The Real Brand in Your Head

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I saw in a reference to a recent Brandweek survey that people consider brands when making 75% of purchasing decisions. Putting the survey aside for one moment (they would say that brands are critically important wouldn’t they!).

One of the best writers on branding today is Tom Asacker. Asacker suggests that a brand is the ‘feeling’ you associate with a particular product, service or experience. This is actually a big step forward for branding.

First it recognises that the brand is what customers think it is, not what marketers or their ad agencies think it is. If marketers think their brand is a peach but customers think it is a lemon, guess what? It is a lemon!

Secondly it recgnises that brands are primarily driven by emotions (neurobiologically strictly speaking emotions & feelings), not by cognition. Neurobiologists like Antonio Damasio have shown that 95% of decisions we make are primaily driven by emotions & feelings, the majority of which we are not consciously aware of. Same goes for brands.

Finally it recognises that brands are built up over time as the result of many different touchs with them. We subconsiusly update the brand in our head and the emotions, feelings and thoughts we associate with the touches through a process of Bayesian updating.

This means that you should consider the custromer experience from two different perspectives: the inside-out ‘branded experience’ that the organisation puts on for customers and the outside-in ‘experienced brand’ that customers feel and think they actually get. When they differ significantly, then the company is in for trouble as customers become dissatisfied, as customer recovery costs rise and as customers start to defect to brands that are consistent.

The brand in your head is a tough message for many branding people – brought up on junk-food diet of TV, magazines and direct mail – to understand. But as P&G CEO A.G. Lafley recognised in a recent speech to the advertising community in the USA, it is time to ‘Just Let Go’ of their brands’. Strong stuff indeed from a man who knows.

What do you think? Is it time for marketers to wake up and smell the customer-co-created coffee? Or are brands safe in the hands of marketers?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

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