In marketing circles, we focus on brand-building by effectively reaching customers, and getting their endorsement....
The business intelligentsia has been preaching about the need to connect with customers on both intellectual and emotional levels. Most of us would readily agree with that. But as marketers, we ought to ask ourselves which is more potent in brand-building via consumer response: the mind or the heart?
Brand differentiation is a truly vital element here. And that makes it imperative for a company to meet consumer needs on an emotional rather than merely an intellectual level. It also points to being able to execute customer service at a consistently high level. Human interaction and customer satisfaction help differentiate and cement relationships to a brand like nothing else.
For the customer, every touch point with a company's products or services: the packaging of those products/services, the business's Web site, its letters and special offers, its call center interactions with customers, its advertising and promotions, as well as its customer service, must all work in concert to create a cohesive brand experience. A positive experience in one channel does not create a connective brand experience: the sum of all of the customer touch points, if properly managed and aligned, do.
If companies think they are in the business of selling products and services, they should think again. They are actually in the relationship-building business, and that necessarily means emotional involvement on the part of the customers. Building strong customer relationships–B2B or B2C--directly correlates to the development of brand loyalty. And brand equity.
What's Packaging Got to Do With It?
Packaging is a unique brand communicator. While tangible, it can deliver the intangibles of the brand like nothing else since the customer can see it, touch it and be engaged by it in a physical manner. It can also speak to the heart, not just the mind, of the customer. Dry packaging that dutifully lists features and benefits alone seeks out an intellectual response. That prompts the customer to think and employ reason: "Should I purchase this brand vs the other brands here?" It does not, however, elicit a prompt decision. Decision-making is a process.
On the other hand, packaging that unabashedly appeals to the emotions of the customer, leads to action. The structure, typography, use of color and symbolism that evoke an emotional response stop the customers in their tracks. We humans are emotional beings and if brands do not align themselves within our human experience, or touch us in an emotive way, why would they have any appeal to us?
Since we know that retail studies demonstrate over and over again that up to 85% of consumer purchases are made on impulse, and within shorter and shorter time frames, how meaningful is it when the customer makes an emotional connection to one particular brand among myriad choices on the shelf? If that product then delivers on its brand promise, how much more likely will it be for that customer to begin forming a relationship to it, especially if all of the other touch points of the brand are aligned?
For example, what is unique or endearing about a box of corn flakes cereal? Not much on the surface since it is a commodity product. Yet, Kellogg's Corn Flakes remain a staple on many American breakfast tables. Even with a myriad of private label corn flake cereals in the marketplace, and more glamorous cereal choices with fruit, nuts, honey, and all kinds of other attractive ingredients, Kellogg's Corn Flakes remains a solid choice for many.
Why? Consumers recall many Enjoyment moments–sometimes a lifetime of them--when buying this familiar heritage brand of cereal. There is familiarity and comfort when picking up the trusted package that features the colorful rooster, a spoonful of corn flakes and the line: "The Original & Bes.t."
Consumers who have grown up with Kellogg's Corn Flakes continue to enjoy the product, and more importantly, continue to enjoy a deep relationship with the brand. Kellogg's is a venerable and trusted brand. In other words, this product and its brand carry tremendous emotional appeal. Otherwise, customers could buy another cereal if merely their intellectual need for nutrition had to be met since there are dozens to choose from.
Kellogg's has updated and contemporized the look of the Corn Flakes product packaging over the years, but the company has wisely kept its core assets firmly in place. While many cereal companies have tried to emulate the success of Kellogg's with corn flake cereals of their own, Kellogg's owns the category since the brand has continually delivered on its brand promise, and Enjoyment assets™ to consumers year after year, for generations now.
Some marketers seem to be of the opinion that the consuming public is more fickle today. While noting that there are many more brands, products and services flooding the marketplace, we should observe that the basic customer need has always been, and continues to be the same. The customer will buy a company's products or services if there is true or perceived differentiation, a high level of service and consistent value. Especially if they have formed an emotional connection and deepening relationship to the brand. Remember: loyalty can't be bought. It must be earned.
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