By Tom Dougherty
Where Should Brands Live? And Why
Our ability to build powerful, market share-expanding brands depends largely upon where we think brands live. We will explore possible places for brands to live, and show how thinking that one of these places is better than the other places – can contribute substantially toward becoming able to build powerful, share expanding brands.
Most businesses believe that brands live in Brand or Marketing Departments. After all, that is where Brand Managers, Brand Directors, and Brand Strategists live. Some marketing experts believe that brands live in marketing material.
They think that brands live in the packaging, the advertising, the merchandising, the posters, the billboards, their letterheads, business cards, and other physical media that feature the brand signals of brand name and logo. Some other marketing experts believe that brands live in the brand name and the logotype themselves. After all, we trademark them and take great pains to make sure that they are treated with the utmost care and respect.
Branding Responsibility and Brand Strategy Implementation
However, these are not the places we should think brands live. We shouldn’t think that brands don’t live in departments or groups in the business. We should not also think that brands live in the marketing materials. We should not even think that brands live in the brand name and brand logo, even though these elements enjoy the attribute ‘brand’. No.
We should be thinking of brands as living in an entirely different kind of space. Not in any kind of physical or organizational or media space. We should think that brands live in exclusively in the psychological space of the minds of our prospects. In addition, when we say prospects, we must understand that this also includes our existing customers, if only because they too are prospects for future purchases. Psychological space is the intangible and invisible personal space that is occupied by entirely “aphysical” and abstract phenomena such as memories, perceptions, and feelings.
A Brand’s Residence
And why should we think that brands live in this psychological space? Because brands are the cluster of conceptual memories, perceptions and feelings that prospects associate with the brand name and the brand logo. And these memories, perceptions, and feelings are themselves the result of all the cumulative communications and experiences that they relate to the brand name or the brand logo.
This is why we should think of psychological space as the place where brands live. This psychological space is the very space in which prospects’ preferences develop, and where their purchase decisions are made. Why is this so important to think this? It’s simple, really. Because this is what business is about and is the heart of your brand strategy implementation. This is the CRUX of the whole issue. The most important function in business is the generation of revenue that comes from prospects’ purchase decisions. So, what if brands live in the psychological space of people who can recognize the brand name and brand logotype? Because once we know this and acknowledge this, we are ourselves in a better position to build a brand around the very purpose for which brands exist.
Consider this for a moment. If we were to build a brand for the Marketing Department or Brand Group, how would we make the best decisions for building it? If we were to build a brand for the media in which we use them, how would we make the best decisions for building it?
Moreover, if we were to build a brand for the name and for the logotype that we use, how would we make the best decisions for building it? We would be groping around a lot, because there is no direct traction between these aspects of brands, and the purpose for which brands exist in business – gaining preference and purchase decisions for our product. However, if we built a brand for the prospects’ psychological space, we would know that the brand has to be built to have the highest value perception among all the choices available to these people, among the products in the category.
A Different Perspective is a Brand Expertise
As a result, once we realize that brands live in the psychological space of prospects, we would have a much better chance to build a powerful brand that gains their preference and ensures their continuing purchases, than if we thought that brands live anywhere else. Now that we have established that the most useful place for us to think of brands living is in the psychological space of prospects, let us now redefine brand from this perspective.
A brand is the constellation of conceptual and emotional residue that results from the accumulation of experiences that prospects associate with the brand’s signals; it’s name or logo. Our brands don’t live alone in our prospects’ psychological space. Our competitors’ brands reside there as well. So our prospects’ psychological space is the arena where the crucial struggle for market share and revenue growth takes place. Not in our business, nor in our competitor’s business. Not even in our marketing materials, our brand name or brand logo.
Three Things To Consider
This understanding of where brands live tells us three things we must be focusing on in order to make the most of this perspective:
- We must always be striving to improve our prospects’ perceptions of our product relative to their perceptions of all the other products in the product category that these prospects may choose to purchase.
- The best way to accomplish this is to manage every experience that the prospect has, that she or he might associate with our brand name, will establish, or reinforce the superiority of our product over those of our competitors in their psychological space – preferably in the way that is most relevant to them.
- That all the ways in which this sense of superiority is established or reinforced is accomplished in concert, working together consistently, without confusion or contradictions among the residue left by different kinds of experiences.
Bottom line: Know that brands live in prospects’ psychological space in the form of a residual constellation of memories, perceptions and feelings – that must convey our product’s superiority both single-mindedly and consistently through a focused brand strategy implementation.