Shopping and logical thought are often worlds apart. Why do we buy the car we do? Not because it gets the best gas mileage or because it's the best deal. We buy it because we want it. It's about pure desire, rationalized either before or after purchase.
You may think that you're behind the wheel of a Prius because of its fuel economy, but chances are there was also an emotion driving the decision. If it's important to you to be perceived in a certain way, you may choose the hybrid because you think it's cool to be environmentally conscious and believe that others have similarly positive perceptions of being green.
Recently I heard Don Diforio, senior vice president of research for the Advertising Research Foundation, speak at Columbia University about the new neuropsychology theories that are replacing the old consumer behavior beliefs. No longer is it believed that consumers think, feel, do, or follow AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) buying patterns. Rather, according to those who look inside the brain to study the connection between physiology and psychological responses, we are all driven first by emotion. This emotional connection leads to brand desire, which ultimately leads to demand. Granted, convenience factors and rational concerns play a part in the decision-making process, but it is a feeling that acts as the initial spark of interest. Given the masses of information that we keep in our brains, we all still act based on primitive, emotional instincts. It seems we're just cavemen with cars after all.
I had what Oprah calls an "Aha moment." When I'd first learned of AIDA, I thought about my brother-in-law Billy. The model didn't seem to apply to his "buy now, explain later" purchasing process. When he sees something he wants, he gets it. It can be a car, a pair of sneakers, or Swedish fish. He can provide you with an exhaustive litany of reasons for his purchase of a BMW: "You can't drive clients around in a crap car." "It handles well." "It's a sports-car-in-a-sedan package." The truth is, Billy buys into the brand - the lifestyle surrounding BMW. In his mind, it equals success.
This "feel first, think later" advertising model is in line with theories surrounding brands. We as brand marketers and those who work with us believe that brands are simply the established meaning or reputation of a product or service within the minds -and hearts - of consumers. These brands then have values, ideas, and feelings attached to them that allow consumers to make unique emotional connections with them. This is why the Prius brand equates to cool hybrid, green, and environmental awareness and BMW equates to success and a sports car in a luxury package.
Given this new model, the role of brand in marketing becomes even more important. As Diforio pointed out in his recent lecture, the goal of advertising is moving from "creating brand awareness" to "creating brand demand." Not only do consumers need to know about your brand, they need to want your brand. To create this demand, consumers need to attach value to a brand that not only is unique but also motivates them on an emotional or instinctive level.
Now that we know that consumers behave emotionally - at any price point - it is our job to build brands that are differentiated and connect to the target market emotionally first. As Diforio put it, "Emotion involves and motivates and can transfer positive perceptions to the brand."
At Enterprise IG, we believe that this connection is made when a brand is built on a "compelling truth." To get to this, we first assess the company, product, competitors, and the market. These elements are analyzed to deliver a basis that is powerful, actionable, and appealing to the brand's target audience. The compelling truth is transformational, ideally creating emotional preference and differentiation.
When a brand's compelling truth is delivered consistently across the customer experience, it drives emotion and breeds motivation.
Let's not forget about Billy. His life has changed since he first started driving BMWs. He has a beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, and another little one on the way. He's now driving the car that fits his new desires and lifestyle. Want to guess what we recently found in his driveway? That's right, he's driving the quintessential family car - a Volvo.
Jean Brandolini Lamb is a director of brand strategy for Enterprise IG, a global brand agency. (firstname.lastname@example.org)