Insights on Brand Strategy

Discovering What Consumers Expect In A Brand

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I recently posted this question about brands on FaceBook and LinkedIn: “Complete this sentence with ONE word. The best brands are ________.”

The responses I received online and in private tell me a few things.

  1. People have high expectations from the brands they use, want to use, and admire.
  2. My friends and family actually listen to me.

My marketing and creative industry connections live and breathe branding. So their answers of “memorable” (which came up most often), “meaningful,” “customer-centric,” “trustworthy,” and “recognizable” came as no surprise. 

Family, friends, and clients who hear me talk about branding often also responded with “consistent,” “reliable,” “truthful,” and “original.” When I asked my wife this question, her response was, “worth the money.”

Of course, a couple of my friends also have a sense of humor. It took me almost a week to figure out what one friend meant by “Russell.” While another’s response of “Drawn on one’s livestock with permanent marker” isn’t far off from the history of branding as a field of practice.

Let’s look at some of the answers my connections gave in reply to my question. I’ve added my two cents as well.

“Memorable”.
Absolutely, so long as those memories related to any experience with that brand are positive. You don’t want to be remembered for something bad unless you’re Dr. Evil.

“Meaningful”.
Yes, brands earn raving fans when there is meaning behind it, and it resonates with their sensibilities and beliefs.

“Customer-centric”.
Always. Modern marketing (since the end of WWII) has put the needs and desires of the customer first, with branding significantly contributing to the overall customer experience.

“Trustworthy” (“Truthful” also came up).
Yes, brands need to be honest with consumers. They also can’t let their customers down, especially their best ones.

“Consistent!” and “Reliable!”.
Brands should be so consistent and reliable that it’s almost boring! This takes effort to do well, but the results are worth it.

“Original!”.
Completely! Or, put another way, unique. Brands need to differentiate themselves from their competition, or else they won’t be memorable.

“Worth the money”.
Not two words, I know, but still a great response. Regardless of the cost, we’re talking about value. Whether you’re paying $20 or $20,000, the best brands provide us with value, and we never regret opening our wallets again and again.  

“Timeless”.
Yes, the most enduring brands have a rich history. Although some have reinvented themselves, which isn’t a bad thing, to stay relevant.

“Recognizable”.
Of course, this goes way beyond a brand’s logo and colors. Recognizability is essential for a brand. If consumers and prospects can’t visually tell the difference between one brand’s products, marketing, and communications from another, it’s a big fail.

As for that “Drawn on one’s livestock with permanent marker” response, while cattle might have preferred Sharpies to hot iron brands, branding as it relates to marketing does trace its roots to this practice. Way back when the symbols branded into livestock served a specific function; to show ownership by the ranch raising them and to deter theft.

Over time, the marks began to represent the quality – or lack thereof – of the livestock and ranches they came from. Eventually, the marks started to have even more significant meaning, as they represented the ranch’s history, values, and reputation. These are all things that resonate with a target audience and help prospects decide to buy from you.

Read that list again and think about your business. Do you think your customers would use words like these to describe your brand? Yes? Excellent, you’re doing things right. If you’re unsure, or the answer is “no,” let’s talk. I can help you develop brand strategies that attract prospects like a moth to a flame and keep them coming back for more.

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