“Branding” is all the rage these days.
“You gotta create a personal brand!” you’re told.
Okay, but what exactly does that mean?
Am I to think of myself as a product? Am I a brand in the same way that Jiffy Peanut Butter is a brand? That sounds nuts (pun intended)!
David Aaker has some answers.
Aaker’s book, Aaker On Branding, is very thorough, and perhaps a bit dense.
in it, he dissects the concepts of brand into twenty very usable concepts. The book views brand primarily through the lens of the organization, but I found his ideas to be useful on the individual level as well.
While reading through it, I took a short break and decided to check the mail. In my mailbox was an advertisement that got me thinking…
The Smoking Man In My Mailbox
In the advertisement was this sophisticated, cigarette smoking man. I picture myself looking like him when I get older: well-weathered, debonair; kind of like a fine wine, reaching closer towards perfection with each passing year.
Check out the advertisement:
In the second picture, you see a passport encasing a plane ticket. No doubt this guy is well-traveled. Heck, he’s probably getting ready to go deep sea treasure hunting off the coast of wherever.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is an advertisement for Benson and Hedges, a cigarette brand.
This cigarette has very little to do with smoking. It’s about a lifestyle. And it’s brilliant. In the picture above, you see the words “refined. smooth. classic.” That’s what smoking these bad boys will do for you, or, at least what they would have you believe.
Commodities Vs. Branding
Aaker says that without a clear brand to drive strategy, you’re relegated to a commodities dealer.
In the advertisement example above, Benson and Hedges have a very clear brand. They are the upscale cigarette for the upscale man. It’s the “Menthol with Taste.” They relate the product to a vision who they could be. That’s powerful.
But what if Benson and Hedges were limited to thinking in terms of commodities? You would see a very different advertisement. It might say, “We have the lowest cost cigarette on the market, three times lower than Marlboro!”
Not as sexy, huh? The brand (authentic) provides a clear differentiating factor in the minds of consumers.
Three Ways To Speak The Language Of Brand
How do you create compelling, clearly branded advertisements like the one that Benson and Hedges put together?
Aaker provides three powerful ideas in a chapter titled “Get Beyond Functional Benefits.” He starts the chapter off by telling the story of John Caples who famously created one of the best advertisements of all time as seen below.
Capels’s goal was to entice people to purchase piano lessons, and it worked–marvelously.
In the ad, a man sits down at a piano and blows everyone away, shocking his doubters. Aaker says that it is a classic example of why speaking to the heart and not the mind is so important.
The Capels ad invokes three key benefits in the mind of the reader: emotional, self-expressive, and social benefits
Here’s how to utilize them in your brand/writing:
- Emotional – Emotional benefits relate the ability of the brand to make the buyer feel something as part of the experience or purchase process.
Question to ask: “When I buy or use this brand I feel _____.”
Examples: “Driving a Porsche makes me feel powerful.” “I feel in control when I use TurboTax.”
2. Self-Expressive – People express their idealized self through things such as activities, job choice, and lifestyles. This is “self-concept.” Self-expressive benefits provide a vehicle for expressing either an actual or ideal self-image.
Question to ask: “When I buy or use this brand I am _____.”
Examples: “When I smoke Benson and Hedges, I’m a smooth and sophisticated gentleman.” “Driving a Mercedes makes me successful.”
3. Social Benefits – “A brand can help people to be part of a social group and thereby convey social benefits. Think of this as social proof. “A social benefit is powerful because it provides a sense of identity and belonging–very basic human drives.”
Question to ask: “When I buy or use this brand, the type of people I relate to are ____.”
Examples: “When I go to Starbucks I am part of a closed club of coffee and coffeehouse aficionados, even if I don’t interact with any.” “When playing with a Titleist Prov V1 golf ball, I am among a group of really good golfers.”
Brands Are Assets
A brand is the face of a business strategy. – Prophet dictum
Brand is everything.
Without one, you have to compete on price. That might work in the short term but is devastating in the long term. Organizations no longer have the luxury of short-term thinking. They must clearly communicate the benefits of what they have to offer at every customer touch point, imprinting their unique organizational values along the way.
Aaker On Branding makes a strong case for “brands as assets.” It also provides practical ideas for crushing the competition, innovation, creating powerful stories, and positioning your product or service in the marketplace.
While not a book that I would recommend reading in one fell swoop (it’s dense), it does provide a treasure trove of information that is both beneficial and insightful. I could just as easily see this book on a Fortune 500 company CEO’s desk as I could on the desk of a burgeoning copywriter. It’s that good.
Grab Akker On Branding Here
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