A sound bit of branding theory

SimonGeneral5 Comments

If you go to marketing school you learn a whole bunch of theories and models that they tell you underpin marketing – things like the 4 (5, 6 or 6) P’s, the AIDA model, and Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs.

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.

James Hammond

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What’s behind his theories on branding is a belief that most “modern” marketing theories are, in fact, woefully out of date – developed 20 or 30 years ago they are increasing irrelevant in the markets most of us work in today.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.

James has websites at www.brandcreative.net and www.brandhalo.co.uk

[tags]branding, brand+halo, james+hammond, brand+strategy[/tags]

5 Comments on “A sound bit of branding theory”

  1. Simon Collister

    Oooo. You brand marketeers – such a devious lot 😉

    I haeard a good bit of advice at the NMK Forum too this week – along the same lines. Someone asked if brands were insignificant nowadays. The resounding answer was: no, but all the old tricks are. It was Antony Mayfield who then said brands can’t buy respect or reputation anymore, they have to earn it. Wise words.

  2. Heather Yaxley

    Brands (ie organisations and their offerings) still need to have substance, which is where service, product (benefits and featuers) come in, along with lots of other rational and emotional aspects. That’s how you earn respect and reputation – not just with superficial emotional associations (cue stylistic lifestyle adverts!!)

    Did he mention Elaboration Likelihood Model? This covers some of the points re central and peripheral processing of messages that are relevant for emotion vs rational. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaboration_Likelihood_Model for a quick overview).

  3. Simon

    Dan – thanks for your comment. Checked out your blog – looks really interesting so have added it to my feed reader.

    Simon – I’m not sure brands could every buy respect or reputation, but I think at the time they thought they could. The role of a brand has definitely changed since then.

    Heather – he didn’t mention the ELM by name. He did talk about a theory (can’t remember the name) where if a consumer is positively predisposed to a brand then the brain naturally is less receptive to negative factors than it would otherwise have been – essentially we’re more forgiving of failings in brands we like – which makes sense I suppose.

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