A brand's reputation is built on more than just flash sales and viral marketing

Are our thoughts and interests so transient that we live our lives minute-to-minute with not a care for our past? Much like the myth of a goldfish’s three-second memory, I don’t think this is true, but a great many brands seem to be banking on that.


We’ve all heard that spiel about our diminishing attention spans and the dopamine high of an immediate reward. Is that really true, however? Are our thoughts and interests so transient that we live our lives minute-to-minute with not a care for our past?

Much like the myth of a goldfish’s three-second memory, I don’t think this is true, but a great many brands seem to be banking on that.

 A brands reputation is built on more than just flash sales and viral marketing

Image: Kimmo Räisänen @Flickr

A great many brands, including the likes of Pepsi and Oreo, have taken to a marketing and brand strategy that revolves around this transience. Immediate ROI (Return On Investment), flash sales, viral marketing, they’re all hoping for only one thing, an immediate response and a sudden spurt in interest. This doesn’t help in the long run and brand loyalty is the last thing these campaigns can expect.

Some of the milder examples of clickbait around

Some of the milder examples of clickbait

Clickbait is the prime example of this. Titles like “When she looked under her couch cushions and saw THIS… I was SHOCKED!” will certainly gain your attention, but the moment you realise what it is, your opinion of that site that posted it will fall. That headline might give the website hosting it a great number of page views, but once its reputation falls, it’ll be almost impossible to bring it back up. It’s a very short-term strategy.

Facebook recently announced a new algorithm for combating click-bait for this very reason. If you see a lot of click-bait on Facebook, would you really use the Newsfeed that much?

Look at the latest trends in technology. Just about everyone is looking to pre-empt Apple with features that are nothing more than rumours. There’s no thought behind it, other than “Everyone’s talking about it, so let’s do it!” What long-term value is there in killing off the headphone jack before Apple does?

Sure, it makes news now, but 6 months from now, it won’t matter.

Le Max 2 bottom grill

Everyone started making smartwatches the day rumours of an Apple Watch surfaced. The likes of Lenovo and LeEco are already dumping the 3.5mm headphone jack for no apparent reason other than the one given above. Dual-cameras? Sure. 4K video? Sure. Why? Nobody actually knows. They’ll tell you it’s the future and that it’s awesome, but the truth is that they only did it because it was the “in” thing.

As ArsTechnica’s Ron Amadeo put it, the current answer to the question, “If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?” is “Me first! Me first!”

It’s hard to tell smartphones apart these days and how many of you really care whether you have a Xiaomi or a OnePlus device? If LeEco comes up with a phone that’s better and cheaper, spec-for-spec, that’s the one most of us will go for. This is not exaggeration.

The flagships from Xiaomi, LeEco and OnePlus all offer roughly the same specs at the same price, so you pick the one you like today. If, for the sake of argument, OnePlus decides to cash-in on its brand value and up its margins by offering, say, a OnePlus 4 with a Snapdragon 660 at the same price as a Xiaomi Mi 6 or Le Max 3 with a Snapdragon 840, you’ll dump OnePlus like a hot potato.

I’m not talking about dedicated fans of course. There are always exceptions to any rule.

iphone-vs-nexus-4

Take Apple for instance. What do they really offer? A premium phone with a design that hasn’t changed in years, specifications that pale in comparison to Android (dual-core processors, 2GB RAM) and an App Store that’s already fallen behind Android in terms of numbers (though quality is another matter altogether). They’ve also neglected their Mac line up and don’t even let you upgrade your hardware yourself.

For Apple, it’s all about perceived brand value, but that didn’t come easy. They’ve spent years building a reputation for making solid devices and offering great services, and that’s what people remember. They don’t care that Apple didn’t make the first touch-screen phone or that there are companies with better offerings.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (6)

Is there anything wrong with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge? Not really, but just try convincing an Apple user to pick one up.

Xiaomi has acquired a bit of a bad reputation for terrible service and it really doesn’t matter anymore if the service has dramatically improved now. 10 years on, even the name ‘Norton Antivirus’ sends shudders down the collective spines of geeks the world over and Symantec is still trying to live that PC-killing reputation down.

We remember the companies that make more of an effort for us, the consumer. I’d recommend a Dell warranty because Dell replaced my laptop a day before my warranty expired, I’d recommend a ThinkPad because I’ve got a 7-year old device that’s still going strong. Do these experiences make me biased? Yes. Will I heartily recite my experiences to everyone who’ll care to listen? Yes.

This is exactly what brands want. But there’s no quick and dirty solution to achieving this. This is a reputation built up on years of hard work and ground work. Flash sales and viral ad campaigns will only get you so far.

Diminishing attention spans? I think not. We remember.


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