Aligning Brand Values With Customer Values

by Brad VanAuken, BrandForward, Inc.

A business associate recently asked me what I mean when I say that brands can connect with people on a values level. Here are the examples that I shared with him to illustrate the concept.

“The strongest companies/brands often connect with their customers on a values level.”

  • Toyota Prius is for people who are progressive, environmentally sensitive and care about “Mother Earth.”
  • Mercedes shouts social status and is for people who want to be perceived as having made it in society and the world.
  • Patagonia is for people who love the pristine nature of the wilderness and who are passionate about the sports that they pursue (rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, etc.) in the great outdoors.
  • Nike is for people who perceive themselves as, aspire to be or admire authentic athletic performers.
  • Mini-Cooper is for people who want to be perceived as non-conformists, as being a little bit different or quirky.
  • Fox News is for people who are politically conservative and who believe in a clear right and wrong, the sovereignty of the individual and a diminished/limited role for government.
  • Apple is for smart, innovative, leading-edge, hip people who are a step or two ahead of everyone else.
  • Reed College is for the self-directed, hyper-intellectual liberal student.”

While this may not always hold true, it does for a large portion of these brands’ customers. So, for instance, some people will say, “I simply bought a Prius because gasoline prices are skyrocketing and it achieves a much higher MPG than most other cars.” However, many others will have purchased a Prius not as a simple spreadsheet exercise to save money but rather to do their part in creating a lighter personal footprint on the earth.

While brands can promise functional, emotional, experiential or self-expressive benefits, those whose values are aligned with their customers’ values are much more likely to achieve a much deeper and longer lasting loyalty.

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