Part 2: Deep-seated feelings, bad experiences and the implications for brand reappraisal

In part one, we looked at the origins and meanings of the phrase and whether it had implications for concept testing. In part two, we’ll explore familiarity (both first- and second-hand) and its implications for brands. Is it true that ‘familiarity still ends in contempt’, as snarled by Maxïmo Park’s Paul Smith on the 2007 track ‘Russian Literature’? Let’s find out…

For those who haven’t read part one, these blogs were inspired by Mustard’s annual music world cup. In short, Mustard team members suggest a number of their favourite songs, that then play off in a knockout tournament to crown the winner. Ultimately, it’s about sharing things we like with our colleagues, and opening them up to things they might not have heard before.

When we think about the origins of the phrase, and the point that contempt rises from knowing something so well that you lose all respect for it, there are clear parallels in music. Who, for instance, loved ‘That’s Not My Name’ by the Ting Tings, only to grow sick and tired of it due to overplay? See also Caravan of Love by The Housemartins, any of the 1990 blockbuster film songs or even Head & Heart by Joel Corry x MNEK. The fact that you heard them so frequently made you long for something else. You tell yourself that you don’t like it anymore, and choose other songs. Any other songs.


The same can be true for brand and customer experiences. Let’s say you have a favourite restaurant, and you have a bad experience. The food was terrible, the service was just as bad – and even though you’d been going for a long time, you draw a line under it. No more. Find a new favourite restaurant. It’s well documented that it takes 5 positive experiences to outweigh that one bad one – but will you take that chance?

There’s also what I call ‘secondary familiarity’ – familiarity drawn from other peoples’ opinions. Again, musically, I have several of these. For many years, I had a dislike for bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Junior and so on, as my peer group said they weren’t very good and we were still in the throes of late 80’s early 90’s ‘Madchester’. The same goes for brands here too. We talk a lot about NPS and recommendation, but what about the converse? Active detraction of brands? We’ve seen it over the years, based on perceived quality (Škoda), poor in-store experience (Aldi), being expensive (Vodafone) or being less sustainable (pick your fast fashion brand). But how much of this is real, and how much is first- (or worse, second-) hand perception?


What this does tell us is that brand reappraisal is HARD. We’ve mentioned some success stories where Škoda and Aldi have done a great job in winning the hearts of customers, but not without a huge investment of time, effort and demonstrable proof points. So how do we go about truly creating brand re-appraisal:

  • Having a laser focus on the problem to be addressed. You might have some research that shows where your brand is versus the competition. Or some social listening that shows where your brand isn’t delivering. Or even some synthetic data created using GPT-4. Either way, diagnosing and understanding the issue is a critical start point.


  • Finding a unifying, central message behind which to create all brand activity. All too often, when brands see a gap, they’ll throw multiple initiatives to solve the issue, and almost always, this results in a dilution of each initiative. Go big and bold with an overarching intention and ladder everything to that.


  • Measure progress and celebrate success. Use brand tracking data, sales and enquiry information and social listening to look for signs that the strategy is working.


  • Be patient! These things take time. Don’t change course after six months if the results aren’t immediate. Continue to hammer home the same focused message over a prolonged period and ensure that everything you do as a brand is aimed at that.

The journey will have its ups and downs, but by following these tips, improvements in brand perceptions and consideration will improve, followed by trial and repeat usage. With that, I’m heading to re-appraise ‘Teardrops’ by Womack & Womack, a song that I’ve outwardly rejected for nearly forty years!