What Do Consumers Think of Your Brand?

The art and science of consumers and branding

Consumers can be fickle, deliberate, organized, chaotic, or all the above in a matter of minutes (or seconds). We know this as marketers, because we spend our days trying to better understand what they want and need. Not only that, but we are consumers as well.

I try to remember my role as both marketer and consumer when I fill my Amazon shopping cart and then check prices at other sites in an attempt to get the best deal; or when my mom or sister recommends a new kitchen gadget and texts me a link. I think of this dual role when I’m comparing hotel rooms and flights, attempting to squeeze every extra dollar out of vacation costs so I can spend that money on fun meals or trips.

As consumers, we’re all fickle at times because we want something incredibly specific based around a particular want or desire being met. The more value I place on the good or service being used, the more time and effort I willingly spend on my quest. “Quest” is an important notion to remember.

With a brand I trust, like Lululemon, I don’t have to think or work that hard, because its products always exceed my expectations. However, working to plan a much-needed vacation to a warm destination and my decision becomes more difficult. Not only will I need to up my research game but, just as importantly, I’ll need to reach out to friends to see if they have recommendations or opinions. In either scenario, the result is derived from the specific quest – completely smooth sailing with yoga pants, but a little more involved in trip planning.

Not only are we fickle consumers, we’re complex. Considering the multitude of decision-making tools used by modern consumers, it is clear that marketers need to continually balance the competing ideas of branding as an art and science that work hand-in-hand to achieve a client’s goals and objectives. It's that blend of science and art that ties us closer to our ideal consumers and stakeholders as they navigate the emotionally laced intricacies of wants and needs.

Branding as science

Most marketers probably never imagined that they would need to adapt scientific research to really understand customer engagement. Yet evidence is increasingly available on consumers' physiological response to brands. For example, Kirk Hendrickson, chief executive of the research firm Eye Faster, conducted research utilizing eye tracking, which revealed that people’s eyes move so quickly while shopping that they often make decisions in about one second. Given that brief opportunity to reach the target audience, factors such as color, shape, placement and product design must immediately pop.

Branding – the emotional connection

Let's go back to fickle again – even when science is concerned – Hendrickson’s research reveals that products that visually give people a happy feeling are often chosen despite cost, quality, or design. In other words, the eyes and brain are twitching so fast and speeding happy thoughts throughout the body that a subconscious decision is made based on this instantaneous mix. Though these experiences are measured when a person is actually on a shopping expedition, it is also important when formulating your brand's strategy to consider the role these factors would play in other kinds of brand decision-making.

Branding – the role of influencers

A recently published* survey sheds light on how consumers actually evaluate brands. The findings may surprise many brand marketers. When asked how they chose a brand, consumers claimed they:

  • 74% – relied on “personal experience” for finding info about organizations
  • 59% – listened to trusted sources such as friends, colleagues, or family
  • 48% – evaluated product reviews
  • 23% – looked at brand advertising
  • 15% – visited the brand website

*based on 2015 SpongPR research

How is it that consumers find “accurate” content if it doesn’t involve visiting the company website or seeing its advertising? My thinking is that consumers are so web-savvy and accustomed to searching company sites that it isn’t something they distinguish from any other online activity – it's this all-encompassing nature of life on the web that makes knowledge acquisition interchangeable with marketing activities. So in other words, what might seem like “science” based on survey results is actually more of an art when applied to real-world brand marketing.

If brands wish to influence their consumers, they must supply immediate relevant content that will offer the solutions the potential customer is seeking. According to a study by Forrester, 70% to 90% of the buyer’s journey is completed prior to engaging with a brand. Brands need to decide if they wish to play a role as influencer or continue to be lower on the list of sources a consumer views.

Branding as art - combining emotion and influence

We’re marketers… but we’re also consumers, which means we understand the broad range of reasons why people turn to certain products and services or look to new ones. But, how do we put all this information to use?

Considering the vast number of influences that trigger consumer behavior, the best scenario is that marketers think through the ramifications of branding as both an art and science, employing all the information available to gain a holistic perspective on the target audience. The art/science approach forces us to devalue marketing’s gut reaction in many instances, instead choosing nuance and exploration when creating a brand's message. What we learn here is that optimal branding efforts must be a mix of subtle messaging (as a solution-based influencer) and a deep, specific understanding of the consumer’s emotional connection to the brand experience.

At Matter, we have boiled down our best thinking to help aid in establishing an organization’s buyer personas. These personas enable our clients to follow a true motivational blueprint for reaching their target audience. We believe in this process so strongly that it is the foundation for all marketing and branding initiatives we create for our clients. Not only does the buyer persona keep employees focused on the important details that mean the most to a company’s consumers, but it also serves as a tool for sharing these ideas across the organization. For more information on developing your brand’s buyer personas, click here.

Whether you see marketing and branding as a science or an art, it is wise to not forget that, as fickle, spontaneous, diligent, and thoughtful consumers, we all face thousands of brand interactions per day. Achieving the proper mix of brand as art and science will help our clients reach their most important consumers.

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