Not What it is, What it Represents
You’ve seen the car commercials. The four-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle glides up the mountainside, trenches through the mud, and eventually stops at the most incredible view of a natural destination. It’s enough to make consumers think, “If we had that vehicle, we could go on that vacation, too.” This is an excellent example of how products use lifestyle associations in their branding.
Branding is all about inspiring an emotional connection between a consumer and a product or service. Without realizing it, consumers often search for a deeper meaning when shopping because of today’s overcrowded marketplace.
Years ago, a brand new product would launch as the only of its kind, and sometime after that, maybe one or two competitors would pop up. The selling point was simple; it was either the only option or it was the best option because of a few distinct features. The product’s physical ability and features were revolutionary enough to gain consumer interest.
Today, however, the marketplace is filled with dozens of the same types of products that accomplish the same tasks and claim the same features. It has made many of them indistinguishable by consumer perception, and frankly, with the little time consumers have to devote to purchasing decisions, traditional deciding factors have become defunct. So they use emotion, or a product association to help them decide. As a result, consumers are now less concerned with a product’s features and more attuned to how it makes them feel.
Consumers are concerned with the lifestyle or experience the product will allow them to have more than the product itself. It’s not about what the product is, but it’s what it represents. It’s the new outfit that will help her attract his desired mate, it’s the entertainment system that will bring the family together, it’s the smartphone that will help him feel connected to the rest of the world no matter where he is. When consumers buy a product, they are also buying the desired lifestyle they think it will lead to.
Indeed, emotion plays a big role in purchasing decisions, and overall brand loyalty. The more interactive brands are gaining quite a following. Give your brand a personality that consumers can interact with. If consumers want to be emotionally influenced, the brand, itself must be perceived as displaying and emotion that consumers can react to.
One of the most tangible ways a brand can interact with a consumer this way is to send out printed marketing materials. Direct mail, post cards, small gift boxes are all great ways to reach out to your consumer and hit the right emotional buttons. A physical product can communicate more than just what its text says. It shows recipients that you cared enough to send them a personally addressed, beautifully designed postcard with a nice greeting or a small gift because you were thinking of them. Don’t forget to mention how your product or service could lead them to their desired lifestyle.