Words Alone No Longer Work
How many times have we as consumers heard the words “best,” “world class,” “high quality” or a host of other superlatives proclaiming the superiority of one product over another? In the clutter and clamor of today's increasingly competitive marketplace of product development and market segmentation, the consumer is inundated with words, messages and claims.
When advertising and when conducting your customer service training, it's critical to understand that customers simply don’t believe you. So establishing perceptions through brand management can no longer rely on words to realize the customer loyalty your company needs.
If we don't believe what we hear, what do we believe?
We believe what we see. Seeing is, indeed, believing. Cognitive psychologists have long understood the superiority of visual imagery in enhancing both credibility and memorability. This has important implications for brand builders.
In order to cut through the clutter it is now necessary to position brands visually as well as verbally. This entails understanding – from your consumer's viewpoint – the visual and sensory cues that will automatically trigger desired perceptions, and then implementing those cues at all points of contact with the customer.
Apple does this particularly well. "Easy to use" is one of the brand's key desired perceptions.
The primary visual cue for "Easy to use" is simplicity. Consider the iPod ads featuring the exuberant dancing silhouette against a brightly colored background with the swinging white headphone wires as the only indication of the product. It couldn't be simpler.
Of course, the pure simplicity of the product itself reinforces the desired "Easy to use" brand perception, as does the completely uncluttered design of Apple's retail stores. No words are necessary. "Easy to use" is triggered automatically, at a glance, at every encounter with the brand.
SHR Perceptual Management has been helping clients such as Coke, BMW and Fairmont Hotels lead the charge in aligning brands visually. Their process benefits from over 20 years experience and a database compiled from visual research around the world.
SHR's president, Barry Shepard, points out the importance of carefully identifying a brand's four aspirational perceptions and then employing consumer research to understand the necessary visual cues.
"This must be a disciplined process in order to effectively provide a foundation to guide creative executions," he says, "and also to evaluate whether a proposed advertising campaign or product design is successfully reinforcing desired brand perceptions prior to implementation.
"Because significant marketing dollars are at stake, relying solely on the intuition of a creative director can be disastrous.”
Shepard goes on to point out that his company has found a number of clients spending as much as $600,000 to visually reinforce the wrong perceptions.
What sensory clues will reinforce the right perception for your company to help build customer loyalty, and how can you implement this brand management into every area of your business – from product development, to market segmentation, to customer service training?
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