Chapter Twenty One

Introduction to Brand Messaging

In this chapter we study brand messaging and communications at the implementation and tactical level. We will examine how consumers perceive brand messaging and marketing. We begin with perception as it is one of the most important aspects in understanding consumer behavior.
Perception is a psychological variable involved in the purchase decision process that is known to influence consumer behavior. Other variables included in this consumer process include: motivation, learning, attitude, personality, and lifestyle.” Retrieved 27 Dec. 2016 from Boundless All of these concepts are crucial in interpreting the consumer buying process and can also help guide marketing efforts.
To understand consumer behavior, this concept is important for two reasons. The process of perception is continuous, people construct their interpretations on the fly. What the customer perceives to be a negative attribute, will affect their subsequent actions and behavior. What they perceive is not necessarily correct. Why is that? The process of perception is inherently biased. A bias is a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about something or someone. A bias effects the interpretation of an idea and may be favorable or unfavorable.
The process of perception occurs in several different stages. With selective exposure and selective attention, customers do not collect data on things that might change their perception. This is the first stage of perception. In the second stage of perception once they are exposed to something and pay attention to it, then they have to interpret it.
Personal beliefs and/or bias influence how data is interpreted. For example, after a presidential debate, most it is important to have representatives from both parties interpret what happened in the debate. Interpretations will vary as a result of their prior beliefs and world view. This concept applies in any kind of consumer behavior. Consumers are exposed and pay attention to certain stimuli. Prior beliefs will influence how the new information is interpreted. As a result of this, perceptions are frequently biased and they do not necessarily represent factual conclusions.
The first two stages of perception are attention and exposure. Exposure to stimuli is required before people can form any kind of perception. Because people give attention to the stimuli that is significant to them, we know the process is biased. Exposure to stimuli occurs consciously or by accident. Often conscious exposure to inputs is a function of personal beliefs. For example, if you believe a certain area of town is not safe you will avoid visiting that part of town. Naturally, you will not expose yourself to something you do not think is safe. By not collecting "new data" related to "the Un-safe" part of town, your perception will not change. Exposure can be selective. If you are exposed to a new idea you need to pay attention for it to affect your perception.
There are two kinds of attention, voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary attention can be something like a loud noise, as you are forced to pay attention to it. Voluntary attention is selective and depends on the action of the individual.
The perceptual process includes some of the following factors. The marketer creates all sorts of sensory inputs that the consumer is exposed to. Sensory inputs include brand communication, advertising, and packaging. The exposure is biased toward the seller and consumers are exposed to thousands of marketing measures and marketing cues every single day. Exposure exists whether or not consumers acknowledge its existence.
Mark Yackanich, CEO of video tech company Genesis Media. “Today, metrics can measure anything.” Still, anything and everything doesn't necessarily translate to meaningful and valuable. In fact, Yackanich says that shallow metrics tend to measure volume rather than consumption of content. He says marketers should no longer want just clicks but rather viewers time—and most important, attention. “As an industry, and to create a more sustainable economic model, we need to think about the real quality of marketing messages,” Yackanich says. “Ask yourself, ‘What holds people's attention?'” Yackanich insists that marketers today need to focus more on attention metrics—or those measurements that track the “total time audience members spend with content and their level of engagement.” Chris Stark, SVP of product marketing at Grapeshot says that attention metrics enable marketers to delve deeper into the subjects, trends, motives, and values that are top-of-mind for the audience. “Attention is mindshare,” he continues. “Attention means that some amount of thought is diverted toward that message or product. It's when you apply a little bit more of your consideration—that spectrum of thought that someone gives toward something.” from dmnews
To illustrate interpretation we can use the Stroop effect as a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a task. Your perceptions will affect your subsequent behavior. Your response is an automatic reaction influenced by your individual perception. You have a perception that you automatically respond to. Despite the understanding that perceptions may be biased, it is difficult to control their influence regarding the automatic response and hard to block their effect. Here is an example of the Stroop test. There are a few words on the screen, and what I want you to tell me the color of the font. Read to yourself the color of the font for each of the words listed on the screen. Here are the words.
Maybe you were surprised with the first word, but more than likely understood what was going on by the fourth word. You saw that the word was blue but the color of the font was red, so the answer was red. By the fourth one, you understood the pattern in this example, but it was still hard to break it.
It may have been challenging to stop yourself from reading the word, and reading the word affected your subsequent behavior as it slowed you down. Because of the dissonance in the Stroop test, it can make people feel a little bit uncomfortable. It includes an element of stress manipulation. If the words match the color of the font, the task is much simpler. Here are four words where each color matches each word and as you can see, it is much easier and faster to read the words.
This effect cannot be blocked. Marketers understand how this affects perceptions and subsequent behaviors. Below are some visual illusions you may have seen before. Regarding the two lines on the screen, if you measure them they are exactly the same length. However, one appears longer than the other, and you just cannot change that thought.
Lines of equal length
Even though I tell you they are exactly the same length and I can prove it to you, you still have the perception that the one on the bottom is longer. As another example, in the salad section of a grocery store where there are vegetables, marketers or grocers may place salad dressing near those vegetables. There's an implicit assumption that if a product is near another product, these products belong together. This is a perception that physical distance determines whether things are similar or belong together. Likewise, the snack food is placed near the beer.
A similarity test
Another bias is the similarity bias. People assume things that look alike have the same quality. This is an underlying theory behind store brands. If a store brand is packaged similar to the national brand, the assumption is the quality is the same. Even if the comparison test between the brands has not occurred, an assumption of perceived quality is made based on this process of similarity. The perceptual inferences are strong at influencing perception of quality. Perceptual influences determine how consumers experience the product and influence the price consumers are willing to pay. This is a important consumer process for marketers to understand. It is also particularly important in branding. Take a bottle of cola and slap on a brand logo, say the Coca Cola brand, people will have different perceptions about that product than if the Coca Cola brand wasn't there. With the Coca Cola brand on it, people automatically think it tastes better and are also willing to pay a higher price for it. Once we put a brand logo or name on it, it changes the perceptions of the product. People make all sorts of other inferences, even if the product is exactly the same. People think, I'm not subject to that, I know I can judge certain products by the quality. Brand names are intrinsically influential on our perceptions.
Countless experiments have shown that people are influenced by the brand name that is put on the product, independent of the product quality. This occurs in the Stroop test, you just can't stop it. Once you see a brand name, you have certain perceptions about it. You also make certain inferences about that brand name. Those perceptions are translated to the product. We know that a powerful brand can have a powerful influence. The Coca Cola brand name has been estimated to be worth 70 billion dollars. Putting that brand name on a product will change the price premiums people are willing to pay. Because a brand is worth so much, often people look for ways to leverage the brand for growth. For instance, we all know Coca-Cola is associated with the cola soft drink. In 1982, Coca-Cola took that brand name and put it on a new product at the time, a diet soft drink, one that that no one had tasted before. They called it Diet Coke. Even though that product was not on the market before, people automatically assume it had good taste, they also assume it is a high quality product. Because of this, they are willing to pay a higher premium price for that product. The perceptions of this brand new diet cola product are so strong simply due to the brand name that's stamped on the can.
Google named its virtual reality headset “Daydream.” And in doing so, it created a foundation for the first decent virtual reality brand. It’s both a signifier and a definition of itself in one. How do you explain what an Oculus headset is to grandma? You can’t. A daydream, however, anyone can understand.
Now that we have discussed how important a brand is at creating perceptions of quality, let's look at some of the inner workings of a brand and talk about the different elements of the brand. There are a variety of brand elements that can be selected, some may or may not be of use. These elements will totally identify or enhance the brand awareness. If properly selected, they can help facilitate the formation of favorable and unique brand associations.
Brand associations include: the brand name, (which is the anchor), brand logos, (your symbol), brand characters, packaging, brand slogans, and brand colors. When looking at these brand elements, a couple of thoughts come to mind. First of all, make sure all the brand elements work together to create a unique identity for the product and service. Also, ensure that everything that is selected is of one thought, one belief and work together in unison. One way of accomplishing unity is by the use of Brand Design Guidelines.
The Uber brand is more than a name. It’s a set of values, attributes, and artwork that reflects the spirit of the company. Using it consistently will reinforce their passion and commitment to providing a world class experience. In order to get that consistency in their media messages Uber offers Design Guidelines. You can see some of them here: Uber Guidelines
Brand elements should be memorable, easy to recognize and meaningful. Brand elements can be meaningful in two different ways. First of all, in a descriptive manner, they describe the attributes of the product or the benefit of the product for the customer segment. Does the brand label form a perception? Ideally these brand elements work together to persuade the customer of something positive. Next consider the visual impact look. They should be fun, interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and include rich visual imagery. If they include a visual and verbal imagery, think about how those two things work together. There should be a congruent, unified vision. Another important aspect to consider regarding your brand elements is protecting your identity. Acquiring a trademark for your brand name provides legal protection for those who try to copy your brand name. You will want to try to identify a brand image and the brand elements that work together and are difficult to copy. This is crucial in maintaining a sustainable competitive advantage. People may not copy exactly what you do, but they steal part of your identity just by doing something that looks similar. Remember, it is expensive to create a strong brand name and it becomes an extremely valuable asset.
Is your brand adaptable to market changes? Is it flexible enough to keep up with trends? Changes in consumer preferences, competition, or timing requires a brand name that is flexible and can adapt to new business demands. It has to be flexible and easy to update. Ideally, your brand name and image should include elements that work together and can be used on new products as well. Coke started out on a regular cola drink, and they stretched that brand name to fit a diet cola drink. The key is to consider brand images that will be used not only on your initial product, but could perhaps use on other future products as the company grows. This is important in order for your brand name to be interpreted successfully across different cultures. Even if you start out locally, today more and more brands are going global. When choosing your brand elements, select those that embody a global capacity, should your business expand globally. When developing a brand image, remember each element will play a different role in creating an overall perception. Each element has different strengths and weaknesses. To achieve some kind of balance and overall impact, you must consider how to use them strategically. The elements should work together to form a unique and consistent image.
Airbnb is used around the world by a wide global community. Their products and visual language needs to be welcoming and accessible worldwide. To learn how they accomplished this difficult task visit their website for building a visual language
You may have a legacy brand name that is very familiar in the market place like Aflac, or Geico, both of which are acronyms. At the onset, they weren't such great brand names because they were not quick and easy to pronounce and remember. For both of these companies, the marketers used other elements to help strengthen the brand names. Aflac came up with the duck image and Geico came up with the lizard image. This was done to help customers remember their brand names better. The most desirable method is to choose a brand name at the start of business that is easy to process and recall.
Once brand awareness is established with a brand name, it is difficult and expensive to change. Remember, brand imagery is really anchored on the name. Once a brand name is in place, then start thinking about logos and symbols, like the Nike Swoosh or McDonald's Golden Arches. These should grab the customer’s attention and trigger emotion. They can also reinforce your brand identity. Choose wisely, as again, symbols and logos can become outdated and ambiguous. They can be interpreted differently across cultures. Not all brands have a character, but a strong character can quickly draw attention. Just think about what happens when a child sees Elmo or Cookie Monster
Mickey Mouse is a world famous character, recognized everywhere and people recognize it as fun, kid friendly and exciting. Characters can work well, but they can become outdated or culturally bound. Certainly not all brands have a character. A slogan or a jingle, if done well, can include a few more words and may also include music as part of the brand element; implemented to convey meaning. Nike's “Just Do It” is an extremely well known slogan that adds value to the Nike brand name. In some instances, it can be difficult to translate. With jingles, take into account that musical tastes are different and not everybody will like it. Some people even think some jingles are annoying.
Packaging can be extremely advantageous and we will look at some examples of brands that were built on their package design. Packaging has a strong impact on creating perceptions. Research has shown that consumers form perceptions about the quality of the product by its package. The challenge with packaging is the manufacturer may not control how it ultimately presented to the consumer. This is because the channel or the retailer delivers that product and its packaging to the consumer. For example, a manufacturer may want the package oriented in a certain way, such as tilted or turned on an angle, but it may not appear that way on the shelf. Or if your product is supposed to be refrigerated, it may not be stored at the right temperature. These channel issues can sometimes prove to be a problem with packaging. All of these elements have advantages and disadvantages. If selected carefully and strategically, they can work well to create a strong brand image.
The brand name is extremely important to consumers and customers as it can seriously affect the likelihood of purchase. The brand name also influences the people who work for you, your employees. People take pride in the company they work for, and the reputation and brand name may make it easier or harder to hire and retain people. It may also effect employee morale and productivity. The brand name will effect growth opportunities. If the brand name is not adaptable and not transferable, it may affect the growth potential of the firm, and it can also affect investors. Sometimes without even realizing it, investors are effected by the brand name and about using the value of the brand name to make inferences about the merits and strengths of the firm as an investment opportunity. Many different types of brand names are significant in a variety of ways. The name The Best Made Company conveys a message of products that deliver superior form and function.
Some brand names describe the product or service. Lean Cuisine is an example of a descriptive brand name. You know exactly what the product is by the brand name; non-fattening food. Some brand names are metaphors as they represent some kind of symbolism, such as Nissan's Infinity. Many legacy brand names are based on people's names. Ford and Ralph Lauren are brand names that were chosen because the brand is based on a company created by a particular person. At times, the meaning behind the brand names is unclear as to how it applies to the product. Apple is a great example of this, so is Camel. These are famous brand names and you clearly understand what they are, but the brand names really do not have any direct connection with the product. A unique product creates a perception.
Then there are brand names that are altered to sound like a real word, but actually they are not. For instance, Lucent or Spotify; you may have a general sense of what those brands mean, and you may think you know what those words are, but they are not real. A brand name can consist of a new word that has been created by blending together two other words. Facebook is a great example because again, it is not an actual word, but you know what it is, a book of faces. Of course, there can be invented words that are not at all real and you have no idea what it means nor fathom a guess, like Exxon. Here are just three examples of modern brand names that follow all of these patterns, and you will agree these brand names were extremely strong choices. Richard Branson explains that the origin of the brand name Virgin was established when he was 15 years old. He was sitting in a room with some other 15 year olds, and they were trying to think of a name for the record company. A couple of the girls said, “well, we're all virgins here,” this somehow or another generated their interest, and they said, “Well, if we started a record company, we'd be virgins in that business, so let's use that name”. Apparently that's how that name was chosen, Branson also said at the time, it was considered a pretty risky brand name and for a while it was hard to register. Today, it has become an extraordinarily strong brand name. There is a lightheartedness around it that actually works really well with his products and markets.
Priceline is a different type of brand name. This a brand name that's quite descriptive if you know what that business is, you also know it is absolutely about establishing a line of prices. Priceline's meaning is quite clear and it has been useful in that way, in a different way than Virgin.
Pierre Omidyar, while contemplating names for his auction site, initially planned to use the name of his computer consulting company, Echo Bay. However, echobay was already taken. So Omidyar shortened the name to "ebay" and bought the web address that we all know and love.
Google has now become a verb, as people Google things. It is interesting that the Google brand name was chosen by mistake. They originally intended their brand name to be Googol, which is a large number, 1 with 100 zeros after. They meant to correct the spelling from Google back to the original Googol at the beginning but they never did. From a marketing point of view, Google is a interesting brand name as we continually stress the importance of consistency in brand names. Because it is so well known, people can identify Google in just little pieces of the brand name. They can easily identify the colors, and the typeface that Google plays around with.
A google GIF example
As seen above Google likes to depict its trademark differently every time you see it. Whenever you go to the browser, you will see a different version of the brand name. A sign of an extraordinarily strong brand name that has very high brand awareness is one in which you can see it even when it is not exactly the same every single time. These are examples of fairly new brand names that have been, very successful. When looking at new startups, today the trend is to make up brand names. Some new businesses come up with brand names that are invented such as Mibblio or Kaggle or Shodogg or The Magic Bike Company. Why is that happening? Part of the reason is that in today's world, a brand new business mandates a website right away. Most of the recognizable URLs have already been taken and one way to get a URL that's uniquely identified with the new business, is to invent a new word.
Gap logo Gap new logo
In addition, other elements of the brand mix must be used in an attempt to give some kind of identity to this brand name. At one time, Gap wasn't doing very well with their same store sales, revenues were down, and they really needed to do something to turn the business around. One of the things they were trying to do to modernize was to change the trademark, or change the brand logo. The original brand logo as shown on the screen is a blue square with the word Gap in white on that blue square. As you can see the new logo is very different, the blue square has shrunk, the typeface has changed and it is now on a white background. When Gap put that brand name into their social media market, they were instantly met with very negative reaction. The new brand name was out there as a test for a week, and consumers hated it.The reaction was so negative that the company reverted back to the previous logo. Interestingly, it ended up actually getting a lot of publicity at the time, in a pretty inexpensive way.
Changing your brand image is extremely expensive, especially for a retailer. There's signage, packaging and a host of things that make it costly to do so. For Gap, the fact that this change prompted such a negative reaction and that they found out so quickly was actually beneficial for the company. Some market research was done as a result of this somewhat famous incident. They conducted FMRI studies and neuroimaging studies to determine what was so bad about the image, why people did not like it. They identified a couple things that when you see them, you will agree make sense. One problem is when you have visual and verbal inputs in conflict with each other, people will interpret the visual aspect first.