by Mike Abel (@abelmikeI would wager that few of us in business, or specifically the marketing industry, would dispute that the true hunt in our game is for that elusive Big Idea.

It is the Holy Grail — the single-minded thought that differentiates and distinguishes what you say and, more importantly, DO in a shinier, more magnetic and compelling way.

Mike Abel

Famously prophetic words

But, lately, those famously prophetic words sung by Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changin”, have been a-ringin in my ears. Because our traditional view of the Big Idea itself can no longer be the standalone silver bullet.

The new generations, Y and down, are looking for more from brands and companies. They want a deal.

In days past, if brands could generally fulfill an emotional and functional need, and if they offered it at fair value, a sale could be made.

But this generation is the sons and daughters of the coupon/Groupon beneficiaries, the buy one/get two, the goodie-bag, free apps, so-called loyalty programmes, points, miles, Avios — you name it – and so, sales strategies such as freemium are being introduced to seduce these new customers into the brand’s fold and then to, ever-so-gently, sell-in.

A distracted, more demanding customer

They’re a distracted, more demanding customer for whom time is short and patience is shorter. They resent paying for stuff, expect better service and are largely entitled.

You see, they’ve grown up during the best of times. They try to get everything for free — music, movies, content. Why pay when you can watch it now — or later on YouTube or use the multitude of pirate offering for downloaded entertainment?

Look at the newer brands that have gained massive market share over the past decade.

  • Previously, if you were a Sony, Phillips or Telefunken buyer, that was the only brand you’d buy. But brands such as LG, Samsung and even Hi-Sense appeal to this “more-for-less” generation.
  • If you were a Toyota, Ford or the like driver, you stuck with that brand for life, as did your kids. Now brands such as Hyundai and Kia have captured almost 20% of the local market (one in five) and they’re just getting going.
  • Similarly, the shift in mobile “phone” brands from inception ’til now has seen the Swedish, German and Canadian brands completely dwindle in comparison to the Koreans’ sales.
  • Even premium, high-design brands such as Apple have a myriad of fantastic freebies thrown into their offers. Facetime and iMessage are just two examples of how you get great stuff free of charge.

Far more compelling

You need both, you see — the marriage of the Big Idea behind brand Apple and its big offer becomes ultimately far more compelling than just the big offer of, say, BBM for Blackberry, where its brand idea is indistinguishable.

How many of us now regularly receive calls on Viber?

We’re all being trained not to pay.

For this generation, the notion of loyalty programmes, as I’ve commented upon before, is farcical and an entirely incorrect lens through which to view the customer strategy. These programs are designed with the intention of retaining, growing and attracting customers. They are therefore value-added services and discounts (offers if you like) to sweeten the deal and enhance stickiness.

“What’s in it for me?”

It has nothing to do with “loyalty” and everything to do with providing customers with the best “what’s in it for me”.

If I sign up, am I the first to know, to be invited, to get the newest thingy, to get the special price or that discount? The moment we think this, it translates into loyalty; drop the offers, and we’ll lose the customer. So how loyal is that?

Brands and companies today need to become traders. They need to understand that this generation suffers not only from attention deficit but loyalty deficit. They have all the options in their hands.


Their mobile device will very quickly tell them where the best deal is to be had and how it can be obtained in the most convenient way.

Fast, easy and disposable

It’s fast, easy and disposable. When I look at the way my kids burn through game apps, it’s remarkable. Unlike a toy in “our day”, which you played with for months, they lose fascination in a matter of days, or even hours. Next!

These are the customers we are hoping to attract and retain — and, while most certainly they’ll only be enticed to your company, product or brand through a Big Idea initially, you’ll need the Big Offer to close the deal and get them coming back. There are just too many choices nowadays.

Soon, they won’t even be using proper money but Bitcoins or whatever newfangled form of tender makes its way ultimately into the not-so-new economy.

Mike Abel (@abelmike) is founder and chief executive of M&C Saatchi Abel. This article has been republished with permission from Mike’s blog, Mike & Friends.

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