Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Laddering Research

When we conducted laddering research at Hallmark, we discovered that most product and brand benefits ultimately supported the underlying need to preserve self-esteem. (Laddering is a research technique that probes consumers to better understand underlying basic human values the brand addresses. It investigates benefits that underlie product attributes, consequences that result from the benefits, and values that underlie the consequences. The results are often mapped to outline the brand’s benefit structure.) Different benefits may have followed different paths to that end, but, ultimately, the need that they fulfilled was the same fundamental one: to preserve self-esteem. We explored certain emotional end benefits—self-affirmations that contribute to different aspects of a person’s self-esteem; among them:
  • I am frugal.
  • I am competent.
  • I am successful.
  • I am a good mother.
  • I am a good wife.
  • I am a good friend.
  • I am unique.
  • I am lovable.
  • I am making a positive difference in the world.
  • I am in control of my life.

Although the following data is from a study conducted decades ago, it points out that some of the most powerful motives are fundamental ones. Some of the most effective advertising over time has tapped into these motives. I have observed that the most powerful brands and products are those that help people stay healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In fact, brands and products that can help people with the following (largely spiritual needs) are extraordinarily powerful:
  • A sense of purpose
  • A sense of community
  • A sense of self-worth
  • A sense of well-being
  • Personal empowerment
  • Healthy, trusting relationships
  • Peace
  • Hope
  • Joy

To that list you could also add communication that taps into any of the higher order needs from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: affiliation, esteem, or self-actualization.

Reprinted from Brand Aid, available here
© 2015 Brad VanAuken

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Customer-First Branding

I have now worked with more than 200 brands. In doing so, I have not only worked with the marketing teams but also the leadership teams. Each organization has a unique leader with a unique leadership style and a unique culture. One truth that is obvious to me having briefly embedded myself in many different organizations is that if the leader and the leadership team put the customer first in everything that they do, their organization and its brand thrives. If they are inwardly focused or primarily financially focused, they struggle more to succeed. 

The primary purpose of any organization, for profit or not-for-profit, is to serve people in one way or another. Even not-for-profit organizations that focus on animal rights or environmental preservation are doing so because of the will of their supporters. Organizations that forget who they are serving or why or who have financial targets as their primary objectives often lose their way and end up struggling. 

So, I encourage you to create a mission-driven organization and brand. Fight tirelessly to better serve your customers each and every day. In so doing, your organization and brand will thrive. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Brand Management Issues

If you are responsible for any area of brand management or marketing, I am seeking your input regarding the most pressing brand management and marketing issues that you, your organization or your brand faces. 

Please click on the link below to take the survey.


And please invite clients and colleagues to take the survey too.

I will report the results in an upcoming blog post.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Brands & Meaning

As more and more people climb toward the apex of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs throughout the world, the search for meaning becomes an increasingly important and widespread pursuit. Historically, the majority of people were so busy surviving that they didn't have time to think about meaning. And, if they did, institutionalized religions were more than happy to provide them with pat doctrinal answers. 

But today, more and more people are searching for meaning in their lives. In fact, for some, it becomes an existential crisis. "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What is the meaning of my life?" "What should I live for?" "Can I really make a difference in the world?" "Does my life matter at all?"

I would contend that brands can help people discover meaning. Patagonia embraces the spiritual and rejuvenating qualities of nature and wilderness with the conviction that it must be protected and preserved. Newman's Own believes that business profits can be channeled to make the world a better place. Tesla believes that sustainable, clean energy must be developed and embraced to create a livable environment for future generations.

Can your brand give people a cause and a reason to live passionately? Can it stir something deep inside them that says, "Yes, I can make a difference. Yes, my life does matter."?

Brands that are focused on truly meaningful missions, ones that lead to the greater good, have the power to captivate and mobilize people. 

For more information on brand management and marketing, read Brand Aid, available here

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Marketing & Common Sense

Common sense: noun - the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions; sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts; good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

Here is a little secret that I have learned. You can take many marketing courses. You can read dozens of marketing books. You can know everything there is to know about brand positioning or advertising or search engine optimization, but if you don't have common sense, you will not be a highly successful marketer.  

There are may types of intelligence. IQ measures one type. You have heard of emotional intelligence. There is spatial intelligence. Linguistic intelligence. Kinesthetic intelligence. Musical intelligence. Existential intelligence. Logical-mathematical intelligence. Naturalist intelligence. And intra-personal intelligence. But the intelligence I am referring to is common sense. What do I mean by this?

You intuitively know how someone is going to behave. You know what is safe to do and what is not safe to do. You know how someone is going to react to something. You know the most logical places to look for something that is missing. You know what will work and what will not work. You know what will motivate people and what will enervate them. You know what someone is thinking. You know what is on his or her mind. And you know what you can say that will make him or her feel better. You come up with simple ways to solve everyday problems. You can get things done without overthinking them. This is common sense.

How does this apply to marketing? You know who is most likely to buy your product and who is less likely to purchase it. You know what people are thinking and what you need to do or say to motivate them to buy your product. You know what is holding people back and you can help them overcome these barriers. You know where people are most likely to go to get their information. You know who they are mostly likely to believe. And you know the arguments that can best work to change their minds. And you know where they are most likely to go to purchase your product. And rather than following complex formulas or plans, you just do what you know will work. You keep it simple and you do what makes the most sense. This is common sense marketing. 

Forget about the fancy buzz phrases. Forget about the new shiny objects. Forget about the latest marketing theory. Or the latest social media craze. Forget about the latest consulting jargon. Forget about the latest hot methodology. Just keep it simple and do what makes sense. This is common sense marketing. Never lose sight of good old common sense.