Building Brands with Attitude

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The truth is that most products are really not that different, but the best branders in the world have mastered the voodoo that makes us think their products are remarkably better. How do they do it? Well, they are smart enough to move the customer to the foreground and their own products to the periphery.

All fabric softeners will soften your clothes, but for some reason most of us keep reaching for the Downy bottle. All airline seats are pretty much the same, but astute branding by Virgin has turned that lumpy seat into a bad boy ride across the Atlantic. Southwest airlines has turned that seat into a fun adventure ride, and Singapore airlines has turned it into a throne worthy of royalty.

Each of these airline managers was smart enough to realize that they are not in the transportation business–they are in the adventure business. That means they did not start their branding efforts by looking at their planes. They created brands that were entirely customer-centric. They wrapped their entire company in the self-esteem priorities of their customers, then built an airline that would reflect back those deeply held beliefs.

When Branding, Follow These Steps:
1.) Completely remove the product from the conversation during the initial stages
2.) Focus totally on the customer’s priorities and beliefs
3.) Then you can take the next step of building a product around that self-image. Your brand will mirror deeply held customer beliefs

1.) Remove the Product from the Equation
This preoccupation with the product is a key mistake that many companies make when starting a branding campaign. If you start the branding process with the product, the sole relationship with your customer will be built around how that customer sees your product, not how they see themselves. Instead, reflective branding techniques turn mere customers into loyal fans.

2.) Focus on the Customer’s Priorities and Beliefs
Tide doesn’t sell detergent. When the big brains at Procter and Gamble sit down to define a brand position for Tide detergent, they don’t let their detergent distract them from the true goal of the brand – making women feel warm, motherly, and secure. They understand that detergent is pretty much all the same and during these initial stages, they remove it from the branding equation. They do a deep dive into motherhood, not laundering.

What makes Tide different is that it wraps the very mundane task of laundry in all the fondest hopes of parenting. When mothers do laundry, they aren’t just performing the utilitarian task of clothes cleaning. Any detergent can do that. Mothers pay more and go out of their way to buy Tide because it transforms those clothes into an icon of exemplary parenting and the warm feelings of home.

Just as Tide does, you should start the branding process by putting your product on the shelf. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Most company managers are so excited about the good things they create that it is hard for them not to begin the branding process with a long list of all the things that are important to them.

3.) Build Your Product Image
Once the brand position is firmly defined, you should come back around and develop an intricate execution plan that shows exactly how this brand will be demonstrated within your product, PR and all communication. But the branding process should not start here because the tantalizing distraction of your own product will tempt you to neglect your customer’s self-image. You will be tempted to downplay their needs, and this will lead you down a path of self-congratulatory hubris.

Build an attitude-focused foundation that can take you anywhere because it connects with the customer on a soul level. Once you clearly understand their motivations, you can build a product that can continually change and grow, without the danger of leaving the customer behind.

Graeme Newell
Graeme Newell shows companies how to build fanatical customer loyalty through emotional marketing research. He is an emotional marketing speaker and President of 602 Communications. Graeme turns mere buyers into passionate groupies. Check out his web site, training videos, and white papers.

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