Thinkerbell founder Adam Ferrier has said agencies have been “hoodwinked by consumer data”, while also suggesting that putting consumers at the heart of a company’s strategy isn’t a good business model, calling “bullshit” on the idea.
Speaking at the NewsMediaWorks INFORM Summit in Sydney yesterday on a strategy panel, which included The Monkeys CEO Mark Green and Tribal Australia’s national head of strategy Caitlin Lloyd, Ferrier said it’s more beneficial to put “brand” at the heart of a business.
He said: “At the moment there is a lot of data and feedback loops about what the consumer wants and it feels like to me we are paying a lot of attention to that whilst forgetting what a brand stands for and what we can deliver.
“Everyone is talking about being customer-obsessed and consumer-obsessed and I think it’s bullshit.”
“It’s trying to pretend we’re all good corporate citizens by putting the consumers’ interests at heart above anything else. This isn’t a good business model because if most brands put consumers’ interests at heart, their brand probably wouldn’t be there in the first place.
“What you want to put at the very core of the business is your brand and building a brand that consumers then want. You need to understand what your brand stands for and put that above anything else.”
Ferrier believes if Vegemite was created with consumer interests in mind, it would never have been created in the first place.
“If we did consumer insights today with Vegemite and did some focus groups and some sensory testing, I guarantee you Vegemite wouldn’t exist.”
He said brands getting sacrificed due to an “obsession” with consumer insights has become an increasingly important topic across the industry.
Speaking on the success of Thinkerbell’s campaign for Vegemite, Tastes Like Australia, Ferrier said the idea came from trying to understand the taste and how a whole country could like the taste of Vegemite.
“We went to speak to a cultural taste expert at Melbourne University and this person started talking about taste being a cultural construction, and therefore Australians have created the taste of Vegemite and that’s where the tagline came from.”
He also added: “In Australia, I don’t think we are very good at understanding brand. I think we are good at understanding product and product innovation, but the sensitivity is to understand what is a brand and how a brand grows.
He said industries are getting”hoodwinked by consumer data” and not focusing enough on how to create an effective brand.
According to Ferrier, understanding brand needs to be driven by the CEO, not the CMO, and the entire organization “getting it”, adding that CEOs need to be the “chief brand officer”.
“If the CEO gets it, then the whole organization can build a holistic, single-minded brand story.”
Mark Green agreed, stating: “Most CEOs of Australia don’t understand brand”.
However, Ferrier said many CEOs in Australia are now starting to try and understand more, including the board.
“I think now the governing structure of the board is trying to understand brand and creativity as well. I think that’s where it gets really exciting to get the board to understand what the brand is all about.”