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How Brands Become A Source Of Comfort


How Brands Become A Source Of Comfort

The consistent fulfillment of a promise or expectation defines the very origins of trust. Trust translates to comfort.

Brands can be a source of comfort, regardless of product or service category. That’s a power I contend we as brand marketers under value, especially in uncertain times. And it’s especially a power that brand skeptics certainly have no appreciation for; it’s pretty difficult to “take comfort” in a generic, no matter how cheap.

Why and how does this develop? I contend that when life is uncertain or in crisis, our survival instincts are hard-wired to gravitate toward the “tried and true” versus the unknown. Why take a chance? Brands, by their very nature, are created to be a “known commodity” to their constituency. Being known is the first requirement of trust. With consistency brands become a rock for the customer in very unsatisfying or uncertain circumstances – and can justify a premium for that.

We often talk about brands pushing the envelope. Being more aggressive. Growing their market share. But we should always be mindful of the inherent power of “brand comfort” and look for ways to be the leading source of that comfort.

Building Comfort Via Brand Story

As Mark Di Somma points out in “Leveraging Brand Heritage for Stories And Strength” there are “heritage brands” that are deep-seeded in story and legend. You need not be a consumer of these brands, but just exposed to them in the marketplace, to appreciate their “comfort.” For example, you don’t have to be a pro golfer to be comfortable with purchasing FootJoy. It’s unnecessary to be an outdoors enthusiast to be comfortable with shopping in an LL Bean catalog. You need not be a beer connoisseur to be comfortable with having a Budweiser. That’s because due to their consistency, all of these brands have built a trusted comfort level beyond their consumer groups.

But none of these and other brands, such as Caterpillar, McDonalds or The Honest Company, simply stumbles into that brand comfort perception by accident. In fact, you could argue that it’s not what leading brands do that keeps them on top, but what they don’t do: Being too easily swayed from their origins.

Brands achieve a trusted comfort level the same way people do, by doing essentially two basic things, across business quarters, years, decades and even generations:

  1. They consistently represent a meaning for their existence, often referred to as the “why” of the brand.
  2. They deliver on the “why” and their customer expectations, faithfully.

In this way, brands can take on an added affinity with their loyal customer (and even the occasional or non-customer) in turbulent and uncertain times, because they remain true to their promise. Everything else may be topsy-turvy, but Budweiser is still the King of Beers … so all is right with the world.

Staying Power And Visual Heritage

Another important factor in maintaining brand comfort is the steadfastness of the brand identity (the logo, the “brand dress,” etc.) as the “familiar face” of a “trusted friend.” Brands with longevity must, out of necessity due to changing fashions, market stagnation or keeping in step with social or cultural acceptance, alter or refine their brand identities with great care. An often-cited example is the Betty Crocker brand, with her evolving look to keep the brand familiar, yet current to a new generation of consumers. Were her transformation to be too drastic, the brand’s comfort level would be sacrificed.

And with the John Deere brand, the promise “Nothing runs like a Deere” not only remains, but also so does the jumping deer logo – one of the oldest recognizable marks of any product marketed in the U.S., regardless of category.

Knowing what to change and when to change is the key to success for any brand marketer. Always remember, we are by nature change-adverse. So sometimes it’s not about doing something; it’s about doing nothing that keeps a brand a trusted, comfortable friend when everything else is in a state of flux.

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