Larry Vincent is the founder and executive director of The Brand Studio at United Talent Agency (UTA), where he serves as the strategic lead on all engagements. Over the past 20 years, he has developed brand strategies for some of the world's best-loved brands, including CBS, Coca-Cola, Four Seasons Hotels, MasterCard, Microsoft, the National Football League, and Sony Playstation.

PLAY NOW
Listen to it later:

Larry wrote the book Brand Real, which explains the strategic behavior that drives the success of the world's leading brands. His first book, Legendary Brands, focused on the storytelling potential of brands and implications for strategic and creative development.

Prior to UTA, Larry headed up strategy teams at some leading brand and marketing agencies, including Siegel+Gale, Octagon Worldwide, and Cabana Group.

I invited Larry to Marketing Smarts to talk about the UTA Brand Studio, his research on how people form attachments (or aversions) to brands, and how he uses research to create on-point marketing campaigns for clients.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Focus on how your brand helps people to express who they are (06:28): "I think we've all heard in school that there are three ways that people connect with brands: There's a functional benefit, there's an emotional benefit, and there's a self-expressive benefit. And we don't spend enough time distinguishing how that self-expressive benefit works.... [It involves] seeing that brand as being part of who we are. The way I sometimes describe it: If you spend time on social media, if you go to Instagram or Tumblr, a lot of times you'll see that people like to put...photos up of their belongings they like. They...curate them in these nice little patterns and post it as...expressing who they are based on the things that they possess. Brands fit into that. Harley Davidson measures the value of its brand by how many people tattoo it on their body... That's not about function. That's 'I believe in this brand so much that I relate to it and see it as part of who I am.'"

Brand attachment predicts buying behavior (07:51): "We discovered this research back in around 2008/2009...in the Journal of Marketing Research that was really looking at how this new, quantifiable metric called brand attachment was a better predictor of really difficult behaviors than attitudinal measures that most of us use every day. It's common to query people on their views of a brand, whether it's positive or negative, how much they like a brand. But when you ask these questions about how much do you see the brand as being part of who you are, what we found is those people who answered quite strongly on those questions... we could better predict that they would be willing to pay a premium price, that they would be willing to defend the brand if it were under attack, and most importantly...they'll recommend their brand to friends."

Use touchpoints in your customer's story to improve customer experience (20:19): "One of the things we know about most forms of storytelling is that it's pretty linear. A great story usually has a beginning, middle, and an end. For marketers, what that means is, when you think about your experience, you're trying to find all the different touchpoints that affect the experience and look at the story that revolves around those touchpoints. Sometimes it's not very sexy. It could be the way you send a statement to your customer, and they open the envelope and they have to figure out what you're trying to tell them, either how much money they owe you or how many points they've earned...but there's a story around that, and I need to understand it.... Sometimes it's a little more abstract, which can be... I place a call to a customer service center, or I'm standing in the gate area of your airline. What story is unfolding there, and what are the brand touchpoints I can use to make that a better experience for you?"

To learn more about the UTA Brand Studio's research into brand attachment, check out their blog. For more about Larry, visit UTABrandStudio.com or follow him on Twitter: @lvincent.

Larry and I discussed much more, including what he and his team look for when hiring creative professionals, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by the MarketingProfs Professional Development Program.

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.