Why We Should Buy Better Boots

Whichever way you look at it, and whatever Oscar Wilde quotes about cost and value you use, the biggest problem faced by our industry at the moment lies in the primacy of short-term effects over long-term brand health.

The long-term argument is a simple one. People’s perceptions of brands matter. How we see and think about brands is impacted by how the brand talks to us, and how everybody and everything associated with it behaves. And that perception carries through into how we buy stuff in the short-term.

Brands are magical, products are not. And people will pay for and are loyal to magic.

One of my favourite brands is Yorkshire Tea. Why? Does it taste better than other teas? I like it but then I like tea and if faced with a blind taste test I doubt I could pick it. Is it cheaper than the others? I have no idea but I’m sure you can find cheaper. Do I like the packaging? It’s certainly more interesting than most and it’s distinctive.

If I go in for some internal examination of why I like Yorkshire Tea I conclude that really what I like is how the brand communicates. The TV ads with professional Yorkshireman Sean Bean are fun and make me chuckle. Their social media presence is to-the-point, blunt, no-nonsense, wry. Very on-brand, very Yorkshire. They’re consistent and consistently good.

I also love the idea that there may be people who believe we grow tea in Yorkshire.  

I know nothing about the product that makes me buy it over others, but I like the brand. And that’s down to the ads and the consistency in the communication. So I buy it. Every week.

If Yorkshire Tea followed me around the supermarket yelling ‘Buy my tea’ in my ear at every opportunity (the closest I can get to how so much online advertising makes me feel) I would buy literally any other brand first.

But my friends at Yorkshire Tea (as I feel about them, quite irrationally) wouldn’t do that (or so I like to think). They might offer me a promotion to double-lock my loyalty, but if they did so I feel sure it would be done in a way consistent with every other element of the brand’s communication.

The brilliant UK cook and food campaigner Jack Monroe has recently taken on the inequities of how inflation is measured here. Her point is that real-world increases in food prices suffered by the most disadvantaged are buried in a catch-all inflation number that is made up of a number of items of absolute irrelevance to them.

In other words, their inflation is a lot worse than the headline numbers would have us believe, and as so much policy is driven by the catch-all number the situation for the poorest members of society gets downplayed and continues to worsen.

As a part of her campaign, Jack’s created ‘The Vimes Boot Index’ after the Terry Pratchett ‘Discworld’ character Sam Vimes.

The principle is that if you can only afford £10 for a pair of boots, then over the course of say 5 years you’ll need as many as 10 pairs of boots, as they’ll keep falling apart. If on the other hand you can afford £100 for a pair, they’ll last you longer than 5 years, so in the long run the £100 pair are the better buy.

Jack’s point is that the people with the greatest need of boots can’t afford the £100. They have no option but to keep buying the £10 versions so the cost to them in the long-run is higher.

I’m in no way suggesting that the niche travails of those of us privileged to work in the ad industry are even in the same league of seriousness when it comes to the real-life problems faced by those with the least.

But there is a lesson here. We can afford the more expensive boots. We have the luxury of being able to pay for quality that lasts.

It’s about time we did.

1 Comment
  1. Brian: thank you for capturing my reason for buying Yorkshire Tea, always. Thanks to Amazon deliveries this has become a whole lot easier, and it is the only tea that will come into this house (and into my original Yorkshire Tea caddy).

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