Entrepreneur and author Tom Asacker began his presentation with one of those good-news, bad-news things. The bad news? He was going to take 45 minutes to talk about 30 years of bad marketing decisions. Gulp. The good news? “After 15 minutes your brain automatically starts thinking about sex.” Great. Because two minutes after that, I’ll be thinking about having a smoke.
Instead, before the first 15 minutes were up, Asacker had everyone thinking differently about branding… and whether or not New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra was a genius. Berra said, “The future aint what it used to be,” and Asacker set out to prove how right he was, particularly when it comes to understanding branding.
Today’s marketing realities go beyond the predictions. In 1974, consumers were drowning in 560 messages a day. Now it’s 3500. And that’s in addition to the “supersaturation of choice” everywhere we go: 16 varieties of eggs, 20 different Goldfish crackers, 175 pro sports teams, 2630 government-recognized religious groups... Then there’s the glut of info out there: Fifty billion web pages, 12 billion emails, hundreds of TV channels (and nothing on). And where has it gotten us? Right now, no one trusts businesses or the people who run them. After Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and Martha Stewart, you can’t blame them. So, what’s going on?
Tom Asacker says today’s marketers simply don’t understand branding. It’s not a logo, a promise or an experience; it’s consumers’ expectations of what a brand will do for them. The brand they choose is who they become. “Brands tell the world who they are and where they belong, “ Asacker explains. Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, they sell identity. And they do it by building relationships with their customers. So, what are consumers looking for? We seek the perfect balance of value and happiness. Unquestionably, shopping at Wal-Mart saves you money but, more importantly, it makes you feel smart.
In Asacker’s book, A Clear Eye for Branding, he says marketing is about creating strong feelings for your brand. And those feelings are created through your customers’ experience with everything they sense about your company: the look and feel of your advertising, web site, email communications, products and, especially today, your people. “Person-to-person interaction will always be the most powerful creator of feelings. Your most powerful brand enhancer,” he writes.
The bottomline, Asacker stresses, is that you have to do more for your customers and establish an emotional attachment to your brand. They first experience your brand emotionally before rationalizing those feelings and making a decision. Before they know if they want what you’re offering, they’re deciding if they want to be identified with your brand. Asacker recommends taking a good look at the brands that appear to achieve that kind of powerful emotional connection: Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Geico, and the mother of them all, Harley Davidson. As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”