Why brand success owes more to customers’ attitudes than to products and services

Dan Ratner

Dan Ratner is managing director of branding and communications agency, uberbrand. He has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and branding and is passionate about branding as an enabler to fulfil organisational objectives. Working closely with uberbrand’s clients Dan works to understanding the current customer perception in the context of business goals and aspirations. Dan works with well-known Australian brands across a variety of sectors including financial services, travel and education.

Today’s commoditised marketplace is flooded with products and services offering similar functionality and quality. This increasingly competitive marketplace means organisations need to stand out and connect more meaningfully with their audience.

With consumers presented with so many offerings from a multitude of brands, it is vital to focus your marketing strategy on engaging customers and building brand loyalty. You should think more strategically about what your brand as a whole represents and how it can connect with your customers’ beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.

Arguably, brand success often isn’t about individual products and services at all. It is about customers’ perceptions of an organisation. To build long-term relationships, marketers should understand how their organisation is perceived and tap into customers’ lifestyle preferences by demonstrating how their brand values relate. Once positive impressions are left, it is likely customers will keep returning.

Smartphones for example, all offer pretty much the same service, putting brands like Vodafone and Optus in a constant loyalty battle. In response, several providers have made a clear shift away from marketing product features to selling a lifestyle. The queues outside Apple stores when new products are launched (even when there is little difference to the previous version) illustrates the supremacy of resonating with customers’ attitudes and making people feel they must have the latest model.

Brands like Apple understand the power they have over their customers and how they are perceived. But many other organisations are failing to recognise how their customers view them. It’s impossible to align your marketing strategy to connect better with customers if you don’t fully understand the drivers to purchase, and how they identify with your brand (as well as others).

These drivers include the desire to appear a certain way – such as fashionable, alternative or wealthy. People rarely purchase a sports car just because it goes fast and has brilliant handling. Most buyers will never have the opportunity to fully experience the true depth of those features. Rather, buying a sports car is about displaying success and being part of an exclusive club of likeminded people (other sports car owners).

While for most service providers purchasing decisions might be driven by cost, intangible factors such as reputation and attitude towards social responsibility also come into the mix. For instance, if you believe your customers are driven by the value of your services but they actually want to feel good about working with a humanitarian organisation, then you risk misaligning marketing strategies and wasting your efforts.

An example of a brand that aligns its strategy very well by marketing almost entirely around its customers’ beliefs and attitudes rather than product is STA Travel. The company markets adventures and experiences, rather than airline tickets. Another popular brand, Sol Cerveza, markets itself as ‘the taste of freedom’. It has identified what matters to its target market – fun and freedom – and created their brand’s personality to match.

You should aim to follow these successes by thinking about the mindsets of your customers. Think about their demographics and sociographics including their jobs, lifestyle, political attitudes as well as other characteristics. Then think about how your communications and marketing can best reflect these.

An organisation that failed to hit the mark in 2012 is car manufacturer, Mazda. The company used the film adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax as a brand tie-in to market its SUV. It even went so far as to mention that the vehicle had the (obviously fictional) ‘truffula tree seal of approval’. While the brand was attempting to tap into, at the time, a currently popular film, the disconnect was so obvious that the campaign backfired spectacularly.

There is a fine balance to strike between creating a brand personality which connects with customers’ attitudes, and appearing insincere. Marketers have to get under their customers’ skin to determine who they are and how they want to feel.

Once you understand this, you can create highly targeted communications and marketing campaigns to ultimately attract more loyal customers.

Tags: social media strategy, brand strategy

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