Monday, May 21

Humanizing Business: Brand Research, Part 1 of 3

The Relational Capital Group (RCG) published some compelling brand research across seven different white papers in the April 2012 edition of the Journal of Consumer Psychology. It was conducted in collaboration with social psychologists at Princeton University and University of Louvain.

The overall conclusion suggests evidence that consumers judge and interact with brands in much the same way they do with other people and social groups. As a result, brands that exhibit warmth and competence have a greater ability to establish trustworthiness and long-term loyalty.

"It turns out that recent efforts by brands and companies to digitize, automate and outsource their interactions with consumers are fundamentally at odds with the way humans perceive, judge and build loyalty to brands," said Chris Malone, co-author of the lead research paper and chief advisory officer of the Relational Capital Group. "As a result, consumers are more cynical, distrustful and disloyal toward large brands and companies than ever before." 

After studying the seven interrelated abstracts, I thought it might be useful to explore and highlight several of them this week in three parts, with the first abstract highlighted [Journal of Consumer Psychology 22 (2012), 186-190] written by Kevin Lane Keller, professor of marketing, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. From the Keller abstract, marketers can extract four brand dynamics.

Four Brand Dynamics Every Marketer Ought To Know.

Brand Knowledge. It is broadly defined as all the attributes, benefits, images, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and experiences that become associated with a brand or, in other words, represents the collective exposure someone might have to a brand. As my firm has said before, it can be generally defined as the net sum of all positive and negative experiences as they are tied to brand equity.

Brand Functionality. One of the standout observations in Keller's paper notes that while some brands attempt to appeal to consumers by focusing on image, the most successful brands tend to first ensure that their products and services are made, sold, advertised, and discussed in a way that profoundly affects consumers in the head and the heart. It underpins what I call the Fragile Brand Theory in that everything begins with the product or service and not the "image."

Brand Credibility. Most brand credibility is established not by what brand says, but what it does (and what it says about what it has done). It is best established by their ability to provide products and services that fully satisfy customer needs (which is sometimes offset by the expectations they make); their ability to be honest, dependable, and sensitive to those needs; and their ability to be likable (fun, interesting, dynamic, or any other personality descriptor). For most brands, establishing credibility seems to be much easier than maintaining it.

Brand Resonance. Keller introduces the concept as it refers to the nature of the consumer–brand relationship and, more specifically, the extent to which a person feels that he or she resonates or connects with a brand and feels “in sync” with it. It conjures the words of Phil Dusenberry, former chair of BBDO Worldwide, who seemed to know this instinctively.

The Impact Of Duplicity Between Functionality And Resonance.

One of the most pressing challenges for marketers is operating within the confines of communication that makes sense for the individual brand. Ideally, as outlined above, the most successful brands develop specific products or services that meet customer expectations, and then communicate that functionality in such a way that it connects with select customers.

Instead, where some brands struggle is in their attempt to alter communication with the hope of reflecting a personality or image that appeals to the public (or segmented market) even if those qualities they communicate do not exist. Within social media, others adopt "popular personas" that appear to be successful on specific social networks, even if that image does not reflect their functionality of the brand.

As an illustration, imagine a mediocre technology company attempting to talk its way into being on the cutting edge of its field. While the "talk" might attract attention, it could also set expectations too high for a company more suited to push affordability. Another example might be how many companies attempt to create likability by being fun on a social network like Twitter, but then staffing their brick and motor locations with drones who would rather be somewhere else.

Unfortunately, such tactics tend to create the perception of duplicity between the brand functionality and its resonance, much like Malone pointed out. As a result, the brand continually loses credibility until it eventually collapses. Conversely, marketers that are able to address both their strengths and shortcomings in an authentic way that makes sense for their products, services, and culture stand to have an easier time connecting with consumers and establishing brand loyalty.

To learn more about the papers and abstracts released to the study by RCG, visit their page dedicated to the research. The company specializes in the principles, process and science of lasting, mutually-beneficial business relationships. This study is groundbreaking in its ability to tie scientific data to long-standing theories within the fields of advertising, communication, and marketing.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template