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Without a shadow of DOUBT

There are some things that, however often you say them, you never stop wondering if they’re actually true.

For me, it’s ‘people’s brand choices are driven by their deeper needs’.

Every time I even think it, that little devil appears over my shoulder.

“You sure about that?”

He knows.

There’s salience for a start. Normal people don’t care much about brands. In most cases they buy out of habit and brands make that easier to do. Easy to mind, easy to find.

But why does a brand come to mind?

Of course, when we enter a category, there’s the ‘when?’, ‘where?’, ‘with whom?’ and ‘with what?’, as well as the ‘why?’. Situation and motivation.

And your brand could get chosen because it’s the one associated with one or more of the situation entry points. Lunchtime in the office, fancy a McDonald’s (that ad does a lot more than that, by the way).

When marketing folk talk about ‘why?’ as a category entry point, they generally mean category needs. In food that’ll always be some combination of taste, convenience and health, at a price.

It’s simple to work out what the category needs are because people in research will tell you. I call them surface needs because that’s where they sit. Explicit goals, it’s the same thing.

There’ll be product features and functional benefits that are necessary to meet these needs. What kind of taste? How convenient? Healthy in what way?

But we all know the catches. Category needs are generic. Product features get copied. Functional benefits don't differentiate. People aren’t even listening.

The real problem is there aren’t enough category needs to go round. If you manage to own one, you’re quids in, probably brand leader.

For everyone else, you have to have something in addition, something to make you not just distinctive but different.

The solution is to find the deeper need you want people to associate with your brand, the implicit goal. Then build your positioning there.

And that’s how you get salience. As Phil Barden neuroscientifically explained to me:

“Goals determine mental availability. The brand that comes to mind in a certain context is the one that has the strongest associations with achievement of whichever goal(s) is active at that moment. This ‘action value’ happens automatically and pre-consciously, based on learned associations. Post purchase and usage, if we are satisfied with our experience then that positive experience will further strengthen mental availability and also our attitudes towards the brand.”

That’ll do for me.

But one last thing. Never forget those category needs. The danger with differentiation is thinking it’s the only thing that matters. You have to be relevant and that means meeting both surface and deeper needs, explicit and implicit goals.

And in reality everything’s interconnected. Surface and deeper needs. System 1 and System 2 thinking. Functional and emotional benefits. Distinctiveness and differentiation. Motivation and salience.

We remember what we want to remember.

“You sure about that?”


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