I went to a CIM Kent Branch presentation yesterday by branding consultant James Hammond. I have to admit I went along expecting to hear what I already knew about branding and have a generally nice evening.
But I was wrong. I had a nice evening but James’ presentation forced me to challenge some of the thoughts that I have about branding and marketing in general.
What’s behind his theories on branding is a belief that most “modern” marketing theories are, in fact, woefully out of date – developed 20 or 30 years ago they are increasing irrelevant in the markets most of us work in today.
James believes that nowadays customers don’t buy features and benefits, they buy brands.
Sounds a bit glib really, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was true.
In making purchase decisions, consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. But rather than serving to inform their decisions, this information overload confuses them to the point where the only way they can make a purchase decision is based on your own value judgements – coming from your own individual world view.
The only way brands can make connections is therefore by articulating emotional benefits of a product that connect with a purchaser’s world view – features and benefits just aren’t enough.
Of course any branding presentation just wouldn’t be right without a definition of brand:
Branding is the total experience a customer has with your company, its product or service
The beauty of James’ definition of brand is that it exists in the customer’s mind – it’s the experience they have, rather than the one you provide. Most definitions of brand rely on what the company does, rather than the customer’s experience.
I won’t go into real depth here on James’ presentation – his full set of slides is here.
The main point I took away is about how the human brain processes emotional response faster than rational response. It’s a medically proven fact apparently.
This means that consumers, even if they may protest otherwise, make purchase decisions based on emotional response, not rational response. Brand is the way to generate the right emotional response, and James has some sound methods to do just that.
James explained this really well with a combination of marketing theory, psychology and neuro-linguistic programming.
If you get the chance to catch James presently he’s well worth listening to. He’s also got a book and CD tutorial coming out later this year which sets out his theories and supporting evidence in more detail.
I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for his book, and be thinking about how I can use his branding theories in my day-to-day work.