Skilled entrepreneurs craft a memorable brand that captures the imagination and continuing interest of targeted consumers. A brand is defined as a cluster of experiences that connect with customers at an emotional and personal level. A logo, a tag line or even advertising messages are manifestations of the brand and what a company promises its customers.
Think of a brand as a customer's shortcut to decision making. Each of us, as consumers, is bombarded daily with thousands of product messages designed to entice us to buy a certain offering. We simplify our lives by buying brands that we know and trust. We totally ignore offerings that do not have a significant personal connection.
Our mind, like a powerful and logical computer, inputs data and stores it deep within the brain. When we have a question, we access our memory bank of information for an answer.
Think of a traditional filing cabinet. It has multiple drawers with alphabetical folders in each, complete with data tabs. Within each folder and tab are documents containing saved information. When we need specific content on a given topic, we can find what we seek by using our organized filing system. Our brain functions in a like manner.
In a similar way, computers store data digitally in drawers and folders. Our desktop devices have simple icons that link to important files. Data is easily downloaded, stored and retrieved with a click of a mouse.
Branding is about creating neat tabs, folders and drawers in the minds of customers into which relevant product information can be placed. With such an excellent memory base/file drawer, a consumer can quickly retrieve messages on brands that have a deep personal connection. Let's say it's lunch time and we're hungry. Our mind, based on prior experiences, goes to the mental drawer on food. Three brands are recalled -- Wendy's, Taco Time and Subway. We decide on Subway, the choice mandated by our current diet.
The decision process was fast and easy. There clearly were scores of food options before us, but these were not filed away and were without merit.
To prove my point, please name the following: A high-quality, personalized coffee shop; a brand of high-resolution television; a high-end German automobile; a trusted cream for wrinkle removal; a quality European beer; and a ready-made soup.
If your answers were Starbucks, Sony, Mercedes, Oil of Olay, Heineken and Campbell's Soup, you matched the responses of 95 percent of all people. Most people think of the top brands in a given category.
You probably didn't think of smaller, lesser-known brands such as Green Mountain Coffee, Vizio, BMW, Dove, Guinness or Lipton.
Typically, we have a mental association with leading brand names -- companies that offer quality, dependability, personal touch, ease, comfort, beauty, simplicity. The top brands have earned their place in our mental drawers by having connected with us and our needs through products we know and trust.
When we consume any of these brands, our positive experience matches the product's promise and we continue as loyal customers.
Crest toothpaste exemplifies this notion.
Whatever happened to Ipana toothpaste and its mascot Bucky Beaver? When was the last time you bought Gleem?
Historically, the products in this industry were about cleaning teeth, not fewer cavities. Crest was the first-to-market toothpaste with a new additive called fluoride. When marketers told mothers their kids would have fewer cavities, Crest gave families a simple drawer in which to store their brand shortcut: "Mothers trust Crest to protect kids." Drawer: Mothers. Folder: Kids. Tab: Protection.
Did it work? Absolutely. Today this well-known consumer brand continues to hold the top spot in the minds of American shoppers.
Is a brand drawer about features? Yes. Is it about benefits? Definitely. Great brands combine compelling features and benefits into neat, tight and succinct summaries that buyers will know and trust.
The goal of business leaders is to firmly place in the minds of consumers that their products are the very best choices compared to all other options. This takes place over time as customers become aware, try and enjoy the overall product experience.
In the world of investing, I see savvy entrepreneurs who know how to create and establish a profound connection between their products and the needs of consumers. It's a technique that brings long-term success to business leaders who focus on their customers and how they think.
In my next article, I will discuss brands that build bridges to their customers.
Please send questions to me at www.AlanEHall.com or connect to me at @AskAlanEHall.