The words “brand” and “branding” have become so ubiquitous in our jargon that they are becoming meaningless. Within your organization I’ll bet it’s a fair statement to say you’ve heard these words thrown around recklessly from time to time. You probably wondered privately “does branding really matter?”
Nobody wants more branding
The inherent value your product or service brings to the marketplace is the sum total of what it represents in the minds and physical experiences of customers. All the perceptions and real interactions people have with what you bring to the marketplace forms your identity (a.k.a.brand). Customers decide what this means to them, not you. Customers determine the hierarchy of competing identities in a category. To influence purchase behavior your identity must matter to people. The trouble nowadays is customers aren’t paying much attention, and worse, they don’t believe or remember branding messages anyway. As a result, even the most memorable branding falls short of influencing customer behaviors.
Nobody out there wants more branding.
Behavior is the new “B” word
A fair amount of branding overlooks the fact that customers are only customers when they are buying your products and services. Because we tend to think in terms of demographic or psychographic segments rather than behaviors, most branding is disembodied from the process of purchase intent to actual purchase. Adding to this disconnect, customer purchase behavior is vastly different today. Not only do people buy based on input and affirmations of their own community, but also to share the value they receive from their purchases with others in their tribe. People don’t buy just to improve their self-image alone. The behavioral drivers for customers today are: to be a part of something, add, improve, create value, to make a difference in their lives and in their community.
Influencing behavior through your identity
Your identity has three components:
• who you are
• what value you provide
• what experiences customers have through their engagement with your product.
You are in control of the relevancy of all three of these elements. They must arrive in perfect alignment with every customer interaction. The key to influence in your marketing is prompting customer behavior or action, not simply increasing awareness. The who, what and how of your value proposition (identity) must be directly linked to customer behavior in the purchase process, otherwise you’ll be spending money blowing your own hot air through the media pipe. To be truly influential, your identity must rely less on symbolism and address customer habits, foster trust, prompt action, earn loyalty, and facilitate sharing. Thinking about your identity (a.k.a. branding) in this way creates a brave new world where you write new rules for your marketing success that your competitors will find nearly impossible to emulate.