A mentor of mine, Larry Vincent, Chief Branding Officer at UTA and author of BRAND REAL and THE FINDINGS REPORT delivered a quote that has become somewhat of a mantra of mine over the years. He said, “Good brand strategies guide mission-critical decisions in capital investment, human resources, research, product development, & operations management”.
So what exactly does all of that mean?
If we dissect the quote, it becomes clear that branding and the strategy behind how you promote your brand and engage your consumers should guide every important decision for your business.
Since there are only so many consumers in the marketplace, brands are constantly jockeying for the most favorable position in the eyes of the consumer. What most don’t know is that there is a science behind brand engagement, and that is the focus of this article.
Brand Identity vs Brand Strategy
Brand Identity in the eyes of the consumer, distinguishes your organization, your product, and your service from your rivals. Today’s consumer does their research, they compare you to your rivals in as many ways possible. So to say that your brand is just a name, slogan, or symbol is far from true. Your brand is not who you are to you, it is who you are to your consumers.
Brand Strategy starts by defining your target audience, or more accurately stated, your targeted audience(s). You must understand their implicit and explicit needs, and how your product or service satisfies those needs. Once you have done this, you can better understand what types of messaging to use and how to deliver them to consumers.
Bottom line, building a brand identity and brand strategy that respects and adapts to the behaviors of your consumers is vital to success in today’s marketplace.
Experience over Expectation
The reason that branding matters is that it helps shape consumer perceptions and decision-making behavior. A great brand aligns with a business’s larger marketing strategy and consumers needs. Strong brands cast a vision and communicate the unique value of the brand in a crowded marketplace.
Let’s take some comparative brands; Apple vs Windows, Tesla vs Prius, Jet Blue vs Delta, Chipotle vs Taco Bell. These companies essentially make the same product as their comparative counterpart. So what makes one stand out more than the other?
If I have to explain it to you, then you missed the point entirely. It is not so much the products/services that distinguish one from the other. It is the brand identity and brand strategy that draws in a specific type of consumer to engage with the brand and ultimately become a brand loyalist. This happens as a result of the consumer feeling an intimate connection to the brand because it satisfies some form of want or need on a personal level. It is their experiences with the brand that shape their expectations of the products/services that these companies offer.
So if the experience is good, then the expectation is high. If the experience is poor, watch out, because you often times don’t get a second chance to win a consumer.
Now that we have identified the what and the why, its time to dive into the how. A technique knows as Persuasion Marketing is one of the most impactful means of generating brand loyalty. It applies what we know about human psychology and behavior to market products or services. There are four key elements to the persuasion marketing technique; structured communication, storytelling, copywriting, and neuromarketing.
I will briefly define these to help drive the point home:
- Structured Communication – This is all about controlling how information is presented to the consumer. The goal is to engage a consumer’s impulse at the highest level and then make an immediate call to action.
- Storytelling – Telling a story that uses particular words and images which evoke emotional responses invoke a consumer’s subconscious responses. This helps to position the brand so that the consumer agrees with the message and their habitual emotional reaction will dominate their more analytical responses creating a sense of loyalty to the brand based on the reaction to the message they received.
- Copywriting – For a message to truly resonate, you have to use the right words and phrases. It is also more engaging for a consumer to feel like they are participating in the knowledge exchange rather than being lectured to. They want to learn something, but they want to learn on their terms. This is the reason that marketers often times lead with a question as their engagement point rather than a statement, such as “What is the best way…” rather than a “How to…” The goal is to produce the emotion or answer the marketer is looking for, without the consumer realizing what is happening. Word games also play a factor. Producing positive emotional responses and the promise of gain are favorable so choose words and phrases that relay that type of message.
- Neuromarketing – This is the most important element of persuasion marketing, applying psychology to the marketing message. Research shows that only 10% of the decision-making process takes place in our conscious reasoning. That means that as much as 90% of the decision-making process takes place outside of our conscious reasoning. Marketing focuses on creating positive memorable experiences with consumers, whereas Neuromarketing measures the impact of those experiences so markers can adjust their messaging to reflect subconscious consumer needs. There are 6 principles to Neuromarketing which help to achieve optimum results:
- Don’t use “we” or talk about your company, focus on your consumer instead.
- Get to the point, consumers are overloaded with messaging so be brief.
- Stay visual, consumers either need to see your product/service or have a mental image to evoke a response.
- Keep it clear, don’t shift your point.
- Finish strong, the old adage that people only remember the beginning and end is true, so finish with a call to action they can remember.
- Emotion, people engage with human communication, so be memorable by communicating emotional messaging.
Understanding consumer behavior can help shape an organizations brand identity and brand strategy. The marketing tactics utilized should be a direct reflection of the brand, and evoke emotional responses on a subconscious level. By employing persuasion marketing you can then deliver a marketing message that not only resonates with a consumer, but creates a sense of unwavering loyalty, and as a result, you have a customer for life.