Our brain allocates our friends based on activity. Let’s play a game to test this:
It’s Friday. You want to go for a pizza and have a chilled out chat - Who do you message?
It’s Tuesday. Your boss has really pissed you off, you are upset - Who do you message?
It’s Saturday. You must party, you want one of those nights - Who do you message?
It’s a tick-box exercise.
Pizza - Dave? Dave not free, go to Suzanne.
Boss - Mum, Mum not free, go to Suzanne.
Party - Gillian, Gillian not free, go to Suzanne.
It works that simply, and thank god we all have a Suzanne to bail us out each time!
The brain has a lot of these tick-box systems rolling; starting with our favourites followed by next in line; this makes up our preferential bias of life.
It’s the same operating system for how we select clothing to look at and buy (or not).
When it comes to brands, they are the pizza, the boss, the party, and we are actually friends with the product. It’s the product we want. The method of why we are engaging with them is the reason why we want them.
For example, take Hugo Boss (think about a brand you love and do the same)
I love Hugo Boss Orange T-shirts (I love the scoop neck solid colour tees).
I like Hugo Boss Jackets (Depends, hit and miss but if it’s cool I’ll check them out).
I don’t like Hugo Boss Green (my perception is that it’s just for golfers).
I strongly dislike their aftershave (smells like fancy pee).
If I see an advert for Hugo Boss my unconscious says ‘check’ and then looks at what it is for. It’s for ‘Hugo Boss Green’ so my unconscious halts me from engaging any further.
If I see an advert for Hugo Boss my unconscious says ‘check’ and then looks at what it is for. It’s for ‘Hugo Boss Orange t-shirt’, so I then engage and click the ad to check it out further. It’s an unconscious permission based on a tick in a mental box.
This all happens in under a microsecond but what is key is that it’s the relationship I hold to the product that matters way more than the brand.
The same is true the other way around; if a brand that is new to me shows me a t-shirt really similar to what I like, with say a nicer colour or better deal or different detail then I will engage (a new brand is like a Suzanne).
It’s not as simple as a product category; there are 120 design elements of any product that create your specific preferences (selection bias). It’s why shopping is so personal to each of us. Whilst you don’t need to have 120 matching ticks to engage (our brain is an amazing beast of processing power, and at a rapid pace too), it does matter when it comes to understanding the notion of what personalisation is.
Branding in itself is a slightly flawed system but only because of how we treat it. The relationship that matters is between product and person.
Once we make friends it gets locked down to whatever notion of loyalty we each hold. Brand or Person, same deal when it comes to how loyalty works.
Consider that if Dave stopped liking pizza, you would have to judge what else to do with Dave from now on. He is your pizza friend, can he become your party friend? Your sunday afternoon movie friend? Do you need to replace Dave because you like pizza too much?
Friends serve a purpose to you. I don’t think anyone is so brutal as to ditch Dave but you may love pizza and love that pizza just the way you like it served on a Friday night. You may replace Dave or change what you tick him for.
Imagine what happens to a brand when they disrupt your friendship. What happens when Boss Orange stops making scoop neck t-shirts the way I like them? I will lose faith in them, I may give them a 2nd chance, or a 3rd, or none.
A brand is a functional output, a tick.
Think about what brand equity really is. The relationship is equity. This is a powerful way to be able to define what brand equity means.
It’s the product that creates the relationship; that’s where loyalty comes from. Wouldn’t it be better to enrich relationships instead of ignoring them and throwing mud (4.38 trillion adverts ignored on Facebook) to see what sticks. Whilst some stuff sticks, what is it really costing you when you don’t understand each customer and serve them as the friends they are?
Sometimes we need to be a bit more Suzanne.