By Charlotte Highfield, managing director, Clear UK
At the age of 16 years old did you ever look in the mirror and ask how you could become more desirable to the opposite sex? (Let face it, it’s a question that most of us are likely to have asked at some point in time)
Now, have you ever asked that very same question of the brand or business you are marketing?
How do I make our product or service more desirable?
You’ve probably also asked how you can encourage consumers to buy your product or service more often; be willing to pay more for it; to try something new from it; to forgive imperfections and even introduce it to a friend.
Successful brands matter, they make a product or service into something to be admired, something that people want to know more about and experience more of.
Clear asked this very question. How does a brand become desirable? We followed it up with a survey of 17,000 people from UK, Germany, China, USA & Singapore, to understand what makes us desire the brands we do and why.
From this survey we have identified the five golden rules to becoming desirable:
Transcend your category
Marketers think of brands in terms of categories. Three out of four people surveyed, however, exhibit a strong preference for a ‘type’ of brand, irrespective of category, country, or culture.
This means that individual brands matter more than categories. As far as the average man on the street is concerned, Agent Provocateur is more like Red Bull than Coca-Cola and Absolut Vodka is closer to MTV than Smirnoff.
This isn’t to say that branded products and propositions don’t need to play the category game; if they don’t meet the specific functional and emotional needs that exist within a category, then they won’t sell.
What this does mean is that brand owners need to consider that they are competing for people’s attention and affection with brands outside their category, as well as those within it. Yes, this means a broader competitive set, but there are also significant positives in this situation; brands have the ability to rise above the categories from which they originate. That’s why Nokia can operate outside paper mills and General Electric can sell everything from credit cards to washing machines.
It also means that brand owners can look to brands outside their categories for inspiration. Absolut is likely to learn more from exploring how MTV creates desire, than from worrying about Smirnoff.
So if you want to future-proof your brand, you need to think big.
Be sharp and simple
Desirable brands do very few things very, very well. The most desirable brands have the most distinct personality profiles. In the minds of consumers, they clearly represent a few, distinct characteristics. This means that great brands also perform terribly across a lot of potentially attractive personality measures.
Apple isn’t seen as a practical brand.
Google isn’t sexy.
BMW isn’t approachable.
And Disney isn’t realistic (!)
So you have a greater chance of being desired if you focus on communicating a more single-minded personality.
More is more, but less is better.
There’s only one personality attribute that is shared by the most desirable brands: ambition
Most brands and companies have a vision or mission that can be used to reassure shareholders and employees that senior management has considered how the company should evolve into the future. But really great brands have a purpose that can inspire people other than their shareholders.
Google wants to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
WWF wants to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
So if you’ve got an ambition, make sure everybody knows about it. It is far more motivating to work for and buy from brands that demonstrate they want to make a difference to people’s lives, rather than leading their categories or growing at a certain rate each year. And if your brand’s mission involves world domination or achieving a 15% ROCE (returned on capital employed), then consider adopting an ambition that’s a bit more people-friendly.
Appeal to the heart, hand and mind
The most desired brands achieve a balance between thinking, feeling and acting. They inspire us to love them, to respect them, and they inspire us to want to use them.
Harley Davidson is one such brand. Talked about, revered and held so closely to their hearts that some people are prepared to tattoo it on their bodies. Facebook, on the other hand, is badly let down by its ability to command respect. Rather concerning for a brand that we trust (or not) with intensely personal information.
So if you want to increase the desirability of your brand, it’s important to understand its strengths and weaknesses.
Understand the role your brand plays in people’s lives
The brands we desire say a lot about who we are. The more clearly we can articulate our own personality, the more able we are to identify a ‘type’ of brand that appeals to us, regardless of category. Some of us are drawn to brands that mirror our own values and beliefs.
Brands can also appeal to our aspirations, helping us bridge the gap between how we currently see ourselves and how we would like to see ourselves in the future.
So brands fulfill a very specific role for most of us. This is what makes them so intimate and goes some way to explaining why brands work in the first place. Their potential to create value springs from their ability to play these roles. These roles give us a framework for understanding how desire is created and, consequently, how it can be created and managed.
This piece is adapted from Clear UK’s Brand Desire report, a global study of 17,000 people which was released earlier this month.
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