External events affect your brand. Events over which you have little or, more likely, no control. The war in Ukraine, increasing fuel and heating costs, the cost of living crisis, a negative story about your category or your company in the press. Then there are events that perhaps you can influence or help shape, such as a rise in your prices, your advertising and communications.
These can all affect the performance of your brand in a positive or negative way, but we often think that it is the event itself that affects us, when it is not. It is the consumers’ response to the event that affects your brand and not the event in-itself.
Unless the war in Ukraine has a direct affect upon your supply chain or access to your consumers, it is unlikely that, in itself, it affects your brands performance. If, however, it makes consumers feel less safe, or less confident about their own situation this may affect their buying behaviour and this could be to the benefit or detriment of your brand.
Increasing fuel and heating costs put pressure on household budgets, that in itself does not affect your brand. It is how the individual consumers respond to this pressure, the different decisions that they make in the light of it, that may affect your brand.
So, while you are managing your brand through the current choppy waters, and while you contemplate storms yet to come, you may have limited or no control over the storms themselves, but you can have considerable influence over how your brand is viewed by your consumers when they are responding to their own situations.
Consumers rarely make purely rational decisions. We humans are emotional creatures and 99% of our decisions are more emotional than rational. When considering how to save money we drop brands we have less connection to, while keeping the brands that we like (that we have a greater emotional connection with). When there is a rash of negative publicity about a category, we are quick to drop products and brands that we have little connection to, but often ignore such stories, or feel that they do not apply to, our favourite brands.
Understanding and managing the emotional connection that consumers have to your brand can make the critical difference when your market comes under pressure.
This is not just the job of the communications team. Your consumers’ emotional journey with your brand may start with the advertising or on-pack messaging, but the journey continues throughout the whole product experience. If the advertising or other messaging makes any sort of claim for the brand the consumer must experience this in their use of the product.
To create a strong emotional belief in, and attachment to, the brand there must be a truth in consumption, not just in the messaging.
When a brand owner truly understands what it is that creates the consumers’ emotional attachment to their specific brand, they can see ways to further develop and strengthen that attachment in the good times, and also know how to adjust their messaging, and even their product experience, to leverage that attachment when the going gets tough.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands