Understanding what’s important to your customers - whether they are internal or external - and setting expectations accordingly is critical to creating a successful brand. I’ll give you an example of how one company’s thoughtless handling of their brand turned off a potential customer right from the get-go. My colleague Marcy is a devotee of high-end skincare and spa products. When the company she regularly buys her fancy skincare items from asked if she would participate in a consumer research study by giving them feedback on a new line of bath soaps, she eagerly jumped at the chance. But when Marcy received their package of soaps, each in a separate plastic bag with an ID number for the label, she took one look and threw the whole batch under her bathroom sink, never to be retrieved. As she said, “The soaps looked so boring in their uninspired little plastic bags, I had no desire to try them. I just thought, if they don’t care enough about their product to make them enticing, why should I care?” Good question. It’s no surprise that the cardinal rule of branding - products or people - is don’t be boring. It was the total lack of emotional involvement that caused her to dump the soaps, and could easily cause your customers to dump you. To put it even more bluntly, it’s your job to instruct your customers how to feel about you, your products and your services.
With their casual treatment of their new product - what should have been hailed as their latest and greatest even in the simplest of packaging - the company told Marcy to treat them off-handedly. They essentially invited her to ignore them. Had the soap folks set up an expectation by telling Marcy that the product would be unmarked, specifically so she wouldn’t be influenced, or that because she was a long-time customer her feedback was more valuable than anyone’s, or even that they had had some trouble developing the products and really needed her help - maybe, just maybe, she would have had a more positive reaction.
But she was less inclined to help this company out, even with the promise of free soap down the line, than you might if a stranger at the airport asked you to watch their suitcase while they grabbed a Starbucks. Marcy felt no sense of obligation, she experienced no visual hook and she established no relationship with the soap-filled bags. In short, the soap company failed to create an emotional connection. The kiss of death for brands.
So how do you flip your customer’s buy switch from “So what?” to “I’ve got to have it”? What can you learn from the big guys of branding, like Apple, Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola, with their gazillion-dollar marketing budgets? And how can you establish the kind of connections that brands like Trader Joe’s, Nordstrom and Gilt Groupe are so good at creating? Our behaviors and buying decisions are based far more on emotion than logic. So it’s those all-important moments of emotional connection that really count.
Here are some of the primary reasons people buy:
- To feel good: Most human emotions are divided between the desire to increase pleasure and avoid pain. Brands that make us feel good can actually cause brain chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin to be released into our systems. These brands may invoke a feeling of community (Starbucks), luxury (Rolex), comfort (Keds) or well-being (Whole Foods).
- To be desirable: Nature has wired us to want to be desirable to others. How else would we populate the planet? The need to feel desirable may drive us to look better (L’Oreal), smell good (Ban), or engage with others (Match.com).
- To feel safe and secure: Wanting to feel safe goes back to our primitive brain’s desire to avoid pain or danger. This, of course, includes the need to keep our loved ones safe from harm as well. Companies like Volvo, Johnson & Johnson and ADT are well aware of this. Who can forget the adorable baby protected by Michelin tires because “so much is riding on it”?
- To feel significant: Just like your employees who want a sense of purpose along with their coffee mug and computer, consumers want to feel as though they are doing or buying something worthwhile. This includes caring for others (Make-a-Wish Foundation), being of service (Army), or taking care of the planet (Simple Green).
Of course, no one interaction is going to break the bank. But multiply that by dozens, thousands or millions of bad call center experiences, sub-par products or missed deadlines and your customers are bound to find an alternative. Because you aren’t the only game in town...
I hope you liked this post. It's an excerpt from my upcoming book - Capture the Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow. To stay in touch and learn more about all the great free resources that I'll be providing, just sign up for my newsletter at the top right of my website. Thanks!