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Understanding The Psychological Aspects Of Brand Building

Understanding human psychology and how it affects consumer behaviour forms the foundation of building brand resonance so even as consumers shift between multiple platforms, the brands they love to stay with them.

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Imagine a bright blue tick mark on a whiteboard. Now observe the top 5 thoughts that immediately pop up in your brain the minute you hold that visual. Chances are, even if the tick mark had nothing to do with running shoes, your top 5 list includes the brand in question. That’s how strong the psychological imprint of a brand can be. Just as we seek out those we identify with most socially, when it comes to our consumption choices too, we are emotional beings, making a majority of our choices on what “feels” good or right to us. How is this decision made? What do customers walking up a crowded aisle in a supermarket connect with, why do they pick one cereal box over 20 other similar ones.

It has been found through multiple studies that consumers tend to seek out brands that set expectations by striking a memory or telling a story they identify with. Their purchasing decisions are driven by emotions. Luxury items stir our sense of self-worth and status, perfumes & colognes evoke emotions of love while environment-friendly cars stir the satisfaction of being responsible. Brands along with product features are also selling a lifestyle and emotions. When brands fail to stir a feeling, they become forgettable. Understanding the psychological aspects can help marketers design strategies that best motivate their customers and get the most out of their brand-building efforts.

Marketers analyze and crunch data to design campaigns in today’s complex environment even as consumers shift constantly between channels looking for brands that best resonate with what they seek. So, how can brands create this connect effectively more often than not? 

Communicating doesn’t always translate into a connection
Consider social media – When it came on the scene, the potential to create branded content and form an instant real-time connect with consumers seemed genius and simple. Many invested billions putting their faith in social media. Yet, when we look back after a decade of this effort, there seems to be a little payoff. Not many corporate brands appear in the YouTube top 500 while entertainers we have never heard of are becoming internet sensations.  

It is apparent from this that communicating doesn’t always translate into a connection with consumers. Considering that it is the consumers that build a brand, marketers must show them that they know and deeply understand them.

Understanding human psychology and how it affects consumer behaviour forms the foundation of building brand resonance so even as consumers shift between multiple platforms, the brands they love to stay with them.

The more things change, the more they stay the same
Digital revolution, innovation and opening of international markets may have reshaped how consumers live, shop and access information. But the psychological drivers of human behaviour remain constant.

Psychology provides insights that our feelings and identities exercise far greater influence on our brand choices instead of the product price, functionality or quality.

Which is why building brands with strong personas and identities can spell the difference between good and phenomenal. Strong brand personas, when humanized, have the potential to form instant connect with the psychology of the consumer impacting purchase decisions. Bajaj Auto’s four-decade-long ‘Humara Bajaj’  tagline resonated with an entire nation for its ‘Indianness’. Tata Tea’s JaagoRe cause marketing initiative found favour with India’s cause-driven audience, especially the youth, even as it set itself apart as a brand embracing social change.  

Building brand resonance, therefore, requires constructing marketing communications around an understanding of these factors that wield influence on their audience.

Emotional Resonance Britannia, India’s leading biscuit brand restaged its popular sandwich cream biscuit Treat to build a new young-at-heart packaging, using the universal language of Emojis where the sandwich biscuits become smiling faces with Emoji expressions. The wordmark, colour palette and names of variants-- all were created to build a fun-loving and prankish personality to bring out the brand's 'fun-in-between' promise. Purchase decisions are driven by how brands make us feel. And Treat’s packaging stoked relatability in the teens and tweens who identified with its vibrant new energy prominently standing out as a preferred choice from an over-crowded shelf. 

Identity Marketing: All individuals identify with some belief and values which form our social identity. Brand Nano is the best example to understand how social identities work. The positioning of this innovative car went wrong with its “car for the masses” message. Owning a car is aspirational for the Indian consumer and forms a status symbol. The target consumers didn’t want people to question their status as members of the middle class despite the fact that it was solving the need of comfort with great pricing.

As humans, we want to consider ourselves as members of some of the other group and act in the context that enhances that distinct status. The social behaviours and buying decisions then become influenced by what we see as either supporting or betraying that group. For instance, if someone visits the gym and identifies with the group that cares about fitness, then the purchasing decisions ranging from food, clothing and magazine subscriptions will be similar to that social group. Identity-based behaviour is multi-layered, and an individual can have multiple social identities that influence consumer decisions.    

Influence of colour, language and typography strategies
Design strategies target consumers through many different senses. The colours, shapes, product packaging engage the customers evoking a certain feeling about the brand which is often intuitive and not easily discernible. The love for our favourite brands is a deeper vein, as was evident with the brand re-launch of Charmis. Its strong iconic pink was kept alive while building in codes of progression and premiumness. The pink instantly formed a connection with the consumers remaining identifiable as their age-old trusted brand.

●Colour: Just as blue skies and white mountains evoke a feeling of serenity; brand colours have a powerful psychological impact on consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. Colour becomes an emotional cue, which is why the urgently bright colours in McDonald’s branding stimulate appetite and action and are instantly appealing to children.

●Typography: Packaging similarly plays a large role in emotional branding. When you notice a jar of jam packaged with red-and-white checked lids in a hand-written script, it makes a statement of having landed straight from the farmers market, and the emotion of a farm-fresh and lovingly prepared at home product tugs at your heart. 

●Language: Notice athletic brands like Nike - they nudge you with their message to ‘Just do it’, instantly making you connect with the social identity of a person who cares about fitness and achieves his goals.    

Building a strong brand identity is a journey which in addition to creativity requires the recognition of emotional triggers that cultivate customer perceptions. Utilizing these triggers in marketing communications and delivering a consistent brand experience can create intensely loyal consumers affecting the equity of a brand. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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brand equity branding

Ashwini Pable

The author is Strategic Consultant Director, bluemarlin

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