Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Consistency, Value, and Brand

Brand is about consistency.   The value of a brand, from the very beginning, was that it indicated to customers what they could expect of a specific product from a specific vendor.   Later, when brand began to accrue nonfunctional qualities, customers were attracted to the brand because they expected those qualities to be delivered.

So the value of an established brand is that it delivers the same quality, experience after experience, year after year, decade after decade.   Brands that advertise they have been in business for a hundred years communicate a long history of consistent quality.  Consistency with expectations is critical.

This is because human beliefs about anything are based on repetition and consistency.   When two things occur at the same time, we believe it to be coincidence and attach no special value to the correlation.  But when two things occur at the same time, over and over, we create an association and expect the two to be correlated.  

This is as true of brands as everyday experiences: a brand must be consistent to be meaningful.  There cannot be the sense that what the customer gets the next time will be different from what they got the last time.   Any change causes the customer to question the correlation, and to doubt that the brand has the qualities they expect – and for that doubt to become more generalized.  If it packaging is different, there must be other things that are different about the product it contains.

Whenever a brand changes, it takes some time to adjust: customers are displeased when anything is different, and need to be reassured that the qualities they value about the brand have remained the same.   Or when an unpopular brand changes, they must then convince customers who were disappointed in the past that things are now different and they should give the brand a second chance.

Firms tend to assume they know why customers buy their brand and are indifferent to any other aspect.   But the concept of a brand, or any object, is the sensory stimulation.   The customer cares not only about the taste of a food product, but it’s scent and visual appearance as well – change any one thing, even an inessential quality, and customers cannot refrain from reconstructing their conception of the brand.

So in that sense, consistency itself is a value: knowing what to expect of a brand means that the customer doesn’t have to reevaluate it each time they purchase.   This reduces the effort (cost) of buying, and ensures that the benefit-to-cost ratio remains favorable to the brand.

To leverage this, consistency is critical.

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