BMW’s new ad campaign, themed “joy,” shows incredible insight into the nature of branding. The true brilliance of a great brand is to create a compelling, credible, unique concept that people commit to emotionally before, during, and after the point of purchase. This is what creates long-term value that can later be leveraged in specific marketing campaigns focused on functional benefits.
Several recent marketing articles talk about the new campaign, which steps away from the company’s previous emphasis on “performance.”
One of these articles raises the issue of whether the new campaign dilutes the traditional BMW brand image (briefly, “performance”). For my part I don’t see how it does so at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite: BMW has taken the functional benefit of the brand to a much higher level. That a BMW will perform is now given. It’s the joy that the performance gives the driver that is now the focus of the customer’s attention. Excellent, excellent, excellent.
Never forget that people—their passion, their emotion, their experiences—are at the heart of every brand. It is people who define the brand and people who consume it. Billboards are not the brand. Commercials are not the brand. Magazine ads are not the brand. And believe it or not, the product or service itself is not the brand either. Rather, it is that intangible image in the mind of the consumer that is the brand. And that image is formed, by the way, as much by comments on Facebook and message boards and spoofed videos on YouTube as it is by official corporate communication.
In any case, by focusing on people high on the experience of driving, they are on their way to revitalizing a brand that for me had become a bit dull and staid.
Now, on to some other brands that are doing a great job—and leveraging “people power” to do it.
I personally am a huge fan of Trader Joe’s. It’s one of my go-to brands, like Banana Republic: Most of the time, I find that their products are reliable, useful, and that I can buy them without thinking, knowing that they will do what they are supposed to do every time.
I think that it is not a coincidence that the people who work at Trader Joe’s seem very – what’s the word – could it be human? to me. As we all know, service representatives often act very dehumanized, and often that is because they are treated as objects rather than adult homo sapiens. TJ’s staff, unless they’re great liars, don’t seem like people you often see working at the grocery store as clerks or cashiers. They seem to actually be happy, in fact. I often see them laughing. They enjoy their jobs, enjoy the customers, and even seem to enjoy wearing the shirts (unlike in Office Space where Jennifer Aniston resisted wearing “flare” in her job as a waitress at a restaurant chain.) TJ’s staff are always helpful, no matter what you ask. So when I heard the radio commercial promoting their new smoked trout – even though it is $3.29 a can, which is expensive, and even though I normally do not like any kind of fish in a can because I associate it with sardines, and even though I was a bit taken aback because I’d never heard them advertise anything on the radio – I hustled to the local store at my first opportunity to buy some. And you know what? It was great. Just like all their other stuff.
Same at Banana Republic. Knowledgeable, friendly staff, a great shopping experience, classy attitude and classy clothes that are fairly priced and always look good. I’m always happy when I shop there.
I remember once hearing Landor’s Allen Adamson say that the power of a brand is its ability to instill a “shortcut” to decision-making in the mind of the customer. You as the owner of a product or the provider of a service want to be that brand that the customer turns to when they simply want a reliable interaction that will give them a consistent result. It’s sort of like bookmarking a favorite site on your Internet browser—a brand is your go-to when you need to take care of something quickly.
In fact, based on my own experience, brands are even more powerful than they’ve been advertised to be. Not only will I pay more for brands I love than for generics, but I will absolutely ignore the generic completely – even if prices are slashed to a point where the product almost seems free – in favor of using a brand I trust.
Look, for example, at Amazon.com. I avoid buying from unknown vendors on that site. I would rather buy only from them, even if the product costs a little more. Why? Because I know that my experience will be positive, consistent and reliable every time. Whenever I have had a problem and contacted Amazon, it has been taken care of right away without any hassle.
Last example, real quick because I don’t want to go on and on here: The Art of Shaving. Went there recently with my husband, just to look around. Completely inviting store environment, extremely knowledgeable salesman who actually looked like one would imagine the brand.
All 5 of these companies embody great principles of branding, some of them probably unknowingly. But they’re great nonetheless. Worth taking a minute to experience and learn from.