In marketing circles, we focus on brand building by effectively reaching customers, and getting their endorsement. The business intelligentsia has been preaching about the need to connect with customers on both intellectual and emotional levels for many years. Most of us would readily agree with this idea. But as marketers, we need to ask ourselves which is more potent in brand building via consumer response: the mind or the heart?
The importance of brand differentiation
Brand differentiation is a truly vital element here. And that makes it imperative for a company to meet consumer needs on an emotional rather than merely an intellectual level. It also points to being able to execute customer service at a consistently high level. Human interaction and customer satisfaction help differentiate and cement relationships with a brand like nothing else.
For the consumer, every touch point with a company’s products or services: the packaging, the web site, its special offers, its advertising and promotions, as well as its customer service, must all work in concert to create a cohesive brand experience. A positive experience in one channel does not create a connective brand experience: the sum of all of these consumer touch points, if properly managed and aligned, do.
If companies think they are in the business of selling products and services, they should think again. They are actually in the relationship building business, and that must mean emotional involvement on the part of the consumer. Building strong customer relationships – B2B or B2C – directly correlates to the development of brand loyalty … and brand equity.
Packaging is a unique brand communicator
While tangible, packaging can deliver the intangibles of the brand like nothing else because the consumer can see it, touch it and be engaged by it in a physical manner. It can also speak to the heart, not just the mind. Packaging that’s purely functional, simply listing features and benefits alone, elicits an intellectual response. It motivates consumers to think and employ reason: ”Should I purchase this brand vs the other brands here?” It does not, however, trigger a quick decision. Decision-making is a process.
On the other hand, packaging that unabashedly appeals to the emotions of the customer, leads to action. The use of brand identity, structure, typography, color, imagery and iconography work together to evoke an emotional response, effectively stopping consumers in their tracks. We humans are emotional beings and if brands do not align themselves within our human experience, or touch us in an emotive way, why would they have any appeal to us?
Since we know that retail studies demonstrate over and over again that up to 85% of consumer purchases are made on impulse, and within shorter and shorter time frames, how meaningful is it when the consumer makes an emotional connection to one particular brand among a myriad of choices on the retail shelf? If that product then delivers on its brand promise, how much more likely will it be for that consumer to begin forming a relationship to it, especially if all other touch points of the brand are aligned?
Some marketers are of the opinion that the consuming public is more fickle today. While noting that there are many more brands, products and services flooding the marketplace, we should remember that the basic consumer need has always been, and continues to be the same. Consumers will buy a company’s products or services if there is true or perceived differentiation, a high level of service and consistent value – especially if they have formed an emotional connection and deepening relationship with the brand. Remember: loyalty can’t be bought. It must be earned.