What becoming a dad has made me realise about brands – brand choice is an act of faith

So this is my fourth week as a new dad, which is why it is some time since I last posted anything – am now getting the hang of typing one handed with baby on lap;-). The birth of our first child and my experience of becoming a dad has so far been indescribable. So I will just summarise with one word, which I mean wholeheartedly and with all its meaning – wonderful.

Life’s most significant moments always influence your perspective and on a personal level I suspect that I am only at the start of that process of change. On a professional level my perspective is changing too and since this is a work/marketing themed blog, I thought I would write a short post on something that I have been thinking about in the last few weeks – the similarity in the relationships we have with people and the relationships we have with brands.

I saw some research recently which looked at human relationships and a sense of belonging. It was interesting to see that increasingly the affinity people have with meta-groups represented by interest areas such as religion, sport etc often trumps physical or geographical relationships. But despite this, people the world over still have a core group of people, their inner circle, that is closest too them.

And in these last few weeks that has really been brought home to me as I have been reminded of the central importance of family in your life. Nothing trumps family. Family is the group that is closest to you, and that you have an intense tribal relationship with. It is a relationship that is bound by blood and marriage of course, but what struck me was the role of faith in familial relationships. We had faith in our families support, and the support our families gave us in the last few weeks has been incredible, touching and wonderful. We were overwhelmed by the reality, and found our faith replenished and invigorated.

I think that the relationships we have with other conscious entities are different in strength from the relationship we have with our families but not different in type. I have total faith in the support that my family will give me, lots of faith in the support that my friends will give me, a little less faith in the support health carers will give me, and less still in acquaintances and strangers – and so on.

Dotted along this spectrum is the faith I have in the support brands will give me. Brands have lots of the characteristics of people – recognisable features, personality and ultimately brands are delivered by organisations of people – they are a conscious entity. So my relationship with brands is exactly the same type of relationship I have with my family – just of a wildly differing quality.

Brands make a promise. My faith in a brand depends on the delivery of that promise. I love Coca Cola. I have faith in the support that Coca Cola gives me (to refresh me, cure my hangover etc). That faith is stronger than the faith I have have in a stranger in a takeaway van making me a cup of tea and so I choose a Coke. My faith in the support that my mobile phone gives me is greater than my faith in an acquaintance passing on a message to another friend (but only just!).

Brands have traditionally been very good at making promises, spending lots on glossy TV ads to proclaim to all and sundry how great a relationship with the brand will be for consumers. These days brands are empowered to have a two way conversation with consumers so making the promise is even more personal and so the relationship is potentially even closer. But we all know how we feel when those closest to us make promises they can’t keep, it hurts when our family lets us down. That applies to brands too – as Bernback so famously put it “nothing makes a bad product fail faster than a great advertising campaign”.

The large organisations that are responsible for delivering the brand promise can often be appaling at it. Coordinating thousands of people to consistently deliver a product or service at a certain price is never an easy task. But, that it is hardly surprising that promises aren’t kept doesn’t diminish the importance of keeping them, or the spoils available to those brands that can. The organisations that will win are those who can encourage their employees to take the delivery of the promise personally, give them the resources they need and reward them appropriately for success. Then consumers faith will be rewarded.

I also think that marketing comunications can play a role not only in making the promise, but in keeping it as well. Consumers buy brands because they respond emotionally to them. Marketing communications can infuse brands with emotion and add to the intangible value delivered by the brand- and in a way can play a role in making the promise and delivering on it at the same time.

So, people have faith in their chosen brands, and marketing plays a large role in that. But ultimately nothing is stronger than the faith I have in my family to support me. And really it is that strength of realtionship, that faith, by which I judge all others.

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