We think about digital, but forget about physical context, artifacts and rituals

I met up with Marc Sparrow and we talked about many things. The one that stuck out in my mind the most was that we were two tablet computer owners, but we both insisted on reading the Sunday newspaper in a dead tree format.

Marc went on to tell me that he saw from his friend’s Facebook updates that they were passing this habit on to their children too. The Sunday Times was no longer about news and analysis but a marker for Sunday like the traditional roast dinner or church service and a way of unwinding before the week ahead.
Patek Philippe advert
When one looks at Patek Philippe’s adverts the thing that stands out is the strapline:

You never actually own a Patek Philippe.
You merely look after it for the next generation.

Whilst being a clever bit of marketing, I think that it says a lot about some brands and contexts. Whilst brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have blurred the line between fashion and luxury; the great Swiss watch brands like Rolex rely on old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Omega is part of my evoked set (despite my not liking a lot of their watch designs or the way way they have fashionised the brand) because of my parents. I got my first Rolex because I had a bad experience diving with a Seiko watch and my dive buddies explained why they thought Rolex was best.

This didn’t happen in Facebook but in Snowdonia, in the dead of winter in front of a man-made lake that had killed a number of scuba divers. Within half an hour of my having made a forced ascent as my dive watch had popped off my wrist and sailed to the bottom.

As an industry we often forget about physical context, artifacts and rituals. Ironically it is about going back to marketing 101 and the year 1960. E. Jerome McCarthy came up with what was then the four Ps, to which were added another three over time. Since then marketers have thought about looking at these from a consumer point of view and you had other models like the four Cs, but for the sake of simplicity I will list out the 7 Ps:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • Physical Evidence
  • People
  • Process

I would argue that physical evidence is more than the salesroom experience and people are the customer base as well as the sales and supply chain. Think about how on the road arrogance affected the perception of certain car marques in the UK:

  • Mondeo Man
  • The Volvo Driver
  • White-Van Man

All of these stereotypes have had a grain of truth to them and affected the way we think about the brands. Look at the way Burberry and Stone Island got affected by their football casual customer base.

As clever marketers we can also create rituals:

  • Mother’s Day
  • Take a break, have a Kit-Kat
  • Royal British Legion poppy campaign
  • Guinness co-opting St Patrick’s Day