Page 1

Brand positioning: Create brand appeal Kim Cramer and Alexander Koene Admap January 2011

Title:   Author(s):    Source:    Issue:

Brand positioning: Create brand appeal Kim Cramer and Alexander Koene Admap January 2011

Brand positioning: Create brand appeal Kim Cramer and Alexander Koene BR-ND A study has identified 24 human drivers that influence how your brand is perceived and how it should be positioned Why do some brands ‘feel’ better than others? Since the invention of positioning as a strategic discipline, rational thinking has been the starting point for defining the brand. Emotions were considered at the end of the process, commonly referred to as brand values. In the past decade, investigations in neuro-psychology have revealed the important role of implicit, emotional motives that drive preferences and behaviour. Studies show that brands have more ‘appeal’ if they relate to an interesting mix of fundamental human drives. So, what can brand builders learn from these insights? Brands evoke all kinds of associations in our brain. In branding theory, authors often refer to three basic functions of brands. First, brands help us recognise things. Brands function as virtual signposts in our brain; they flag the type of product or service. One knows, for example, that Nike and Adidas are lifestyle sporting goods, and that Coca-Cola and Sprite are beverages. Second, brands steer our expectations. One assumes that branded products and services offer a consistent experience. For example, people expect McDonalds to offer the same quality and service all around the world, and that Starbucks coffee tastes the same in every outlet. Third, brands evoke emotional responses. For example, Rolex triggers associations related to status and ambition, and Swatch to fun and creativity. Although most brands trigger some of these emotional responses, there are few brands that are able to really touch us. We may even love those brands, although it is often hard to explain why. They simply have more 'brand appeal'. In 2006, in cooperation with market research firm Metrixlab, we started a scientific study, called 23plusone, to better understand the emotional dynamics of brand appeal. More than 8,000 Dutch respondents were profiled over 195 brands in 23 product categories. The basis of the profiling was a list of 24 fundamental human drivers – the things people find important in life, such as sexuality, freedom, materialism and creativity. They were identified by an extensive literature study in the fields of philosophy, psychology, sociology and neurology, about human motivations, drives, aspirations, urges, emotions and feelings. Human drives are the foundation on which thought processes, decisions and actions are based. Although we think that decision-making about brands depends strongly on functional benefits, it all comes down to one question: how will this make me feel? It is not just about what the brand represents (eg sexiness), but about what is internalised as a desired feeling linked to the brand (feeling sexy when using it). All of the 24 drives in our framework are important. They can be seen as coping strategies, enabling people to pursue an integrated approach to secure the species by reproduction, minimise feelings of Downloaded from


inferiority and maximise feelings of satisfaction. Interrelated, these strategies ultimately lead to a perceived degree of contentment. Drives are relatively stable, but, depending on the context, the relative importance of drives can differ between individuals and within individuals over time. The 24 drives are categorised into five groups: Basics, Vitality, Attraction, Self-development, and Ambition. The key components are summarised in Figure I.

To be able to measure the relative importance of drives for people and the degree to which such drives are triggered by brands, the 24 drives were translated into a validated set of 24 visual-verbal stimuli, called ‘ Drivograms'. Each Drivogram represents the world of associations behind a specific drive, so that people can decide intuitively whether or not this drive is relevant (Figure 2). Profiling over 195 brands in 23 product categories shows that brand appeal has everything to do with triggering interesting combinations of drives.

Downloaded from


The better a brand touches the fundamental human drives, the higher the brand appeal. This means that the more the drives are touched, regardless of which drives score high or low, the higher the emotional appeal of the brand. Moreover, the better a brand simultaneously triggers drives from the five groups, the higher the brand appeal. This is a promising new insight as it confirms that brands with a ‘full’ drive profile, tapping into a wide spectrum of human drives, are more appealing than brands with a ‘narrow’ drive profile. For example, the most appealing car brand in Holland, Audi, triggers drives from all five groups. While conventional brand-positioning thinking promotes clear, coherent choices with a focus on single-minded concepts, the 23plusone research promotes positioning routes, which combine various concepts and trigger multidimensional feelings. Think the genius of ’and’ instead of ‘either/or'. Brands that trigger unexpected drives, deviating from category conformity, increase in brand appeal. If brands not only score high on drives related to their specific category, but also outperform on drives not related to the category, they feel better. Such a ‘tension’ between the category-generic and brand-specific drives is desirable. For example, the skincare category triggers drives related to protection and beauty. The Dove brand scores very well on these category-generic drives, while also triggering drives related to social connection and loyalty. Another example is Singapore Airlines, which, like most airlines, triggers typical category drives, such as safety, order, and innovation, but it also adds sexuality, individuality, aesthetics and care. What problem are we trying to solve by researching brand appeal? What is wrong with positioning strategies as they were: rationally defining the domain of the brand (small city car for modern people) and flavouring it with brand values (active, clever, young, fun)? Such brand values are mostly intuitively, and to some extent randomly, chosen by brand managers and their advisers, simply because they somehow seem to fit. We know little about what really works, how to effectively choose such desired emotional responses, and where to choose from. Ironically, this presents the single, most powerful way to relevantly distinguish a brand from the competition. Brand awareness can be ‘bought’ by being highly visible in the media and its physical surroundings. Brand expectations can be met by offering high quality of products and services. But what are the ‘right’  emotional responses a brand should trigger in order to to be preferred? There is also the problem of handovers. As brand-building is a joint effort of brand managers, their strategic branding advisers, naming experts, designers and advertising agencies, there are many moments when things can easily go off-track. Strategic decisions get lost along the way during the sequential process, in which briefing after briefing is written for the next creative in line. The fact that all these parties speak different languages, using their own jargon, methods, and philosophy does not help. These obstacles are expensive. Building a brand is a costly business. As production costs and media spend take a large part of the branding budget, why overspend on inefficiencies in the very beginning of the process, when essential decisions are made on what the brand should be in the hearts and minds of people? Content and process can be designed to be more efficient and effective by using the insights from the 23plusone study. From a content point of view, 23plusone offers the latest branding knowledge based on profound scientific research. Using this knowledge improves the quality of the brand strategy, since it leads to selecting the right combination of human drives, which increases brand appeal. It also provides a universal and simple language everyone understands, which allows for parallel cocreation instead of sequential handovers. Not only brand builders, but also consumers and the brand's entire employee population, can work with this universal language,giving room for inspirational input as well as engagement from both the outside and the inside world.

Downloaded from


A FOUR-STEP APPROACH TO CREATING BRAND APPEAL 1 Internal and external research 23plusone is about what drives _L people. As brands are built by people working in organisations, who are supposed to live up to the brand's promise, it is essential to understand what drives the employee population. Asking them not only provides answers, it also is the first step of transformation by engaging them in defining the organisation's ambition. Our employee online research tool, BR-ND Insider, identifies employees’ drive profiles and 23plusone is used to find out how employees perceive their own brand(s). These perceptions can easily be compared with the brand perceptions of customers and prospects (measured online by BR-ND Outsider). Often, there appears to be quite a gap between the inside and the outside world. External brand appeal research also reveals if any brand-specific, differentiating drives are currently triggered. The 23plusone database offers a valuable benchmark for both the BR-ND Insider and Outsider. 2 Co-creating the brand strategy Once the internal and external dynamics have been profiled with 23plusone, it is time to start the creative process. Different from conventional strategy development, multiple sources of human intelligence are used in a co-creative setting. In the BR-ND Kitchen, we play a brand strategy game with groups of up to IS people. Gaming stimulates emotional and intuitive creativity. Various business disciplines and external branding suppliers can be involved. In the Kitchen, the results from the Insider and Outsider research are mixed with inspiring stimuli and gaming principles. In this way, people learn faster and get better results. It's fun and memorable. At the end of a session in the Kitchen, the entire group has jointly defined a seductive mix of 23plusone drives for the brand and identified the cognitive rationale – including corresponding visualisation and verbalisation, and buy-in. 3 Activation Having jointly identified the right combination of 23plusone drives for a brand, the respective Drivograms inspire all people involved in creating symbolism, naming, innovation, service propositions and communication. It also provides for Downloaded from


evaluation and discussion of various creative proposals by validating whether the desired human drives are triggered. 4 Tracking Once all brand activities have been implemented, 23plusone perfectly serves tracking purposes. An online tracker can measure changes in the brand's drive profile as perceived by customers and prospects. Being a more intuitive method, this works better than the standard, existing image batteries as used by most market research agencies. Also, the internal organisation can regularly be involved by measuring the evolution of the 23plusone profile of the employee population, and by consulting them in how they feel the brand's drive profile is evolving. Corrective measures can be taken accordingly.

SUMMARY After establishing awareness and functionality, brand management needs to make conscious choices over which fundamental human drives their brand will target. This choice is not limited to one'central’ drive, but should be a potent combination with appealing tension. Once these drives have been identified, the challenge is to activate them in the human brain by orchestrated branding activities. How do these findings of 23plusone relate to conventional positioning thinking? Ries and Trout, founders of strategic positioning, have advocated clear choices for a focused and defendable position in the brain. They argue that the success of a brand is not due to the marketing acumen of the company itself, but rather, due to the fact that the brand was first in the category. Hence, creating a ‘new’ category in the brain of your customer is generally accepted as essential for brand success. In our view, this line of thinking still holds true and particularly supports clear choices on brand expectations. In addition, a different approach is required to define how the brand makes you feel. While sharp direction is essential to enter the rational brain, to enter the heart, the full richness of the human drive spectrum needs to be touched.

© Copyright Warc 2011 Warc Ltd. 85 Newman Street, London, United Kingdom, W1T 3EX Tel: +44 (0)20 7467 8100, Fax: +(0)20 7467 8101 All rights reserved including database rights. This electronic file is for the personal use of authorised users based at the subscribing company's office location. It may not be reproduced, posted on intranets, extranets or the internet, e-mailed, archived or shared electronically either within the purchaser’s organisation or externally without express written permission from Warc.

Downloaded from


Creating brand appeal  

publication in Admap, issue januari 2011, by kim cramer and alexander koene