It may be your brand, but it is not about you.
Nielsen’s Global New Product Innovation Survey indicated that almost 60% of respondents preferred to purchase new products from brands that are familiar to them. Nearly a quarter said they bought BECAUSE it was from a brand they like. Look around, and there is no denying that we are generally brand consumers.
Understanding the role you can play in the mind and heart of your consumer is essential to creating your brand
In her book, Branding is Sex, author Deb Gabor concurs, “The best brands in the world are the ones that say something about their users. In other words, branding is about how a product or service contributes to the story you are creating for your own life and how you articulate that to other people.”
Branding Starts with the Consumer
Some marketers believe branding starts with the company – what it does or produces and how it wants to be perceived, but although the company may control the image of the brand, the truth of the brand lives in the needs and desires of the customer. Therefore, the customer must always be at the center of your brand strategy. And, this applies whether you’re managing a B2C or a B2B brand.
Way back in my days at the University of New Orleans, my professors introduced me to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you look at branding as an inside-out process, you’ll see how it falls precisely into the pyramid. Brands have to meet functional needs (bottom of the pyramid) even to be considered. In the casino industry, we call that “table stakes.” As brands fulfill the emotional needs of the consumer, you see the brand moving up the pyramid. Once a brand is at the top, it is supporting the customer’s need for self-actualization much in the way brands like Nike and Apple do. In her book, Gabor uses automobiles as an example. The baseline requirements – tires, engine, AC, etc. – put practically any car at the bottom of the pyramid. For any of those auto brands to move up in my pyramid, the features have to make me feel a certain way – a way that is unique to each driver, be that comfort, security, cool, etc. The car I eventually purchase is the one that allows me to bring my self-image somewhat to life, i.e., “When I drive ____, I am _____.” Brands at the top of the pyramid are bonded to their customers rather than fighting for a share of the market. And, now you have repeat customers.
Online recipe site, Allrecipes is in a highly competitive space. The advent of the Food Network and Cooking Channel creates dreams of putting a five-star meal on the table every night. But, that was not the reality for a large portion of their audience, most want to put a good, healthy and tasty meal on the table on an average Wednesday night. By asking users why they loved Allrecipes and understanding what the brand could indeed be proud of, the brand team ultimately focused on getting the head of the household to deliver a great meal on Wednesday night (or Tuesday or Monday – you get the picture). Every element of Allrecipes’ brand story is designed to give each site visitor self-confidence in the kitchen. Each decision, even the smallest (like deciding on a lack garnish on a dish because who has that kind of time on an ordinary weeknight) is taken into account so visitors could feel they could easily accomplish their goals. This level of attention to detail allows Allrecipes to differentiate themselves.
Undertaking this level of examination will help you start to form your brand story (which differs from brand storytelling) – one that tells the story of the user and how your brand plays a role in helping them achieve the top of their pyramid.
This previously appeared in Biz New Orleans.