Association is the bread and butter of branding. Just take a look at all of the expensive yet massively successful marketing deals brokered on the basis of associating with the NBA: “Sponsorship revenue for the National Basketball Association and its 30 teams totaled $679 million in the 2013-2014 season, up 5.7 percent from the previous year, according to IEG Research.” Branding is an incredibly powerful marketing and sales tactic that is shoved under the rug and simply passed over too frequently.
When leveraged correctly, branding exerts an immense, subtle influence on the buying decisions of consumers. The truth of the matter is that branding is a way to sell to consumers without them realizing that you are selling to them. It works because you have someone associated with your brand promoting it, giving casual observers the sense that the promoter is an unbiased customer who has actually benefitted from the use of your product in a personal way.
Let’s take a closer look at the behind-the-scenes psychology and planning that goes into a branding campaign.
Seth Godin, a prominent American author, entrepreneur, and marketer noted that: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” The basic premise of branding strategies assumes that the consumer is not actively aware of the association between the company running the branding campaign and the promoter. For instance, if you’re thinking about the relationship between Nike and Michael Jordan every time he promotes Nike’s shoes, the impact of the branding attempt and your impression of how good those shoes are will be weaker in comparison to if you were not explicitly aware of that relationship.
There are a number of parts that a branding campaign will try to use to convince you of how their company’s brand is superior to the brands of other companies. A common strategy relies on playing up the quality attached to a specific brand: “Our brand is unique because we give the best quality, just look at this comparison between our product and the leading generic brand in the category!” Even brands that are conventionally labeled as unhealthy like McDonald's make concerted efforts against that image when they are creating their brands.
Trust is arguably the cornerstone of the success of any brand. It’s one of the values that can be eroded the most easily should a company make a big mistake. Most companies don’t always scrutinize their branding attempts thoroughly enough to ensure that their promoters are worthy of their trust.
One of the most infamous cases of this manifests in the case of Subway’s pitchman Jared Fogle. Fogle shot to popularity when he started promoting his weight loss results that significantly incorporated Subway sandwiches as part of his diet. However, his recent sentencing to 15.5 years in prison on the count of a child-sex case quickly thrust both himself and Subway into the center of a brief public out lash.
Companies need to show their customers that they value the business relationship with those customers as part of a branding effort. We can understand the importance and impact of enthusiasm best when we look at the stereotypical types of slogans that airlines use at the beginning and ends of their flight “Thank you for choosing us, we hope to fly with you again.” The importance of enthusiasm is further highlighted in incidents where customers are mistreated like in United Airlines’ recent debacle involving the forcible removal David Dao, a doctor who paid for his seat and did not do anything to warrant his ejection.
As we’ve mentioned before, the art of brand centers around persuading customers as to why they should choose one brand over another. A significant part of that process involves signaling to consumers a personality or a way in which the service or products your brand provides is unique to your brand only. The value of personality is important because it humanizes your business and makes it much more relatable for consumers, which will boost the chances that they will choose your brand over others. Investing in visual displays can dramatically boost the impression that a branding personality can have.
The last key component to successful branding is its lasting power. A brand can be reliable in terms of how many times a product can be used over a period of time and in terms of the services rendered or products sold by that the company each time you hire them. Durability and reusability are universally desired qualities even when it concerns fields like fashion and clothing.