Not all products connect with people as brands. They don’t stand for anything. That is, they don’t provide any cues to the buyer about who they are. Yes, we humans relate to human characteristics even in brands.
The first step to making a product a brand is to examine each of your competitors in terms of belief systems: the values, ideals and personality it has.
Notice we skipped product differences. That’s because in many categories all competitors offer the same product benefits, or if there are differences buyers don’t care. In the whiskey category Jack Daniel’s is the only one “charcoal mellowed drop by drop” as the old ads said. That was its USP, or unique selling proposition. But people don’t buy it because of that. They buy it for what it stands for: masculinity, lack of pretense, rebellion. It represents the way they see themselves. They don’t care about the rational product difference of how it was made. You need to understand how people relate on a brand level to each of your competitors.
Then examine your own brand. Does it have a belief system? A common pitfall is to listen some customers and then shape the brand to match what they want. But all your competitors are learning the same things about the category. What your brand can be is something you have to determine based on some soul-searching. What can you believably stand for? What does your name convey? How can you behave differently?
What belief system can differentiate it?
Being different is the most important thing. One of the toughest things is planting a flag, shaping your brand to be human, not just the corporate answer to the sum total of what everyone in your category wants.
That whiskey brand knew its competitors showed fancy people in upscale settings in their ads; they opted to stand for the authenticity of the guys in overalls who roll the barrels in the aging houses. What kind of person is your brand? What kinds of things do you believe in?
The most powerful brands represent ideals that people want to adopt themselves. They rise above category benefits to reveal aspects of humanity people want to join. They don’t sell or push their brand; they draw buyers to them because they represent something people want to adopt as their own way to be.
Let me know what you think.
Marketing Research Consultant