The Brand Switch

There is a staggering amount of choices we make every day when we shop. Whether its clothes, electronics or food, we are confronted with what feels like unlimited options. Yet most of us have just a few brands we navigate toward in most categories. We group together what we marketers call, ‘the consideration set’ which is comprised of our range of choices. So your consideration set for wine might consist of 5 brand name that you switch among when you shop all in a similar price range. 

If the category is clothes, we may wear one brand when we want to stay youthful while we migrate toward another when we want to be seen as chic. In food and beverage, which is my world, I’m always fascinated how we make our brand decisions.

Switching brands is very difficult to do. How many of us still use the same brand of toothpaste we used as kids? If you drink carbonated soft-drinks, are you still drinking Coke (or Pepsi) because that’s what you always drank?

Of the choices we make, most occur at an unconscious and auto-pilot mode. We see a wall of craft beers, but tend to choose among a few. There are countless Cabernet on the shelf, but we tend toward a few familiar brands that make it into our shopping cart.

For marketers, the question is how we can influence the consumer to get into their consideration set. What can we do to stand out among the crowded competitive marketplace?

Although many would still argue that it takes advertising to motivate people, I still believe the most powerful tool is harnessing a trusted recommendation from a friend. I overhear this in the aisle of most supermarkets or even at wine shops, where one person will say to their shopping companion, I’d like to try this salad dressing (soup, cracker, cookie, cereal, chardonnay, etc.) because my sister (friend, teacher, cousin, co-worker, neighbor, rabbi or coach) told me he/she loves it. I see this in my own purchases and in the research I read on consumer behavior. I’m convinced it is the least understood of marketing tools and still significantly under utilized. 

If you are struggling in a category with an overwhelming numbers of competitors, what are the activities you can do to harness word of mouth?


Since I work in the global wine industry, I get to meet lots of winemakers, winegrowers and owners of small, mid-sized and big brands. One of my favorite things to do is to buy the wines of people I meet whose stories strike me and whose passion and dedication is so present when you hear them tell their tales. 

I love to drink a new wine brand and see if I can taste their story in the wine.  Does what they say in person, transmute the taste, aroma and experience in the wine? And what about winemaker’s who tell their stories in video online? 

How are they helping me experience how drinking their wine will make me feel and ultimately share it with a friend?

I love to give a wine to a friend when I have met the owner or winemaker. I can tell a story about my experience and share with them something unique about the taste and aroma I find in their brand. Sometimes, I can taste the generations of caring. And I know from personal experience, that many of those recommendations placed a new wine into my friend's consideration set. 

Switching from brand A to brand B is the goal for marketing in most categories.  Getting your loyal consumers to share how it makes them feel when they use your product, is really job #1. Scaling this activity can be the real challenge so that you are enabling larger groups of people to have you spread your message. 

How are you putting a megaphone in your customer's hand? 

Jeffrey Slater

Could you use help finding your brand 'switch' to help turn on 'word of mouth' marketing? Connect with me on Clarity and let's schedule time to talk. 

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