Thinking of brands
People think of a brand as much as a brand thinks of people.
People do not think about a brand unless they have a need and a brand serves it well. Those needs could be functional or emotional. Several products came into existence to serve the many needs of people and brands drop their ads and visual identities whenever and wherever possible to grab their attention. Early in the infancy of this industry, naive-experts (oxymoron) understood that a brand is what people know and what they think about it and not what the brand actually wants to be. A brand exists as a knowledge structure in the mind of the consumer The power of a brand lies in what resides in the minds of customers. And, so, accordingly those brands that make people think become stronger brands. Such strong brands are always rooted in culture or in daily lives. To emphasise, stronger brands deliver customer value by providing culturally resonant stories and images that customers use to buttress their identities.
Marlboro was reintroduced in 1955 as a filtered cigarette targeted to men. The new advertising showed tough men sporting a military tattoo on the top of one hand. The ads told stories of these men enjoying themselves working on their car or fishing. This launch was a huge success that fetched a 5%increase in share. This tattoo campaign was pulled in 1959. For the next four years, agencies experimented with a variety of ideas intended to communicate masculinity and none of them worked. Finally in 1965 the brand took off again with a campaign depicting the autonomous life of industrious cowboys laboring on the range, with music from The MagnificentSeven playing in the background, and named this new imaginary place‘Marlboro Country’.
Budweiser was a competitive but not dominating brand in the 1970s, strongly challenged by other well-known brands. In 1983, they launched “This Bud’sfor You,” a campaign that showcased men working cheerfully and industriously in artisanal trades, men whom Bud saluted with abaritone-voiced announcer proclaiming “this Bud’s for you!” The results were startling. American men, particularly working-class men, flocked to the beer. By the middle of the decade, Budweiser was unchallenged as the most desirable beer in the country, dominating the premium segment.
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People think for themselves and not for the brands. They are insanely busy and unapologetically forgetful. A brand can have a moment with them provided the brand relates itself to them culturally and individually.
Brands have no choice but to think about people. ‘People can remember brands but brands cannot remember people’ is an obvious overstatement but it emphasises the need for doing something worth remembering.
A Lexus dealer once delivered a serviced car to a customer. The next day, the customer complained of a leak from somewhere which left a dark stain on the concrete floor of his garage. The usual apology of a luxury brand would consist of two more free services or something in that line. But the dealer serviced the car for free again and instead of getting the floor cleaned, he replaced the entire concrete floor with a new one.
When Apple first thought of opening their own stores, the primary thing they are worried about is the customer experience. Their idea of brick-and-mortar stores were those that offer an immersive experience. To test their ability, they erected a wooden replica of their pre-planned store in the outskirts of the city only to dismantle it because Steve Jobs didn’t like it. Though they fell short of time and budget, they worked around their shortcomings and what we see today is a result of months of experimentation. The idea of the GeniusBar too holds a similar back story.
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Brands have so much to lose with each touchpoint. The ad could be great but the shopping experience could be dissatisfying or the product itself could be poorly designed. A brand’s job is to assimilate everything onto the same page. An average product and an average service creates an average impression. A Great product and a great shopping experience create a lasting impression. Sloppy product with a great service and an average ad create only confusion. This confusion is harmful in a competitive market. Nike is based upon ‘authentic athletic performance’, which exists as a knowledge structure in customers’ minds. Yet, consumers’ knowledge of ofNike’s athletic performance is inconsequential. They hold similar knowledge structures for Adidas, Puma and other athletic brands. This knowledge does not differentiate success from failure, and has nothing to do with why consumers valueNike’s brand symbolism. Consumers value Nike primarily because they find value in the stories that have been embedded in Nike, its symbolism, and draw upon these stories in their everyday lives.