We’ve stopped what we are doing and creating your personalized BrandZ™ report, which will appear in your inbox soon.

In Pursuit of Nuance

 In Pursuit of Nuance

Dale Tomlinson


The Hardy Boys Dale.Tomlinson@hardyboys.co.za

What “age” are we in? The Age of Transparency, Collective Doubt, True Accountability, Pervasive Individualism? The Age of Purpose, Reinvention, Consumer Activism or The Return to Humanity?

One thing is certain, we are in an era of intense consumer scrutiny. Brands and companies that resonate are sought out and then held accountable if they disappoint. Brands are viewed in terms of adding value to people’s lives, in the trust conveyed, and in the compatibility of a value set. Frequently this scrutiny plays into the hands of smaller brands that appear to value intimacy over scale, dialogue over monologue, authenticity over manufactured value. This is without a doubt the era of start-ups and boutique brands featuring clear compelling visions with a sense of community and purpose.

This raises the debate around the obvious business imperative to achieve critical mass, market leadership, category dominance and global reach. To deliver on all these something must give. Does global appeal come at expense of local nuance and cultural sensitivity? Are we prepared to sacrifice intimacy for ubiquity?

It is quite sobering to remember that every brand we work on was once a “start-up”; the work we do should help to rekindle some of that intimacy that may have been lost in the race to the top. Even monolithic brands need to create personal connections if they are to build enduring relationships.

This is where the role of agency has changed somewhat. We have to become brand suiters, creating experiences that stir a sense of familiar nostalgia or provide insight into what the future could be. Do we want to stimulate the recall a unique aroma, share a piquant taste, offer an exhilarating driving experience or that soft underfoot comfort of a fine carpet?

It is no longer about merely creating a great campaign and wallpapering the planet with it. At some stage the brand has to come out of the mass communication ether and directly engage. These are the all-important moments where a one size fits all execution just may not close the loop in triggering purchase or adoption. This is where that understanding of local nuance and

cultural sensitivity differentiates one brand from another. This is where relevant intimacy can work its magic.

Clearly this is not necessarily the case if you are selling a garden hose or wall socket, but it very definitely is if you are talking food for example, then local knowledge is everything. One might think that coffee is just coffee, it’s not. Nescafe clearly understands the need for nuance and intimacy and created Nespresso. Each little pod popped into a beautiful home “percolator” recreates that perfect micro-barrister experiences every time. The Nespresso experience also accommodates local taste profiles ensuring that there is a pod that not only caters to the coffee palette unique to diverse nationalities but right down to each individual whomever and wherever they may be.

“Experience”, a simple term, or is it? True experiences are those that illicit a response, that resonate, that stir the beginnings or the rekindling of a beautiful relationship. Crafting these experiences is one thing, delivering them is another. We now have to be able deliver a chain of experiences across multiple touch points nuancing them across the diversity of channels. They all need to feel seamlessly connected as part of one conversation but crafted to eliminate fatigue and the response of “I’ve already seen it”.

Can the experience happily transcend digital, shopper, radio, sampling, cinema, etc.?

A recent piece of work done for Robertsons Spices, the market leading culinary spice brand in South Africa, was an example of a consumer brand experience crafted down to last detail across multiple touch points. Built on a history of discovery by traveling the world to find the best and most exotic spices, Robertsons rapidly found its place in virtually every household

in the country. But along the way, it found itself being taken somewhat for granted, and had lost some its intrigue and simple but inspiring ability to make bland food exciting.

Feeling the impact of smaller brands slowly eroding some of its consumer loyalty, Robertsons set out to rekindle some of its lost intimacy. They sought to create the experience that would get people to renew their relationship with the brand and remind consumers of its mastery in sourcing, blending, and creating fresh culinary ideas. Robertsons realized it was very much about understanding the nuances around taste profiles, cultural culinary habits across the world, and how to share them in a way that would hopefully stimulate a renaissance in home experimentation.

The Robertsons Reinvention Kitchen was created; a bespoke pop-up restaurant in a trendy foodie precinct in Johannesburg. Five authentic menus were developed by five leading chefs using five spices from five different countries. The diners were peppered with bloggers, journalists and key opinion formers igniting a social media frenzy and driving traffic to the Robertsons recipe-rich website. Small bite-sized experiences were then recreated in- store to spread the experience and directly drive purchase.

Whether big or small, emotive or functional, simple or complex, creating experience is an attitude, a quest to stimulate disruptive and contagious engagement, and to build new friendships and cement loyalty.