I have a confession to make…my name is Kirsten and I am addicted to brands. I love everything about them. They way they look the way they make me feel and the colour and movement they bring to our society. Brands bring joy to so many, they cause fights with spouses and they create tribes. They make your emotions come alive, sometimes good sometimes bad. The world would be 50 shades of Beige (there I go talking about a brand already) if it wasn’t for brands colouring our world.
Brands are a reference point for most news bulletins, talk back radio, sport reports and general conversations (BTW I lurve that new Sass & Bide top you are wearing, you got that at Myer?). Brands are also the commercial backbone of the planet.
The word brand however has changed over time. The original meaning of the word brand as taken from my Macquarie Concise Dictionary;
- a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron. That’s not such a nice vision. Next meaning please;
- a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership etc That’s better, but lets review the last meaning;
- a trademark or trade name to identify a product, as that of a distributor, or a manufacturer or other producer. OK now that’s something that I can relate to.
This meaning is great for the industrial revolution, however in 2012 we are in the midst of the Connection Revolution where brands and people become one in the consumers eyes. So I would like to further challenge this last meaning and include YOU as a brand. As crass as it sounds everyone is being evaluated with the same characteristics as a brand is being evaluated. Whether you are in the public eye or not people are judging, and compartmentalising us based on certain traits that evoke an emotion similar to those emotions that brands create in the consumer behaviour process.
The two most famous and over used examples of how people have become brands are Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian so I promise I won’t talk about them. Now that you have got the image in your mind, put them in your “brand box” so we can continue…..great thanks.
Consumers want to relate to brands, we want to know about the people behind the brands so we can not only evaluate a brand but we can include the person behind the brand in that evaluation process.
Starbucks Coffee is the most famous coffee brand in the world, the man behind the brand Howard Shultz is just as famous as the white cup with the green logo.
The late Steve Jobs with Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, Naomi Simpson and Red Balloon and the people and the brand list go on.
As consumers we now expect to see a real person, we want to feel a connection to that brand and we want to feel like we are part of that tribe.
The people don’t necessarily need to be famous and beautiful highly paid brand ambassadors, that’s ok but sometimes it doesn’t always work either. Toni Collette in the latest campaign for the Commonwealth Bank is a perfect example of a famous well-loved person not resonating with consumers. Yet I bet you all still remember Bernie Fraser the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the face of Australian Super – “it’s the super of the future”.
So what is it that makes brands and people connect. In the case of the above two examples the traits that were hit or miss to make that crucial brand connection was authenticity, relevance and an absolute understanding of what the person stood for. As a consumer we can understand the connection with the geeky man with the funny voice telling us about superannuation. He has relevance and credibility in telling the message, he is totally authentic and we know that this guy has spent his career working with and therefore is all about money. We know what he stands for. The exact opposite is true for Toni Collette reading a poem in a bank ad.
A connection with a person or product as a brand also occurs when a consumer can safely put that “brand” in a box, we can compartmentalise in our own mind where that brand sits on our personal emotional radar – quickly back to the Paris and Kim example – and now back to me – phew.
To get cut through to the emotional radar of consumers to have any impact on behaviour there needs to be a point where convergence occurs. A time when you and the brand incline towards one another and sparks fly. This does not happen in an instant, a romance period needs to occur. As with any courting stage of a romance there are three key characteristics to get those sparks flying.
Attention to Detail – remember those first few dates, your clothes were just perfect, your car was clean, lip-gloss was always applied. Every little detail to make sure you were confident in putting your best self forward. Your date knew who you were and what you stood for through the illustration of all the little details that you so meticulously attended to. As a result of all the details combined together a relatable connection either happened or it didn’t. You knew you were from the same “tribe” and conversation was effortless. You sought to get to know this person deeper. A relationship has now begun. A relationship with a brand is just the same. It’s the details that communicate to consumers that this is a brand I can trust, I relate to and is a reflection of who I am.
The third characteristic and the one that can be overlooked by so many brands is consistency. Once a relationship has been entered into, consistency with the details needs to continue. Never rest on your laurels when it comes to communicating your brand image.
Once romanced and a relationship entered into consumers want to feel safe with their decision. Stay consistent, don’t deviate too far away from your original position as you will risk disenfranchising your current consumer base.
The evolution of brands is natural and expected just make sure you take your tribe on the evolution journey with you. Thank you Madonna.
So if you feel like you are not getting the traction you want ask yourself:
- Am I being authentic – is what I am saying, doing, wearing true to who I really am and what I stand for?
- Is what I am saying relevant to the audience that I am communicating to and can they feel satisfied that I am the best person to tell that message?
- Do I sweat the small stuff when it comes to the detail? If you don’t it’s time that you did. All those little things really do matter.
- Do you often look over your brand from an objective point of view and review how the details are going? It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day doing and take your eye away from the small things that do really matter.
So branding can be summarised a little like one of those inspirational quotes on Facebook.
Be true to yourself, know who you are and sweat the small stuff.
Or how I personally like to define it – You run into your ex at the shopping centre and you look fabulous – that’s branding.
This article was originally written and published for the Little Black Dress Group – you can check them out here