Think about it: why do customers make the brand decisions they do? Is it because they’ve rigorously researched products’ ratings across the Internet and read up on Consumer Reports? Is it from past experience with brands? Is it from asking friends and family?
While it could be all of these things, there is evidence that most consumers make brand decisions because of how the brand makes them feel. Essentially, it’s mostly an emotional response that speaks to the consumer at the psychological fulfillment level, according to a recent article by Alex Milstein writing for Furniture Today.
“It’s a narrative that surrounds the facts and feelings created by your brand,” he wrote. “Brand stories inspire an emotional reaction, which is important because many consumers make choices based on their emotional response to a business. Think of your brand story as the personality of your business. Are you humorous? Are you honest, charitable or reliable?”
The idea that consumers are judging brands based on their emotions is a bit terrifying. Who wants their branding success to rest on people’s psychological quirks? But it’s important that companies understand that it’s not them deciding whether their brand story is meaningful. It’s customers.
“While you need to tell your own story identifying your brand, the ultimate decision about your brand is left in the hands of your customers,” wrote
Milstein. “Your customers will decide whether your story is admirable, generic, relatable, boring or anything else. And since customers are the ones you want to embrace your brand, you’ll want to tell a brand story they can emotionally connect with. To help with this, research what your customers value most — integrity, morality, ethics — and figure out how your brand story relates to the values of your customers.”
It’s true that you can never be all things to all people, so don’t try. Determine who your buyers are (or should be) and aim your brand story at those customers. You probably won’t be able to claim an identity as luxurious and status-conscious, for example, if your goal is also to attract customers with discount prices. Don’t try. Be consistent, or you will confuse customers and wind up with no clear identity at all.
It’s also important to remember that cultivating a brand identity is a “one and done” process. You’ll need to continue doing it, via old and new channels, through expansions and contractions of the economy, throughout every season and for the rest of the life of your company. This is particularly true when it comes to younger customers.
“You need to keep up with your brand story every day, whether it’s through social media, blogs or newsletters,” wrote Millstein. “You can’t let your brand sit idly by and hope it gains traction. People respond to creative, constant content with loyalty, especially Millennials. Sixty-two percent of Millennials feel online content drives brand loyalty, according to a study by NewsCred. Keep your brand voice in mind at all times and for everything you do for your business.”
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