Will You Take The Blue or Red Pill of Brand Strategy?

If you’ve spent any time on this blog you know that my “thing” is helping companies leverage the rich power of human emotions to build stronger, more profitable brands. Doing so can create legions of emotionally connected consumers who buy more, more often, and tell their friends! And isn’t that the point?


I’ve recently written about Samsung Mobile and how they are dramatically underperforming their potential by simply marketing features and benefits; by ignoring important tenets of brand strategy and consumer behavior that can inject enormous power into their marketing.


To review, here’s the “math”:


  • Every interaction with a product creates an experience.


  • Every experience creates feelings.


  • Feelings & emotions are the “stuff” of memories; they are what stick with us and inform our preferences and behaviors.

It’s not what something does. It’s how it impacts your life. It’s the emotions that it generates. (Tweet this!)

So many companies get caught up focusing their advertising around what they do and not how what they do makes people feel. I get it. Companies are proud about what they do well. But to be most successful - like the biggest and most profitable global brands - they've got to take the next step and articulate how what they do makes people feel.


critiqued a major airline campaign a few years ago. It boasted about increasing the size of their fleet and airport infrastructure - leaving it up to consumers to infer how that benefitted them.  The ad ignored the almost infinitely greater marketing potential in turning their focus outward and talking about the impact that their internal improvements would have on its consumers.

To be sure, from a consumer standpoint, anything that happens inside a company is only relevant to the degree that it impacts the consumer experience; how it affects them.

Here's another airline 'missing the boat' on this point. 

Which would be the more impactful airline ad, one about adding shiny new planes or one that told the story of how greater flying capacity allowed a dad serving in Afghanistan to get home in time to see his son start his first high school football game?


Brand strategy that leverages emotional impact - how a product or service makes someone feel - will always have greater potential to be more effective than advertising that ignores it.

Brand experiences that actually help transform consumers into their aspirational identity will always be the most powerful and effective interactions, creating lasting bonds that have consumers coming back for more!


Case in point, you’ve probably seen the holiday 2014 Apple commercial. It does a wonderful job illustrating this. It shows the impact of Apple products, nit just all the whiz bang things it can do. It’s this impact that is emotionally resonant, that consumers connect to, that drives people to both love the brand and buy the product!

Let’s compare that ad to this Samsung one for its Galaxy S5 phone. Samsung seems to think that focusing on features/benefits in a ‘hip and cool’ way is the equation for advertising. 


See the enormous difference in the approaches? This juxtaposition is the very reason why even with arguably fewer new features, Apple kicks Samsungs butt in the mobile phone (and laptop) business.


Although this issue is pervasive in consumer technology, it exists everywhere. For example, today I bought a Champion sweatshirt. It was on sale for less than $20. It’s a great quality, medium weight cotton hoodie. To me, it both reminded me of something I valued a long time ago, while also representing the (needless) decline of a brand.


When I went to college in 1980, Champion had enormous brand equity; never in a glitzy, high profile manner - but in a prestigiously reliable fashion. They supplied our college’s athletes with all of our “soft” sporting goods. Everyone from the high profile football and basketball players, to us lowly lacrosse players, all wore Champion. Even though Nike, Adidas, Reebok and a few others were out there, and maybe even positioned to be a bit sexier, Champion was just solid, performance gear. I loved the brand!


Well, we know how that story ended up 35 years later: with Nike creating one of the leading global brands, and Champion being relegated to competing with commodity store brands. You also know why. Where Nike brilliantly leveraged the enormous emotional potential inherent in how their products impact people, Champion, for the most part, didn't.


So, all this begs the question: which path are you taking your brands down? Have you chosen the veritable blue pill or the red pill? Are you getting all you can by giving your consumers a taste of whatever emotional potential exists in the brand experience you're offering, or are you ignoring this and continuing to just focus on 'functionality and the 5P's' or something?


This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.

 Let’s talk about how to ensure that you’re maximizing your opportunity.

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Tags: brand, brandstrategy, champion, emotion, samsung


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