“People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Let's get right to the point: Your Brand Value Proposition is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy, and really of your organization. It's what tells your customers why they should choose you and remain loyal to you. It’s what makes you different from other brands that do the same thing as you. Your Brand Value Proposition is what you need to be communicating to your customers to demonstrate what your organization has to offer them. Although contrary to what many believe, it’s NOT your product and it's not as simple as rattling off features and benefits. Otherwise known as rational buying criteria, details like product function, cost, and simplicity of use are important – but brands do not and cannot compete at the commodity level alone. Instead, they must compete for emotional value!
Emotional value is discovered through brand cultivation; the practice of establishing and nurturing a relationship with your customers. Uncovering your brand's true emotional value is accomplished by understanding the motivations, feelings, expectations, and desires of your customer. How do they want to be seen by others? How do they want to see themselves? What issue or stressor do they want to alleviate? While it might feel impossible to determine what specifically drives each individual if you don't have access to big data, research has shown that all brands really need is a general idea.
In 2015, the Harvard Business Review examined hundreds of brands in several different categories to get to the bottom of how emotion influences buying habits and brand loyalty. They determined ten key motivations shared across consumers in each category, who were asked to complete the sentence “I am inspired by a desire to:”
- Stand out from the crowd
- Have confidence in the future
- Enjoy a sense of well-being
- Feel a sense of freedom
- Feel a sense of thrill
- Feel a sense of belonging
- Protect the environment
- Be the person I want to be
- Feel secure
- Succeed in life
These aren’t the KPIs of your traditional analytics report, or quantifiable B2C or B2B tactics. These are human motivations that affect countless aspects of everyone’s life – including how and where your customers shop. The key is to leverage these and other human motivations in order to help customers feel that emotional reward, as a result of purchasing your product or service – and it's not just saying it, it's actually delivering on that brand promise.
An excellent example of emotional brand value in action is Apple. What truly sets them apart from other technology brands? What accounts for the over 1.5 billion products they’ve sold and their amazing ability to foster lasting relationships with their customers? Take a look at their latest advertisement for the Apple Watch Series 4, entitled "Better You". It cleverly demonstrates the features of the product in a universally accessible way – free of complicated jargon and explanations – while showing the ways the customer's life is improved by the product, and ending the commercial with the encouraging statement: "There's a better you in you". Apple isn't highlighting better connectivity or enhanced battery life, nor are they blatantly boasting their superiority over their competitors. Here, it is all about the customer and making them feel like they can accomplish finding the "better them" inside themselves by purchasing an Apple Watch Series 4. Apple isn't selling a product - they're selling a feeling.
When it comes to what you have to offer your customers, details like features and benefits will serve to validate your customers’ decisions and make the sale. And while yes, these details are important, it's critical to remember that they can be presented after the emotional value proposition. Your consumers make decisions on an emotional level first, and then only after that emotional decision has been made do they spend the time to rationally support that decision with facts and figures. It is the emotional value proposition that will earn you their allegiance and association with your brand – translating to truly sustainable growth and long-term customer relationships.