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High disposable passion

January 16, 2010

by Andy Wright

If you manage a brand, chances are someone, somewhere loves your brand. Unconditionally. They tell their friends, family and colleagues to buy it. They lend it to them or  recommend that they use it. They preach about the benefits. They might even wear clothing with your brand’s emblem em-blazed upon it. They believe that it says something about them, who they are and what they stand for.

They’ve tried your competitors but they keep coming back to you. Your brand offers them exactly what they need and expect. They have a special interest or hobby that your brand participates in. You’re a part of their lives.

The difference between successful brands and those in 4th, 5th and 6th places in their markets is that they have more followers like the case above. They also know them and have a relationship with them.

These followers are often taken for granted. Indeed, they’ll always purchase your brand. Unconditionally. A Brandhabit. They’re safe, they’ll always be there. So sometimes, you ignore them so that you can concentrate on stretching your brand influence to a more perceived desirable and affluent demographic. An audience with a higher household income and affluent post code who you’d rather be associated with.

What some brand managers occasionally don’t take into account is how much of that income they’re willing to spend on your brand.

Last weekend I went to Summernats in Canberra, Australia. This is an event for car lovers, owners and builders to showcase their passion for custom built / modified cars and to proudly parade in front of their community. To the untrained eye this crowd are perceived to have lower than average income and are less than desirable brand ambassadors. However, the time, money and effort that they dedicate to their ‘special interest’ is considerable. The elite cars can be worth up to $200k. They rival relationship and work commitments. Inevitably, any spouse / partner will fully understand that their place in the relationship is a close second at best.

It’s not until you immerse yourself in such a community that you understand its passion, dedication and potential. Apart from the inevitable specialist brands present at the event a number of well-known, even prestige brands attended and recognised the potential. Brands like Jack Daniels, Shannons (car insurance) and Coca-Cola.

By aligning themselves with a passion and adding value to the experience, these brands could connect with consumers that have high disposable passion. Not necessarily high disposable income, but a currency that goes beyond net sales value. These consumers will spend time with your brand, talk to you about themselves, about your brand and relay the experience to others they meet – online and offline. I’m sure the Jack Daniels Slushie machine and the personal service and expertise of the Shannon representatives were recounted in many a story following the weekend in Canberra. The slushie machine, Jack Daniels girls and free merchandise helped to enhance the Summernats experience for many of the events goers. The Shannon’s team were able to give advice, quotes and appraisals of many well loved and personally valuable cars at the event. An opportunity for attendees to actually value in monetary terms their hard work and considerable investment.

The Summernats experience got me thinking. You should never forget your core. Passion is infectious. Your core audience are passionate. They might be 10, 100, 1000 people or more. To understand them, is to understand the true benefits of your brand and, while we are all unique, communities share common traits and are incredibly valuable as a collective.

So, I urge you to think about how passionate you are about your most passionate customers.

  1. Do you know who they are?
  2. Do you / your staff share their passion?
  3. Do you recognise and reward their passion?
  4. Can you harness their passion in spreading the word about your brand?
  5. Can you place a value on their high disposable income passion?

You may think that this isn’t relevant for your brand. But, chances are someone, somewhere has had a good experience with you and tells others. That hint of passion is potential. Please let me know your thoughts below and any other examples you might have.

Many thanks to Rhett for permission to use his photo’s from Summernats.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 12:03 pm

    I enjoyed this article because it recommends companies focus on retention of existing customers. It also touches on how consumers are no longer determined by traditional demographics, but more by the communities that they inhabit.

    Retention is key to brand building as you cannot build a brand on an acquisition strategy alone. Indeed, companies spend a small fortune acquiring a customer and yet after getting them to make that crucial first purchase, then let the customer leave with no more than a ‘thank you, please come again.’

    How insane is that?

    I agree that companies must engage with their customers, not take them for granted and learn about those customers, what influences them and what they require from the brand. The article says stop trying to sell something to a customer and start trying to collaborate with the customers so that they buy something they want.

    But I don’t agree that it should just be core customers, I believe it should be profitable customers. According to McKinsey, up to 15% of customers are unprofitable. These need to be identified and jetisoned.

    We used to use the example of an Australian heavy machinery company (I can’t remember the name and can’t find the details) that had annual sales of A$20 million but margins of 5%. Its largest customer in terms of sales was worth almost half that amount but after years of being screwed by the client, margins were so slim that it hardly made any money on the relationship. After a great deal of soul searching (and sleepless nights by the MD), the company terminated the relationship.

    At the end of the next year, the company had sales of A$8 million but margins of 16% which meant it was making more on less sales and was more efficient etc.

    Furthermore, other companies can duplicate every thing you do and ofteen improve on it – faster delivery, cheaper, etc but they cannot duplicate the relationship you have with your client.

    So I agree, look after all your customers, the profitable ones anyway!

    • January 19, 2010 11:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment Marcus. I hadn’t meant to restrict the targeting to core customers. You’re absolutely right to clarify that targeting should come down to your most profitable customers. Your example is a good one.

      I’ve seen many a consumer brand repositioned for an upmarket demographic because of their perceived value. However, this hasn’t been successful because the engagement (or passion) with the product / brand has been so low. The less affluent customers they already have still spend more.

      The other point that can be made is the way core customers are treated. Especially brands that offer a subscription / registration service. All the new members get the introductory offers and benefits. There is often little recognition for loyalty to a brand / service, which is worsened further by being bypassed for cheaper rates / incentives.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. January 20, 2010 1:44 pm

    great post, andy — i like the concept behind “high disposable passion” because most certainly consumers are not always what they seem — but i’m not sure about the name — my understanding of the term “disposable” in “high disposable income” is that it refers to the amount of income someone has that isn’t committed to basic necessities (mortgage, food, etc.) — is there a parallel with passion i.e., passion that isn’t committed to something else? or is this just a nice turn of a phrase? i’m not trying to be nitpicky — i just want to understand your thoughts — thanks.

    • January 20, 2010 9:18 pm

      Thanks Denise, I had intended to mean that passion is ‘interest’ specific and that therefore can be much more brand specific than generic income. In short, the amount of time, intensity and money that a consumer might be prepared to spend on their ‘interest’. Another example (as I sit here watching the Australian Open) might be tennis. The opportunity exists for brands to align themselves with and add to the tennis experience for enthusiasts (with high disposable passion). They choose to spend money on equipment, courts, magazines, tickets, apparel and maybe travelling to watch / play. These consumers might not be on the highest income, but spend more perhaps than those with a much higher income that dip in and out of the sport because they do not share the same level of passion. So a tennis brand would look to add value and exceed expectations of the tennis experience. Rackets with unique benefits and technology, apparel that aids performance, exclusive news, information, expert tips for loyal customers. ALl things that would benefit those with a higher than average passion for the sport. Of course, that’s not to say that others will not appreciate these benefits…

      Hope that makes sense? Thanks again for reading and commenting…

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