What is a Brand?
Key Concept: The underlying reason that brand marketing works is because of how your brain is wired to analyze and filter information.
Brand building works because of how the human brain processes, filters, and recalls information.
Your brand can be thought of as the quality or trait which makes you different from everyone else—and therefore memorable. It’s what grabs the customer’s attention as they survey the competitive landscape.
This difference is demonstrated in your brand personality, which is the overall impression you give to your customers—the look, feel, tone, and attitude of your company. In contrast, marketing is how you sell customers the range of products you have to offer. Marketing is the externalized communication of the brand.
The Biology of Brands
Brand building works because of how the human brain processes, filters, and recalls information:
- Minds can’t cope. One weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average 17th century person was likely to come across in their lifetime.
- Minds are hard-wired to notice differences. Very useful if you’re trying to spot a tiger in a field of grass. Also useful if you’re being bombarded with messages. You can simply filter out everything that’s the “same” and focus on those things which are “different.”
- Minds are limited. Seeing is not the same as videotaping the world. Memory is not a tape recorder that you can rewind or cue to something you may have filtered out earlier.
- Minds hate confusion—and give priority to simple ideas. We tend to group things in a way that will allow us to find them later—we build an index based on similarities and differences. Anything that requires complex analysis to understand is off the table.
- Minds are irrational. A choice that makes us comfortable is always preferred over a choice whose benefits are “real” (people are barely rational at all as it turns out).
- Minds don’t change. Humans want the world to be “how we think it is” and changing this is next to impossible. When asked to name all the brands of kitchen blenders, consumers named General Electric second most often, even though GE hasn’t made a blender in over 20 years. GE reminds us of Mom’s kitchen and that makes us comfortable.
Beware of Attributes which are NOT Differentiators:
- Product: Your product is 99.9% the same as your competitors product. Businesses which become product-focused become “what they sell” and not “who they are.” The result is loss of customer mindshare. Where mindshare goes, marketshare follows.
- Quality: Excellent quality is a customer’s baseline expectation of your company. Proving that the quality of your product is higher than your competitor’s is almost always a long-winded and academic presentation.
- Price: Price is the enemy of differentiation. If your company’s offering is truly different, that should be worth something, right? When price becomes the focus of your message you undermine that which makes you unique.
- Service: Claiming to have great service in an ad “makes sense” on the surface (it’s important to our customers, right?). However, claims of service never win new customers—service is how you KEEP customers. Knowing and loving your customers is a given, not a difference.