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How Social Is Your Brand?

How social is your brand? I am not talking about "social" in the marketing channel sense (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, etc.). I am asking specifically, how does your brand speak to the socially-oriented needs of your consumers?

Our values influence every decision we make. Observed or not, our desire to fulfill particular personal values (such as being a good parent, obtaining high self-esteem, social belonging, etc.) drive what brands we consider and ultimately purchase.

The more effectively an organization can personally connect its brand attributes and benefits to relevant purchase motivations, the better the brand will resonate in the mind of the consumer. Brands who do this well can more positively influence the likelihood of purchasing their brand over another. Sociologists Willer and Feinberg (2015) of Stanford University illustrate this line of thinking in a recent article in which they argue that the superior way to make a persuasive argument is by connecting the topic to values held most dear to the person being persuaded. 

The social value attributes of a brand

To play that back, the most successful brands tend to do a better job of obtaining personal relevance within the market than their competitors.

Think of the personal connections used within some of the following positioning statements:

3 examples of ads that connect to social valuesHuggies’ There is Nothing like a Hug (connects to the desire to be a good parent), Apple’s Think Different (obtaining individualism and achievement) and Coca-Cola’s Refreshing the World (living the good life). The most effective brands in the world have connected to sought-after personal values.

In the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) space, we tend to see socially charged personal values (such as belonging, self-esteem and social status) emerge and become salient when products are visible (e.g. the automotive, apparel/ footwear, jewelry, technology categories to name a few).

David Aker, renowned brand strategist and author, touches on the power of socially charged benefits in marketing in the recent article, Move from Functional to Self-Expressive, Social and Emotional Benefits. Aker argues that “people are not only fulfilled with social relationships, they are influenced as well. Many brands have the capability of participating or even driving social benefits” (2015).

To bring this concept to life, let’s use the luxury product space as an example. I will provide a segment that emerged in the jewelry space as an example for my fellow female marketing compatriots, and a segment from the automotive space as an example for the males.

Personas within a segment

Examples are just one segment within a schema

Socially charged segments emerge in both categories as consumers that associate with this mindset purchase products to elevate their social status by being ‘perceived’ by others in the appropriate manner.

[The degree to which a brand can deliver on the desire to obtain a heightened social status will positively influence the purchase decision.]

The David Yurman ad below uses bold visuals to communicate personal relevance. The celebrity, Kate Moss, is used strategically to communicate the beautiful, elite nature of the product. The ad reinforces an elevated sense of social status when purchasing.

David Yurman ad with Kate Moss

The Lexus ad below uses models with sex appeal arriving at a social occasion in a beautiful vehicle as suggestive that the car is an extension of style. The messaging connects a brand benefit (performance) with a desired, socially charged personal benefit (being noticed and respected).  The ad reinforces the need to feel admired and obtain an elevated social status.

Lexus ad

In summary, successful brands will make relevant connections in their product messaging in order to reinforce sought-after personal values. And, for this piece, we’ll see that in highly visible products, these values are often social in nature. It is critical to consider the values that drive purchases in your space when developing brand positioning and communication strategies.

For more information see the following article, Neuroscience in Marketing. Ron Park, VP Analytics, Merkle, said “In order to truly maximize marketing effectiveness, we must create rewards for consumers by delivering on optimal relevance to the brand—and the brand experience—to each individual.”