Ernie Ross is the head of branding and innovation agency Ross | ReThink and the creator of the Intangience™ methodology.
What gives anything value? Is it rarity? Demand? Need?
While any of these could be accurately applied, it is the meaning given to the item by the person who seeks to acquire it that ultimately determines its value.
This is the difference between worth and value. Worth is largely defined by what price the item could be sold for on the current market. Value, on the other hand, is determined by the meaning it has to the owner. A vase handed down to you through generations could be worthless on the open market, yet its value to you is priceless because of the meaning it holds for you.
The secret to any brand’s success is finding the meaning behind the products and services it sells. For every major global brand, there’s an intangible meaning attached to its brand identity which determines its success and future growth. To find yours, and communicate it to your customers, takes insight, understanding and skill.
How do you create the meaning that determines your brand’s true value to people and, by extension, the price they are willing to pay for it? The answer lies in identifying its shared intangible value.
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The World Trades In Intangible Values
The entire value of the stock market is estimated in the trillions of dollars. Yet, if you were to sell off all the buildings, merchandise, vehicles and other physical assets that comprise this value, you wouldn’t get even 20% of the estimated value. So what creates this value that can be traded but not weighed, shipped or touched? It is the intangible value of those companies.
Uber owns not a single car. Amazon’s success is not built on ownership of a single mall or store. It’s all intangible. Similarly, it isn’t the black sugary liquid of Coke that is valuable. It is what the soda represents — as an embodiment of happiness and human connection — that gives it value to buyers and, therefore, the market.
Nike doesn’t just make athletic wear. It stands for a strong belief in self and personal conviction. Though consumers appreciate the comfort and usefulness of the products Nike makes, it’s the mantra of “Just Do It” and the belief in the power of self that makes consumers identify with the brand and defines what it means and is worth to them.
Every successful global brand has found a way to communicate the intangible value of its product to consumers, which translates into a brand-customer emotional connection that translates into brand loyalty.
Shared Values Spark Connection
The intangible value of a brand doesn’t always have to be a personal statement. It can be a shared passion for a cause, too. For example:
• I buy Dove soap because I believe in the brand’s support of fathers and promotion of a positive self image for girls and women.
• I choose a particular Balenciaga line because I admire its contribution to the World Food Programme.
• I purchase Cadbury products because I admire how the company contributes to companionship for the elderly.
Status By Association
Not all shared intangible values embodied in a brand are altruistic. The values a brand stands for can be much more self-absorbed.
Givenchy shot to fame when Audrey Hepburn wore what came to be regarded as the most iconic dress ever, the black dress ensemble she wore in the opening scenes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That dress would come to define both the brand and Hepburn, herself.
Wearing Givenchy today is an expression of elegance and success. The brand holds celebrity-like status, and therein lies both its worth and its value. Those who wear Givenchy enjoy the fashionable association with the brand’s fame and those who wear it, both past and present.
Six Tactics To Finding And Communicating Your Brand’s Meaning
The secret to your brand’s success lies in identifying its intangible value to your customers. Here are six tactics to develop your brand’s meaning so you can communicate it to customers.
1. Identify the emotions you wish the brand to evoke. Does your brand bring to mind thoughts of elegance, superiority, rebelliousness, grit or something else?
2. Understand what motivates your customer. How would your customers like to feel? Who do they aspire to be? Search for underlying influences that shape customer opinions, beliefs and feelings.
3. Search for shared values. Does your target audience care about a certain social cause? If so, can you find ways to support that cause?
4. Stay relevant. While it is important to have brand consistency, ensure your brand evolves with your clients. What is important to customers today may shift tomorrow. Make sure you keep up.
5. Don’t just focus on market penetration. Focus on building solid relationships and emotional connections with customers.
6. Talk the talk. Develop your brand language as though it were a conversation with a friend, not a monologue with an audience.
People Crave Connection
Human beings crave connection on a primal, evolutionary level. That’s what makes the process of finding and communicating your intangible values so powerful. Every brand should mean something more than just the functionality of its products. Use the tactics above to find yours, and you can connect with your audience on a deeper level than ever before.
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Author: Ernest Ross, Forbes Councils Member