We all have a favorite brand. Whether it’s a brand of soda pop, a clothing line, a particular brand of shoes, or what have you, virtually all of us are loyal to one brand or another.
Why do we love the brands we do? Our initial answer might be “because that brand tastes better,” or “those clothes looks the nicest,” or “those shoes are more comfortable than the others.”
But are any of those things true? Surely there’s a soda pop out there that tastes just as good, and clothes that look just as nice, and shoes that fit just as well. The answer, of course, is that brand loyalty is as much about psychology as it is about objective factors like quality. Much has been written about the psychology of branding, and it yields some fascinating insights.
Two university researchers — Jennifer Escalas of Vanderbilt University in Nashville and James Bettman of Duke University in North Carolina — found that people purchase certain brands as a way of creating their personal identity. The greatest incidence of this was seen in people who had found a brand that they felt most reflected their own values, such as “conservative”, “athletic” and “hip”.
Companies that understand the psychological factor that goes into branding tend to be the most successful, research shows. When a business understands why their customers purchase their brand, they can create and promote products in ways that ensure those customers keep buying the brand.
This, of course, creates a big challenge for businesses. First, you need to understand your business — both its strengths and its weaknesses. This is especially critical for businesses that produce a whole suite of products. Who’s buying those various products, and why? Are you giving them what they want on both an objective and emotional level?
Yes, it’s great to be known for quality, but even the best-made product won’t sell if your brand isn’t attractive to people on an emotional level. No one has ever said, “I don’t like their brand, but that company makes such a high-quality product that I always buy it regardless.”
If you make a quality product but the competition is besting you, it’s because your brand isn’t attractive to people. You need to find out why, and then fix the disconnect.
I’ll be following this up with a mini-series of four columns dedicated to the topic of brand transformation. Are you doing all you can to ensure your brand is psychologically attractive to people? Stay tuned!