Sunday, March 9, 2008

Brand Affinity in Addictive Products

The table above is from the 2003 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse report on cigarette brand preferences. Key findings from the report were:

  • In 2001, Marlboro was the cigarette brand used most often by past month cigarette smokers, followed by Newport, Camel, Basic, and Doral.
  • Approximately 85 percent of cigarette smokers aged 12 to 25 smoked one of the three most used brands, whereas smokers aged 26 or older reported more diversity in cigarette brand selection.
  • White and Hispanic smokers were most likely to use Marlboro, while black smokers were most likely to use Newport.

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As with alcohol, it appears that the neurological effects of tobacco work to create strong brand memories and affinity in their users. However, looking at the dramatic differences in market share based on their stated race/ethnicity, it appears that brand choice for these products is also strongly influenced by social affiliation pressure as well. The social/group pressures seem to be a bigger factor than geographic difference for this product category.

This points towards several opportunities for improved marketing campaigns:

  1. When marketers think about brand affinity and strength, it is common for products with high emotional/neurological components -- automobiles (movement/speed), beer (alcohol), food (taste), etc. -- to dominate the ideation and examples they use between themselves and clients. This is true even when the category in question offers little direct stimulation to the brain. It would seem that marketers who disciplined themselves to focus on products that have similar nervous system interaction patterns should be more likely to product effective campaigns -- versus referring to the campaigns that have the most salience to themselves and others.
  2. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the strong impact that tobacco has on the brain, social expectations still appear to play a big role in preference. This probably contributes to the tendency more expensive alcohol to be perceived as tasting better. This same phenomenon may not be as strong in products without the same emotional charge.
  3. For product without a direct or continuous stimulation of the brain, messaging and position campaigns may have to be based on the incidents -- however infrequent -- when the brain is stimulated by feelings of intense satisfaction or frustration with the product. For instance, when the product fails, or is associated with positive situations -- like the care of baby or loved one.
  4. All too often, marketers worry more about geographic preferences when doing positioning or research. As this example points out, the groups people believe they belong to are better predictors of segmentation and behavior than are the physical location in which they live.

Have others experienced similar problems in researching products and services?


Swivelchair said...

Interesting - how about cola?
I'm asking because there is a ritualistic aspect to addictive products. People not only keep the same brand, but also keep the same rituals that go along with consuming. A friend of mine always orders a diet coke with no ice, and then a glass of ice. Every time. Or I have English breakfast tea in the afternoon. (That's not a brand, but it could be, I suppose. . .)

My guess is that this is probably the Starbucks' secret weapon: they were first-in-class and got people hooked not just on the coffee, but on their rituals, too.

spandrel said...

I agree, the caffeinated products you mention would be another addition to those I’ve mentioned. Thanks for your mention of the rituals as a reinforcing agent to the addiction as well.
As for Starbucks, I’ve often wondered if they weren’t also an example of the studies showing that consumers would believe that more expensive wines tasted better. While great emphasis has been placed on the “barista experience,” I wonder if posterity will see the Starbucks phenomenon as an affordable daily status boost for its consumers – one that lost luster when the brand became too familiar and the economy went south.

Thanks for your comment!