Brands live in the mind

Brands live in the mind.

Brands are not things; rather brands are a representation of a highly valued idea that resides in the minds of customers and stakeholders. A brand strategy’s success or failure depends on how well brand owners understand how the mind operates.

Brands represent a set of unifying principles that guide an organization’s behavior and its manner of delivering experiences customers highly value above the available alternatives in the marketplace. Strong healthy brands maintain an intrinsic value to customers that over time translates into tangible financial value for the brand’s owners.

Consumers care about what a brand represents to them on the highest emotional level. The physical properties and functional benefits that comprise and define a brand are of less importance–this explains the difference between Coke and Pepsi, Chevy and Toyota, Apple and the rest of its competitors.

Sounds simple enough. The trouble is consumer’s minds are fickle. And worse, the marketplace is a slush pile of competing brands. It’s easy for brands to lose relevance with customers quickly – especially in our age of instant connections, abundant choice and consumption. Brands with the sticking power to drive purchase behaviors over decades consistently lead their tribe of loyal advocates forward through a compelling value proposition and positioning that transcends the consumer’s inherent and natural tendencies toward fickleness for the next greatest thing.

A brand strategy’s success or failure depends on how well brand owners understand how the mind operates.

Minds have limited capacity.
The mind rejects any information that does not compute. It accepts only new information that matches its current state of mind. The mind has no room for what is new and different unless it is related to the familiar.

Minds resist confusion.
People resist that which is confusing, and cherish that which is simple. People want to push a button and watch the thing work. People love simple.

Minds are insecure and emotional.
Minds are emotional, not rational. People buy things for emotional reasons. When people are uncertain, they often look to others (influencers) to help them make the right decision about how to act.  People don’t like being out of the loop.

Minds don’t change often.
We are more impressed by what we already know (or buy) than by what’s “new.” Once  a mind has formed a habit it’s very difficult to change.

Minds have difficulty staying focused.
The more variations you attach to a brand, the more the mind will lose focus. The more the brand loses focus, the more vulnerable it becomes. In toilet tissue, corn oil, or toothpaste, the specialist or the well-focused competitor is always the winner.

Strong brands need to be exceptional at one thing than good at many things. Strong brands represent a single, simple, own-able, credible, highly valued and differentiated position in the minds of the target audience segment the brand serves.