By Tom Dougherty
The Best Brands. Does best always win?
Do the best products always win? The market place is riddled with the remains of good products that have succumbed to market failure and the shells of products that never met their potential. We hear from companies all the time, “Our products and services are superior to those of our competition, so why are we not preferred?” We even hear companies tell us,” We do not need branding. We have the best product available. Customers will choose us because we are the best.”
What is “The Best?”
Objectively, what defines “the best?” Can we, as consumers, really ever know what “the best” truly is? In most cases, isn’t being “the best” determined by how a product is going to be used? Think for a moment of the products and services you use. What deodorant do you use? Why did you choose it? Do you like the smell, the way it keeps your underarms perspiration-free, or that it is inexpensive? Given just those three criteria, do you believe you chose “the best” deodorant? If your answer is no, then why don’t you switch?
Any rationalization you come up with to justify your choice illustrates the fact that you may have chosen that brand of deodorant because you believed it was the best given your individual set of criteria. Companies have always held the misguided belief that “if you build a better mousetrap, you will catch more mice.” When in fact, consumers, as individuals and as groups, judge the merit of individual products or which is “the best” based on their individual beliefs, values, and behaviors. Let’s examine a purchase decision to illustrate this:
A Typical Purchase Behavior and How they Respond to Emotional Branding
Assume, for a moment, you are looking to purchase a new car. Let’s also assume you are not going to be impulsive and that you are going to put a lot of thought into this decision and do some “research.” First you think about what you need or want in a car – seating for 4, ample storage, good fuel economy, reliable, automatic, air-conditioning, warranty, financing and so on. You may or may not actually write these things down but more than likely you will prioritize these features. Then you begin to look for “the best” (given your set of criteria).
Note that your prioritized list of criteria may be drastically different than anyone else you know, but you still get advice from websites, car salesmen, and friends and family. Lets say you have narrowed it down to two or three choices. Each choice meets your criteria, so what do you do? You make an emotional choice. You go with “your gut.” Then, later, you backfill all of the rationalizations from your list of criteria to justify your choice. However, the fact still remains you ultimately made an emotional choice. In a microcosm, this is what occurs in all consumer behavior. We all make emotional choices and then use rational, logical reasons to justify what we do.
If this is true, how can we then say what is “the best?” It is different for everyone. We do not really have the ability to judge what “the best” is for everyone, we can only judge what “the best” is for us as individuals. In part, we make this “best” judgment based on previous product failure, either directly observed or been seen by others. Go back to the car example. If you had a specific make and model fail you, or someone you knew in the past did, that make and model is most likely excluded from your list. All things equal, product failure is the reason consumers switch more than anything else. Product failure signals that perhaps you did not choose “the best” and that you need to rethink your selection criteria. Product failure is one of the most influential ways consumers judge if a product is worthy of their consideration.
Convince Me Of “The Best” Do it with an Emotional Connection
Traditionally, marketers spend a lot of time and money trying to convince consumers that they have the “safest,” “easiest to use,” “most efficacious,” or “the best” products. In reality, claims such as these are not evaluated by consumers in the way they are intended. They do not entice a consumer to switch. Do consumers really believe what they are using is not the best for them? Products and brands win in the market because they can make an emotional connection with their audience.
For example, Disney is a success because they create “Magic” and there is a highly emotionally charged connection between the Disney brand and the millions of parents around the world hoping to give their children a little “Magic.” They would never insult their target market by claiming they are “the best.” They know their target market is smart enough to judge that for themselves – Disney tells us all that if you want some “Magic” buy the Disney brand. Consumers buy the “Magic” and then rationalize that it was “the best value,” “the best experience,” or “the most fun.”
Build and Emotional Context
Building a good brand requires you to think of your products and services in an emotional context, not a rational one. Emotion is the driver for all of the choices we make. Rational arguments only serve to help us make sense out of our emotional choices. Emotion dictates who is better, who’s best. (Read more about emotional importance here)