Brands & Consumers: What a Brand Really Is
What is a Brand? It’s not that pyramid, circle or tower chart that has all the boxes filled in. No, it’s not a marketing document.
The brand is what customers think it is. Yep, perception is reality.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s certainly a good idea to know what you want the brand to be. But whether that’s what it is is another story. Here are three important things to know about assessing what your brand really represents.
- The most important aspects are the more human aspects: the values, ideals, and style. The things the brand stands for outside of the category benefits are the things that people are drawn to most tightly. They represent the ideals the customer has. So, in effect, the customer is joining brands he believes in. When the brand’s belief system is relevant and different from competitors the brand has potential to draw customers and keep them for that belief system. They enjoy what it makes them feel about themselves and they enjoy what it says to others about them. It is part of their identity.
- To find out what your brand is you need to ask people. The sum of their perceptions is what it really is. You need to find out all the thoughts and images they have in their mind. Strong brands are like people: they have personalities and beliefs. If customers go blank when you ask them, or if all they can say are the rational product things, then the brand is not so strong. You have an opportunity to differentiate that brand through strengthening its belief system.
- Understanding your customers’ belief systems can be valuable in shaping your brand. One way to start is to set aside the term “consumer” and consider the buyers of your product people. Have some human conversations with them. Let them tell stories about themselves. Listen to what matters to them, their ideals, their fears, their hopes and dreams. You may learn something. You may begin to see where what your brand can represent to them can intersect with what they care about. You may be able to see something bigger that your brand can stand for to them than simply the product they buy. It can be a part of who they want to be.
Let me know what you think.
Marketing Research Consultant