Brands and the organizations, products and services that they represent must deliver real customer value. That is, they must address real human needs and desires. And they must do so for monetary and convenience-related costs that deliver at least a reasonable, if not an outstanding, value. So, brands should deliver real functionality. Often, the most visionary and innovative brands and the ones that make the best use of emerging technologies are best at doing this. So are brands that are backed by operationally excellent organizations and whose organizations stress outstanding customer service.
Having said that, there is a less tangible, but equally, if not more important element to branding – what the brand stands for symbolically. Research has shown that most decisions are made emotionally. And people are emotional animals. A brand that has a clear and admirable mission and vision, that has strongly articulated values, that is associated with important ideas, that takes a strong stand for what is right - that brand will win people’s hearts and loyalty. Further, research has shown that these brand associations can be created well before the product or service purchase or usage experience. And they will actually enhance the product purchase and usage experience even though these associations are completely intangible.
While some brand managers, depending on organization structure and roles, may have control over the more tangible brand benefits, every brand manager should have control over the symbolic brand values and associations. And this is where the magic occurs. I encourage you to think deeply about how your brand can inspire people, how it can make them feel good about the state of the world. Take your brand to the next level. Take it beyond functionality to the world of compelling ideas and emotionally moving values.