Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Customer as a Brand

Consider this: every customer is his own personal brand, and his non-functional purchasing criteria (those that pertain to the social and psychological aspects of consumption) may be understood as curating activities.    That is, the customer has a brand that he wishes to uphold, or one that he wishes to modify, and selects products as a means to associate himself to brands that correlate with the desired perception of his own personal brand.

This may be more or less true of any product – where consumption is conspicuous, it is assumed that nonfunctional qualities play a more significant role because they impact social esteem.   But even products consumed in private impact self-esteem, and in this regard the latter may be more significant.

Where brands attempt to go beyond consumption and convince individuals to advocate on their behalf, the alignment of the brand to personal brand becomes even more significant.  A person will carefully consider which brands align to the desired personal brand, and will not espouse any brand that does not satisfy both social and psychological criteria.

Wrongful promotion, like any unwanted social advance, results in a negative reaction – the more aggressive the assault, the more aggressive will be the defense.    Where a brand is seen as ill-fitting, promotion can only cause it to become undesirable, even repugnant, to an individual who feels the brand does not align with his own.

There are also no universal qualities of brand.  Even those that represent youth, wealthy, sophistication, or other qualities with widespread appeal do not necessarily correspond to personal brand.  Status-seekers may wish to “pose” with a brand that represents qualities they do not possess, but most people are not so narcissistic and instead seek brands that correlate with their own true brand, or a brand that is only slightly and plausibly elevated from their present station.

And finally, it’s worth remembering that the maker does not determine the qualities of his brand – it is the perception of the brand by the market that causes it to have those qualities.   The individual who seeks to align with a brand is not seeking a relationship with the maker, but with other individuals in his society, regardless of whether they are consumers of that same brand.

The customer chooses the brand of the product, and it is that individual’s personal brand that creates the perception of the product brand among other prospects.   A product that is used by or otherwise associated with the “wrong kind” of person is the wrong brand, regardless of what the maker wishes the brand to represent.

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