If you’re a brand manager, you want people to love your brand. Obviously you love the brand that you manage every day and that sends you paychecks, but do people out there love your brand, too? The best question you can ask yourself to find out is “would people wear a t-shirt with my logo on it?”.
We’re not talking about a promotional item that someone accepted because it was free and you can always need an old, cheap t-shirt for yard work. We’re talking about people putting time, effort, and money into finding a good-looking t-shirt with your logo on it, so they can proudly display it in public wherever and whenever they get a chance to.
So, would people do that with your brand? The truth is they’re less likely to do so than you think.
People proudly wear t-shirts of their favorite sports team, rock band, country, city, college, nonprofit, motorcycle, beer or car brand. Occasionally, you’ll see a great tech brand make it onto a t-shirt. But you hardly ever see a bank or a kitchen appliance logo on a shirt. Why is that?
As we all know, people like brands that will enhance their sense of identity: “I wear this logo on my chest to let others know what kind of person I am.”
All people do in life is trying to find out “who they are”. Whether they’re aware of it or not, everybody does it, all the time. Even those who say they don’t. And many people use the power of brands to do it.
People identify with brands that stand for something, that have meaning. Meaning beyond the practical things that your product can do.
People may use your bank or your kitchen appliance because it’s convenient. But that does not mean your brand belongs to their lives. It doesn’t. Not until they wear your logo on a shirt.
So, if you happen to manage a bank or a kitchen appliance brand, you’ll say “that’s not fair, it’s much easier for a musician or a car to make it onto a shirt!”.
That may be true, but remember: most musicians or car brands in the world will never make it onto shirts. So, it’s not about your product category. The defining factor is meaning. If you don’t like the word “meaning”, think “identity”.
What does your brand stand for? Are your users proud of using it?
Could users of a bank or kitchen appliance ever be proud of their brand choice? Of course! But probably not as long as banks, kitchen appliances and most other consumer goods companies only look at their users from a safe distance, through a one-way mirror, superficially labeling them as “Hispanic consumers” or “senior citizens”, and failing to really understand them as human beings.
So, what are the things you can do as a brand manager?
1. Read more. About marketing and about everything else. Just read more.
2. Stop using the word “consumer”. It distances you from the people you want to reach. It puts an analytical filter between you and them. Try calling them “people”. Look at them as what they are: real people. With values, beliefs, fears, and trying to find out “who they are” (just like you).
3. If your profession is marketer, the absolute best thing you can do is be friends, in your private life, with people who are your users. Even if they’re different from you, be their friend and spend time with them. It will help you understand what gives them a sense of identity. If you can’t do it, then find a good research company that can help you uncover where your users draw meaning from in their lives. But it would be better if you tried the friend thing first.
In sum, your brand is not the only reason why people buy your product, but it can be a very powerful one. What it needs is meaning. So, allow me to ask you again:
Would people wear a t-shirt with your logo on it?
Insight & Innovation Manager
Lopito, Ileana & Howie