ve still got an incredible ‘start-up’ mentality, which is why they’re still creating amazing products, and have grown to be almost competitor-less.
If you’re an established business, don’t forget the excitement of when you started, the unknown, the exploration, the hard times, they all keep you fresh. If you’re a young business, don’t slip into thinking you’ve got to look ‘big time’ to get the big work. Times are changing. Look at us, we’ve just done work for Sainsbury’s latest campaign. Crazy.
Having shown Fera this blog, she argued that actually, she wasn’t a ‘cool coffee snob’, but the experience of being in a more individual place, with people who appreciate your custom and ask you how your day’s been, is a much more rewarding brand experience.
She also argued that the coffee DOES taste better from Tamper compared to Costa. Which got me thinking. Is the coffee better when it’s taken out of context, in a blind taste test? Or, does the brand that Tamper has built actually outweigh the taste of the coffee?
So we put it to the test. 2 Lattes – 1 from Costa, 1 from Tamper. Would Fera’s palette still think the same without all the ‘branding'?
I went out to buy these two coffees, and was overwhelmed by the difference in experience I had. First I went to Tamper, I was greeted by a smiling tattooed chap, who talked to me whilst I was waiting for my coffee. Really nice chap. I wandered around and took in the atmosphere, read some of the quirky little bits on the walls, paid my £2.50 & off I popped. Now bar the similar price point, the Costa experience could not have been more different. I was shocked, it was like they wanted to prove my point. The server was rude, her responses were cold and sharp and 3 kids ran about my feet like I was in a Wacky Warehouse. I left the overly maroon building slightly disappointed – I wanted this to be a fairer fight. I wanted Costa to challenge all the points that I’d made in the blog above. But they didn’t, they just rolled over and served me an angry coffee.
If you ever get chance to do a like-for-like brand test I’d recommend it, It certainly opened my eyes.
We decanted the drinks into plain mugs & Fera set to work sniffing and sipping the coffees. Annoyingly she nailed it straight away. The Tamper coffee was significantly better than the warm milk sold by Costa. Damn, she was right.