I tend to talk a lot about the connection between strong branding and the emotional response the most successful brands have the power to evoke. The reason for their success being the response triggered for the consumer.
Context is key
In order to tell a story that will trigger an emotional response, it’s important to first make sure the story you’re choosing to tell is relevant to the audience you want to market to. So this is where defining your market segment comes in (again), and hard demographic data can prove useful. Avoid generalising too much, but demographics are a good place to start if you want to understand your customer beyond their pure need and propensity to purchase your product or service. Someone’s age, location, occupation and marital status give some insight into what their story might be, uncovering some of the challenges they might face and what they need solving, and therefore informs how your story should be told. Context is key.
The trick is to use the facts to figure out much more than what meets the eye. The beauty of building a brand strategy is the opportunity to construct a message that factors in the context of your consumer’s story. But sometimes, you have to think on your feet. You may have dug deep to understand your prospects’ needs, but their feelings are far more unpredictable.
Bad hair day
I’m telling you this based on a recent personal experience of my own. Each day starts with one of two things: either my hair needs washing or the dachshund needs walking. My natural mane is known for being high maintenance, and most mornings don’t allow for the full coiffing process. You should just be glad it’s clean. On this particular day I knew my hair looked sh*t, but shoved it back and dragged the dog out as a priority. Next thing I knew, a guy leapt out of the door to his salon and offered me the full works. Stay focused, I’m still talking about having a bad hair day. He even offered me a discount (which he gave me after going back inside and taking a phone call while I stood there quite baffled, offended to a large degree, but admittedly interested in saving some cash on a service that normally costs me over 100€).
Needs and feelings
From behind his tinted windows, he spotted a clear consumer need. My roots definitely needed attention, and appeared worse from the lack of blow dry that day. But what his forward approach to sales didn’t consider were my feelings or my foreign origin. There’s a fine line between being my knight in shining armour wielding foils and being made to feel like an ugly sister, who recognised her own needs, but didn’t want to be told what they were. That all depended on which side of bed I’d got out of, and that, he couldn’t predict. He also failed to consider cultural norms. Most likely, he was going by the Spanish book, but my highlighted hair hints that I’m not native, not to mention the old phrase ‘don’t sell, we’re British’.
As a consumer, I was torn. Si pudiera hablar castellano mejor y más rápido, I would have said thanks for telling me my hair looks crap. But I was also considering cheating on my usual hairdresser to benefit from 15% off, and what the heck, I am generally up for trying something different. And the whole experience perturbed me enough to make me want to share it. As for the hair salon in question, the risk might still pay off (I kept the voucher), but equally they might lose more than just one of their potential customers because I’ve made a point of sharing their approach to sales, and more importantly, how it made me feel, with others in the same market segment. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. There really is something in that, too.
“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” Coco Chanel
One and done or long time love?
What we can all learn from this, or at least, be reminded of, is that your commercial success as a business begins with your brand strategy, and long before the point of sale. Don’t misuse the data to make assumptions. Treat your prospects as individuals. Tell a wonderful story that leads with how your product or service can change their life. But do the research, do the strategy, tailor your message to different audiences. Be sensitive to current affairs, and female hormones. Breathe before your brand makes a blunder. And be reassured that the soft sell captures a more loyal customer in the long run.