Brands play a major role in the lives of people and companies. However, many don’t really understand why and how people use them. If entrepreneurs and marketers adapted the customer view they would become better at serving them, as well as unleash their brand’s full potential. The company perspective has often taken precedence over the customer. It is time to flip our thinking and re-visit household truths with an open mind in order to re-write them.
From the company to customer centric view
Let’s start by examining the commonly stated benefits of brands. A strong brand has distinct and desirable benefits that are continually delivered, according to promise, over time. It’s lighthouse qualities can lead to top-of-mind, good will, loyalty and advocacy. A strong image can command a price premium, but also increase the monetary value of the brand itself (brand equity). In the long run a strong brand, like CAT, can act as a launch pad for new products.
However… while companies focus on maximizing themselves, people are more interested in improving their lives. While companies take the time to orchestrate their brand identity, people are more interested in constructing their selves. While companies would like to cultivate their relationship with customers, it would sometimes be more realistic to admit that people are more interested in developing ties with each other. There doesn’t have to be a conflict between the company and customer perspective, but the problem is that the customer-centric view is skewed in favor of that of the company.
The brand as a resource
It is popular to think of a brand as a person, accentuating the relationship a person can have with a brand. I think it can be liberating, and complementary, to think of the brand as a tool that brings about change, much like a bridge which leads to a new destination. This forces us to see the brand from the customer perspective. There are three major ways that people use brands as resources to enrich their lives. Let’s explore them one-by-one through an example: the HEMI-powered grill.
The HEMI-powered grill
“What can you HEMI?” was a contest that challenged people to build their own conceptual machines using the HEMI V8 engine. A one-of-a-kind HEMI-powered grill was used at the event that awarded the top 5 finalists. Let’s use this original barbecue as an example of how you could use this brand to 1) do, 2) become and 3) belong.
What the HEMI-powered grill can help you DO – Functional benefits
What you can do with the HEMI-powered grill is obvious, but what you might not know is that it can help you host extremely large barbecue parties. If you have a regular Weber grill (like I do), then you probably know that it can be a challenge to keep a large gathering of guests satisfied. The HEMI grill makes this an exceedingly trivial task. It can, for example, cook 240 hot dogs in 3 minutes, using the power and torque of the engine!
What the HEMI-powered grill can help you BECOME – Self-constructive benefits
The HEMI-powered grill is covered by more than 330 square feet of steel and boasts 345 horsepowers. This in combination with the meaning it can draw upon from sources such as NASCAR, Chrysler, innovative engine development and texas barbecue makes it a potent resource if you want to express your strength or masculinity. The presumtive cost, over-complexity and one-of-a-kindness of this piece can be used to express your uniqueness.
It’s interesting to ponder upon the similarities between a grill master and a DJ. They often stand on the side focused on their art, while at the same time being the enablers of a social event. Notice how the HEMI-powered grill elevates the chef off the ground, as if on a stage (!). While a DJ stands at a booth serving music and facilitating social interaction, the HEMI-powered grill does the same except with food. The HEMI-powered grill can be used to express your role as a performer and social enabler.
How the HEMI-powered grill can help you BELONG – Social benefits
The HEMI-powered grill can offer you a ticket to various social destinations. Considering the meaning of the HEMI-engine you can use it to connect with motor enthusiasts. The grill itself can help you connect with barbecue or cooking tribes convening in online spaces like Grilling.com. This connection can be further advantageous if the HEMI brand is aligned with values and beliefs carried in these tribes. The proud owner of a HEMI-powered grill may not exploit the possibility to actually interact with people, but rather carry a fictional sense of being connected with like minded.
Unleash the full potential of your brand
People can value your brand for the benefits they bring to their lives on several levels. Understanding why and how is the same as understanding the maximal potential of your brand. While you may choose to highlight one or a few differing and desired benefits, it is important to get a grasp of the full palette of benefits beyond functional value. The Customer Centric Brand Pyramid model can help to illustrate all that your brand can offer. In the end it is up to each individual and group to decide what they want to use from your brand’s smorgasbord of meaning.
In some circumstances it is beneficial to focus on functional benefits, depending on the competition, product category and overall strategy. However many entrepreneurs and marketers are stuck communicating functional benefits, because they have not understood the full range of benefits that their brand can offer. The problem with functional benefits are that they are easy to copy, and seldom spur a high engagement and loyalty. Self-constructive and social benefits on the other hand are difficult to copy and treasured by people for their symbolic perks. Regardless of which benefits you plan to cultivate and communicate, they should all begin with the 3 reasons people value brands: to do, belong, and become.
Ask yourself the following: Why do people value your brand? What self-constructive benefits does your brand offer? How does it help people connect with each other? Have you realized the full potential of your brand?.