The Mana of Brands
It’s not often that everything you thought about a topic on which you have some experience and expertise crumbles to dust in front of you. But when a highly respected thought leader such as Paul Feldwick (one of the United Kingdom’s first and pioneering ad agency planners) produces a paper called “50 years of using the wrong model of advertising”, it’s time to take note—as we do in the next chapter—on communications.
But Paul’s treatise on advertising is also pertinent to the shift that has occurred in our understanding of brands, because whereas Paul talks about the effectiveness of different types of advertising (as measured by brand growth and profitability), parallel work conducted by the Ehrenberg Institute is directing our thinking towards the role that advertising should play in helping brands grow.
1. Brands aren’t tangible. They exist only in our minds and are coded at the unconscious level, creating emotional memories and associations. Brand associations and connected brand attributes constitute the unconscious value of the brand along with its distinctive brand cues.
2. Brands need to give people a reason why they should value them— and we believe that brands need a purpose and a promise—clearly articulated, transparent and authentic.
3. Promise and purpose are more powerful than investing in product differentiation—because the evidence shows that people do not make purchase decisions based only on brand differentiation. They also do not change their behaviour based on their attitudes—and, in any case, because people’s attitudes about the brands they buy are very similar to those of people who buy competitors’ brands, attitudes offer little diagnostic power nor do they drive behaviour.
4. People are looking for brands that are useful and are framing brands in terms of what they do. What the brand does is as significant a contributor to a brand’s associations and attributes as are the brand’s communications.
5. People are lazy consumers who rely on habit and cognitive shortcuts. Thus after a habit is established, it is reinforced by distinctive brand cues (colours, packaging and the like).
6. The salience of a brand (the degree to which a brand is at top of mind when purchase opportunities and choices arise) is the most powerful driver of decision-making and loyalty (defined as repeat purchasing). Distinctive brand associations and iconography build salience.