Many of the efforts of marketers in recent years (enabled and empowered by technology) have been to remove friction from the consumer and brand experience. Friction is typically characterised as anything that slows down the Purchase Journey, but it can in fact take many forms and live in many places between the brand and consumer, from how the brand is purchased, how the brand is used and how the brand communicates.
Removing too much friction is dangerous. Without any friction between brand and consumer, a brand risks becoming marginalised to the point of obscurity, lost in a rash of buy-it-now buttons and algorithm optimisation, and in the process handing power to intermediaries, aggregators and distributors of content, products and services.
Removing friction turns brands into commodities: A degree of friction brings untold benefits.
One word. Covid. The last 12 months, and counting, have seen brands hasten, unintended or not, the removal of friction from the way they are encountered and experienced.
In the online shopping boom, brands are joining a sea of sameness in the form of brown cardboard boxes on people’s doorsteps. Selfridges has countered this by heavily branding the inside of their boxes with their distinctive yellow – adding a bit of friction into the experience of receiving and opening the parcel (and cleverly avoiding spoiling any gift purchases).
Amazon is the temple of convenience, removing every last iota of friction from the shopping experience. Nike don’t like this and have delisted from the platform (and others) so that they can deliver a more meaningful consumer experience, not just the most convenient.
Jack Daniels has consistently used their media placements to create a small moment of friction in how their brand is encountered, using long form copy to turn a moment of boredom into entertainment as people wait for their metro train to arrive.
To win and grow, brands must achieve the perfect balance of friction and friction-free. Embracing the potential of a post-CoVid world, but also ensuring the retention of positive friction in their consumer connections. The strongest brands in the future will be those that get this balance right. Those that don’t risk being marginalised into insignificance.
Chris Worrell, Head of Strategy, Worldwide