Originally the purpose of a brand was quick and easy recognition. Consumers could not read, so a simple symbol represented what the tradesperson, shop or establishment did. And the name comes from similar simplified symbols literally branded upon the flanks of cattle to indicate ownership as huge herds merged together as they were driven across the Mid-Western plains to the slaughterhouses in Chicago.
Brands reach beyond the physical, they are supposed to reach into our sub-conscious.
Gradually these symbols of recognition have become more sophisticated and are meant to mean so much more than just what the product does and who owns it.
Brands reach beyond the physical product and even the company behind it. They are supposed to reach into our sub-conscious, our emotions. They represent not just the product, they are a shortcut to everything that the company wants the consumer to understand about the product.
Buying a new car is different from buying a new Porsche, giving your infant Calpol seems very different from giving them paracetamol, and Aldi and Wholefoods are quite different even if they are both grocery retailers.
But while most brand owners that I speak with are very sure about what their brand stands for and communicates, I often get a very different picture when I speak with consumers.
There should be something in the consumer experience that reminds the consumer of what your brand stands for.
Your advertising and other communications may be very clear about what your brand stands for and you might even be using the best agencies to reach the consumers’ emotions and instil your brand into their sub-conscious, but does all this clever – and expensive – work really connect with the consumer experience of your brand use?
Whatever claims you make about your brands, whatever values or ethics you try to associate with your brand, there should be something in the consumer experience that reminds the consumer of those values.
Your consumer experiences your product not as a whole but as a series of instances, the packaging, the product appearance, aroma, the feel of the product, their experience of its use – maybe taste, feel, aroma – their experience after use…
To each of these moments they have an emotional response and all these emotional responses come together to create an Emotional Journey. This Emotional Journey is unique to your brand, the Emotional Journey is the essence of your brand in the mind of the consumer.
It is the details of this journey that differentiates your brand from its competitors.
If there is nothing in this journey, no pause, no moment, no instant, that reflects the values, the ethics, the meaning of the brand, then there is nothing connecting the product experience to the branding.
When this is the case consumers struggle to believe in the brand. They struggle to understand why it is any different from other brands in the category. They see no reason to pay a premium for it.
Whether your brand is a food or beverage product, a consumer healthcare or homecare product, even a pet food or pet-care product, there should always be elements in its emotional delivery to the consumer that reflect your brand positioning and brand claims. Without this you are wasting a lot of the time and money that you are investing in making and communicating those claims.
Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.