Wednesday, February 27, 2008

the emotional spectrum of branding

Last summer, I posted my frustration about people describing marketing campaigns by the channels they occupy. I offered the following analogy:
If I tell you that Lucy and I speak on the phone, on IM and by text what does this say about my relationship with her? Not much. If I say we joke a lot together, we speak about serious family matters but avoid talk of politics it paints a much better picture.

Channels are a convenient but misleading barometer of brands’ connection with potential customers. What really matters is how much of the emotional spectrum they occupy (in relation to the service they offer).
The key outtakes:
1. Consumers do not see the world through channels
2. 'Brand' is only the sum of the parts consumers happen upon

Everything we see or interact with, from the coffee we drink to the music we buy to the gum we step on, falls into an emotional category. I've attempted to simplify this spectrum into its basic components, from positive to negative.

Please allow me some poetic licence, accept that the order may change for each person slightly and that there is some overlap.

Stuff we encounter is...


'Forgettable' is the neutral mark. Above it are positive feelings, below it, negative. Forgettable things are, for example, cows that aren't purple. Or in this case, cows that don't dance for you, suggest radio shows or kick you in the legs.

If you broadly accept this breakdown then I am fairly confident in saying that a person's day is divided purely into these eight categories. In the attention economy, brands are competing to feature in people's lives within the top four categories; to be inspiring, pleasurable, useful and interesting. The bottom four clearly aren't good business.

This is what today might look like for someone out there. Maybe you...

This is how people view the world. We might not go home and draw pie charts about it (that's just me), but we act based on what gives us pleasure and pain. The sum of these pie chart segments is our mood. Or, if you're willing to entertain a career-ending metaphor, the sum of these parts could be considered, for that moment, the world as a brand. Cough. Cough.

Forgive me.
But I wanted to link this concept of the 'world' as we perceive its parts to the world of a brand as we experience its ingredients. Brands can no longer "be squeezed into slogans, characters, and logos" as successfully as they once were. Companies have to create a world and this world - in my humble opinion - should be based not on channels, but on the same emotional spectrum as their consumers'. (Of course, channels should be chosen to satisfy the spectrum)

Here's what Google might like its world (and therefore, brand) to look like:

Usefulness/utility is clearly the lion's share of its brand.
Nike's, however, looks very different:

This raises a crucial point that lots of people seem to overlook this when discussing brand: Different brands have different roles in people's lives.

Google wants to be useful; Nike, inspiring. A chocolate bar; a TV channel; washing powder - they all fulfill different roles. A brand manufacturing peanuts can not mean the same to someone as their BMW.

The Nike and Google pie charts show a potential vision of their 'perfect brand' in the mind of their consumers. But they can't control the brand to that degree. The brand/world that matters is the one in the consumer's mind. What if the Nike consumer misses all their short films? What if a Google user sees it as pure utility?

Brands can only offer ingredients that consumers may want to pick from to satisfy their urges and assemble their perfect day. Perhaps that consumer's perfect day would look like this:

And if it does, then what ingredients do you have for her to pick from?
I'm not suggesting that people literally try to build their perfect day, only that as the day grows older they seek out these four things based on how they feel.

Half the inspiration to write this came from reading a post from Noah yesterday. I did a really bad job of explaining my viewpoint in his comments section and it caused me to really think hard about what I was actually trying to say. It reminded me of some of the above and I've tried to bring it all together in a way that might be helpful.

My above diagrams place utility/usefulness as filling one of the four positive roles in the spectrum. While the world goes brand utility mad, I see it in the context of the spectrum. Imagine a day where everything was useful. Shudder.

How to 'build your brand':
1. Make sure you have the appropriate balance of brand ingredients that are inspiring, pleasurable, useful and interesting, respectively
2. Ensure each one is easy to find and share at the most relevant moment
3. Boring, irritating and upsetting are the conditions in which people will be most receptive to your more positive alternatives (if you have a conscience, maybe leave upsetting)

I would rather post this now than sit stewing with it for days. I would love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative. I find 'opinions' these days are very stale in comparison to conversations...



Anonymous neilperkin said...

Great post Andy. Think you're right about blended ingredients and consumers absolutely do not see the world in channels (like a lot of people seem to think they do)

5:37 pm  
Blogger R N B said...

Yep. Excellent. Sorry that's more opinion than conversation :)

10:47 pm  
Blogger Raina Kumra said...

I think using emotions is a more logical conversation to have about brands - you're totally right on!

9:53 pm  

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