Archive for October 8th, 2007

Gaining the New Mindshare

October 8, 2007

In its highest service to the marketing cause, powerful language fosters positive brand associations. “Word currency” is only one piece of the puzzle, however.

Smith-Winchester’s CEO Emeritus, Charlie Weaver, has written a comprehensive overview of the evolving landscape that we, as business marketers, traverse every day seeking to gain mindshare within our markets.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mindshare as Emotion

Ultimately, gaining mindshare isn’t a matter of finding new creative ideas that will rise above the communications glut, or even leveraging new communication channels that will help better connect with your target audience (although these can help).

Instead, more powerful brand communication starts with understanding that brands are emotional constructs. How we relate to a brand is filtered through our feelings – joy, distress, fear, pride, anger, love and a host of others. Brands, the evidence shows, find their natural constituencies and gain mindshare when they resonate with the positive emotional predispositions of those with whom they interact.

Recent research reported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science shows that brain structures that think and ones that feel emotions are not walled off from each other, as has been generally supposed. Instead, emotion and cognition are elements of one brain process. We literally cannot think without feeling. Other studies suggest that emotion is in charge of virtually all human decision making. Post-buying-decision rational arguments become mere justification for earlier emotive behavior.

Emotion, therefore is a crucial part of the contextual history each brand stakeholder brings to the brand encounter. And because this package is unique to each individual, no two stakeholders perceive the same brand in identical ways. The problem for marketers – the message that an advertiser believes is being taken away may not be what any given customer actually internalizes.

This reality is why passive mass marketing techniques are giving way to more emphasis on downstream interactive communication processes that empower prospective customers to tailor the brand experience to suit their own distinctive psycho-social profiles.

Brands, then, are emotion-charged entities formed as a product of both passive and active learning. This understanding exposes the limitations of the classic “rational mind” advertising model, which holds that products and services should be promoted based on competitive advantages that potential customers can understand and find credible.

The fact is, brands gain adherents by meeting both functional and emotional needs. This means that brand communications must have both rational and appropriate non-rational dimensions to earn and retain mindshare.

Behavior Follows Feeling

All brand communications illicit an emotional response, whether intended or not. Further, customers and prospects are often unaware of the emotional under-currents that inform their purchase decisions.

This is why research into customer buying motivations rarely yields complete answers and why results can sometimes seem downright baffling. “It doesn’t make sense” is the plaintive cry arising from the marketing department.

Emotion accounts for this disconnect between what customers say motivates their buying decisions and what actually occurs. This can be seen clearly in the business-to-business sphere where study after study shows price to be a primary buying-decision criteria, yet low price routinely correlates poorly with market share, volume growth and other brand success indicators.

Brands are Ideologies

The solution is to understand that successful brands – and the mindshare they command – are first and foremost belief systems brought to life and validated through brand experiences. Brands aren’t built by marketing executives or consultants, but by communities of believers, an unstoppable emotion-charged force that advertising alone can neither create nor control.

The New Mindshare turns earlier branding assumption on their head. What was once viewed as a mass-media-driven outside-in process is now understood as an ideology-driven inside-out process. In this construct, a company’s employees embrace a common customer-centric belief system, which gives meaning to their work and informs brand outreach at every customer touchpoint.

Mindshare, then, can be seen to start with mission, vision and values woven into a coherent and compelling ideology by company leadership. As this ideology is internalized and promulgated by company employees, a nascent brand emerges. The brand-as belief-system becomes an inseparable part of the company’s overall business design, a fully integrated approach that is the only way to create a truly powerful and lasting brand.

Products and services certainly need to satisfy functional customer needs. Brands that fall short at this level cannot endure. But in an age of overwhelming choice and growing competitive parity, successful brands must also provide a durable emotional bond with brand stakeholders.

As author and advertising executive Patrick Hanlon observes in his excellent book, Primal Branding, the brand-as-belief-system is powerful because it encompasses relevance, trust, empathy, leadership, resonance and commitment – the very attributes advertisers spend millions each year trying to parlay into customer mindshare.(6)

Hanlon has understood a crucial point: Ideology is believing. And believing is belonging – being part of something larger than ourselves, a fundamental psychological longing described by Abraham Maslow in his acclaimed Hierarchy of Human Needs more than 60 years ago.

Brands reflecting these principles draw communities of true believers. Such brands achieve mindshare – and wallet share – because they provide an authentic experience that resonates with the hopes, dreams, and deepest held beliefs of those who bring them to life.

To read the entire article “The New Mindshare: Rise of the Customer-Created Brand”


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