I am sure you have a list of factors that make your brand great. But how many of these are category benefits that are shared with your competitors and of those that are distinct from competitive brand, how many of them are recognised by your consumers or are things they actually care about?
All washing powders clean your clothes, all kitchen cleaners clean the kitchen, all chocolates are indulgent.
Too often brands focus upon the end point, clean clothes and kitchens and the indulgence of chocolate. But what really differentiates a brand is not where it takes you – that is invariably a category benefit – but how it gets you there.
Every product experience takes the consumer on a journey from encounter through preparation, product experience to post experience. While this is an experiential – perhaps a sensory – journey, each element within that journey prompts an emotional response within the consumer.
It is this emotional journey that your brand takes your consumer on that is the essence of your brand. It is this emotional journey that differentiates your brand from its competitors.
Think about a recent journey that you made. The reason you set out was undoubtedly in order to reach your destination. However, what you remember now about that journey that journey, what makes it a good one or otherwise, will be what occurred along the way. Or more specifically how you responded to what occurred along the way.
Maybe you travelled through some memorable scenery that lifted your spirits and made you feel good about the world, or a delay or diversion frustrated or annoyed you. Did you enjoy the company of a travelling companion who elevated the journey into an occasion – or bored you and made it seem twice as long.
You will probably remember a few moments of the journey that affect your view of how you enjoyed it, while whole sections of travel, even quite large distances travelled, do not come to mind at all – despite their importance in terms of reaching your destination.
It is the same for your brand journey. There will be moments in your consumers’ journey that are important, that prompt a specific emotional response in your consumers. It is these emotions that your consumer remembers about your brand. It is these moments that differentiate your brand from its competition, It is the consumers’ emotional reaction to these moments that drive liking, preference and loyalty to your brand.
Identifying these moments is a skill and not always easy. They often have little to do with the ultimate delivery of the product and consumers will talk in rational language rather than explore their subliminal emotional reactions. They often don’t recognise themselves the importance of these brief moments in their brand or product experience.
However, when you can identify these moments and in turn signal them to consumers, they then become more aware of the uniqueness of your brand that prompts their liking for it – and once they are aware of this, they notice its absence in the competitor brands.
Emotional Profiling of your brand experience tracks the consumers’ emotional journey when using your brand and connects it to their experiential – or sensory – journey. It isolates the important moments in the consumers’ emotional journey – the moments that prompt belief and liking (or otherwise) – and identifies the elements of the experiential/sensory experience that prompt these emotional responses, how and why.
When you truly understand the emotional journey that your brand evokes and how and why the individual elements in your brand journey evoke these emotions, it becomes much clearer how your brand is differentiated from your competitors and how to improve your product and your communications to deliver the best journeys for your consumers to drive liking, preference and loyalty for your brand.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands