Thursday, 12 May 2011

People buy brands not people

There’s a phrase I detest in the kitchen and bathroom industry and that’s ‘people buy people’.  I’ve heard it time and time again, almost as though it is the secret to business success. Perhaps it worked at one stage - probably in the 80s but then we thought McDonald's staff were actually wishing us a good day.  I hate to break it to you - it’s not necessarily the case now. There are a multitude of reasons why consumers make a purchase.
Yes, if you’re knowledgeable, helpful and advisory, people may ‘buy into’ your expertise. But it’s not as the phrase suggests simply that they like you and they like what you do.  I would expect most people to have some element of charisma (unless they’re an accountant or work in IT support).  People may ‘buy into’ your skillset but people are equally as likely to just 'buy into' the brand.
People  buy for aspiration; to align themselves with celebrities, premium quality, or simply for peace of mind and this is all created by a brand. Why else would we have lists of Superbrands, Coolbrands or the latest in Saatchi & Saatchi marketing Lovemarks which even transcend brands? A Lovemark is not only highly loved but is well respected, with Alessi, AGA ovens, KitchenAid and Philippe Starck named in the top 50 ‘Home and Living’ Lovemarks.  But just in case I stray too far off the point, can I also point out if it’s as simple that ‘people buy people’ why are manufacturers investing thousands to display their brands at the upcoming kbbLondon? Surely they would just need more loveable staff?
And where is the ‘people buy people’ philosophy when it comes to sales on the web? I don’t have to know who I’m dealing with (internet security measures aside) if they are selling what I want.  Again, I don’t think I’ve walked out of a shop because I don’t have a particular bond with the person serving me.
That’s not to say personality doesn’t play any a part in the sales process, particularly in local high street showrooms which have a high level of recommendations. It’s just in this case, personality may have become part of your company’s brand. Surely it is beneficial for all kitchen and bathroom companies to look outside the industry, at companies they admire, and consider how they create and maintain their brand image to improve their business.
At the very least can we please ditch the phrase - ‘people buy people’? And resign it to history where it belongs.


  1. Sorry are you talking about a service industry, that delivers the very best in service or baked beans ?

    Perhaps you should spend some time with retailers in the kitchen and bathroom industry so you might understand the difference.

    You might then grasp what providing a service means, cost involved and why we value the people we have dealing with client. I personally see "people buy from people" as a positive and a strength that the internet can not offer and is the biggest strength a retail brand has in the internet age.

    To take you point about "manufactures at KBB", they are there to sell products with a brand name. We supple a service not just a product, the process to delivered a finished product (kitchen or bathroom) can take months so the most important part of the process is people, who understand the clients need, this takes a great deal of trust. Once that is established we then control the sale and the products sold to the client.

    Personally I find the article naive in understanding the complexity of our industry.

  2. Having read the blog in greater depth there are points I strongly agree with and points I don't agree with, for instance I would not buy a product simply because I like the person in the shop buying it, I would buy after doing my homework on the product, if I knew the salesperson I would feel at ease asking more probing questions or if the salesperson was personable then I would also feel at ease. But I can honestly say that I have walked out of a shop who sold a product that I wanted to buy simply because the salesperson was arrogant and smarmy,I went on to buy the product at a different shop. Russell

  3. You're probably right, Phillipa ... that "people buy people" is an overworked cliche but - like most cliches - that's because there's a lot of truth in it.

    It's a sort of shorthand for saying that buying (certainly when it comes to highly priced items) is largely an emotional decision ... the logic is only brought in as justification.

    Of course brands have a lot of power too - and some people will always buy a particular brand - but buying a kitchen is a much more complicated business than buying a tv, for example.

    Anyone who's spent some time selling kitchens will have come across customers who firmly believe a whole lot of tosh about kitchens ... because they loved the salesman that told it to them. And it's very common for a sale to be lost because of the salesperson in this industry.

    Some women, in particular, don't like to be TOLD how they should plan their kitchens by some spotty herbert who's very obviously never spent any time in a kitchen. Others WANT to be told how the kitchen should be designed ... they're looking for an "expert".

    A salesperson can't win really - that's why it's so important that he or she is a good judge of people and can adapt the sales pitch accordingly. What we need is a short hand for saying that ... let me think ... "people buy people" perhaps!