“What exactly is branding,” my new client asked tenuously. “What’s involved and why should I invest in it?”
My response: it’s the value of reputation. The power of branding becomes clear when you go car shopping. For example, the K900 Kia has a comparable design and features to a LS 460 Lexus. So, why do most people pay the additional $300 a month for the Lexus? Because they’re buying reputation – both the car company’s and their own.
“Branding is the process of attaching an idea to some object, service, or organization,” writes author Rob Walker. “That idea can be fairly straightforward (this car is dependable) or extremely ambitious (this mobile phone reflects a maverick worldview).”
As you might expect, the straightforward approach is the most common. Business leaders clearly see the logic of using brand marketing to tell prospects the main benefit of their product or service. While this seems the safest approach, it is actually the most risky. Here’s why: your prospects are inundated with straightforward brand messages. And, frankly, they don’t really care how long you’ve been in business, how dependable your brand is, or how responsive your associates are. They’re way too busy thinking about themselves. More…
Selfish, I know.
No offense, but you’re probably just like them. Seriously, how much time did you devote to studying the features and benefits of the products you use? Sure, when you’re ready to buy something, you’ll do a bit of research. But that’s not what attracted you to the product or service in the first place, right?
So, what are your customers looking for?
THE APPEARANCE OF SUCCESS: People are looking for ways to look smarter, cooler, and richer. They want to associate with brands that will make them more desirable – that will enhance their reputations and relationships. It’s why they’ll wait in line for 36 hours to buy a new Apple smartphone on the day of its release. Our culture encourages people to live up to an impossible ideal of perfection. Since none of us are actually doing it, we want to give the appearance that we’ve succeeded.
PERSONAL HAPPINESS: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created. Your customers are aggressively pursuing this “pleasant and contented mental state.” Some associate it with buying something new. Others with traveling to paradise. Still others with an amazing meal, sporting event, or entertaining movie. Recently, more people are discovering that happiness can come from helping others. This is giving rise to increasing social services and philanthropy.
BEING RIGHT: Do you remember those inane arguments we all had with our siblings as kids? They usually ended in a stalemate of “Was not!” or “Was to!” Our schooling reinforced this “need” in our impressionable psyches. Having the correct answer gives us a sense of superiority. It’s part of our thirst for news and information. We want to be the first to know, and have the details so we can inform others.
CONTROL: Terminal patients say that one of the most disturbing things about their diagnosis is the feeling of powerlessness – of being unable to do anything about it. Your customers want a sense of certainty. They don’t like feeling worried or anxious. They want to be able to predict, and control, what will happen next.
BELONGING: What could possibly motivate young urban males to walk around with their pants hanging down? Or, what about women in the late 1800s who tight-laced themselves into uncomfortable corsets to appear shapelier? Your customers have a deep emotional need to be accepted by a group. That’s why some brands become tattoos. The brand identifies people as belonging to a specific tribe.
This is why the Gravity branding process starts with a deep-dive into the aspirations of your target audiences. We’ll find the need that is most relevant and connect it to your brand with unexpected creativity. It’s the surest way to build a brand that matters.