Brand Ownership: From Emotions To Reason
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Dan Ariely, Duke University behavioral economics professor and New York Times bestselling author, at a special Planning-ness event in San Francisco’s Grand Hyatt hotel.
Author of Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and the soon-to-be released The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, Dan presents his research findings on a variety of intriguing topics in grounded, yet non-academic terms. As a liaison between Duke’s economics, business and cognitive neuroscience departments at the university’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, Ariely brings a unique perspective to the decision-making processes that we all blindly participate in.
His work covers topics such as why we “king size” our fast food meals – even when we’re not that hungry – why we plan to diet – yet give up when the dessert tray rolls by – or how a doctor can minimize a burn patient’s pain best (told through his harrowing personal backstory). Dan’s experiments and insight reveal much about the subtle human behaviors we all exhibit, and his humorous tone makes take-away anecdotes both digestible and memorable.
I can wholeheartedly say that after reading one of Ariely’s books or seeing him speak (just check out the multitude of YouTube videos he’s been featured in), you will see the world much differently – especially in regard to things that you may never have questioned, yet frequently experience.
During his talk, Dan discussed how we all frequently make decisions based on emotions, but defer our explanations to rational reasons for why we make that choice.
Take for example, hybrid cars:
While many options existed before the Toyota Prius, that vehicle has placed the hybrid on the map, so to speak. Why – with many brands and alternative options – did this one take off?
Well, it’s all about aesthetics, Ariely would contend.
By the numbers, the Prius wasn’t much different than Honda or Nissan competitors; in terms of looks, the Prius was in a league of its own. The drivers of these chic autos get the functional benefits of efficiency and the emotional benefits of others seeing them save the earth.
I’m sure you’d agree Prius owners smile much more than the average driver.
That’s no coincidence.
Soon after considering this phenomenon, I began reading my newest Entrepreneur Magazine and its cover story of 100 Brilliant Companies on a flight to Philadelphia. As I learned about the many great startups emerging today, I wondered what these companies were doing to defend themselves from becoming the Honda to a competitor’s Prius.
What barriers to entry could be established for each to ensure a prosperous future?
Thinking back, I recalled one startup/mobile app battle that has been raging since 2010:
PicPlz vs. Instagram.
While you might be familiar with the latter, you’d be mistaken to think it was the only player in the social-photo market.
PicPlz was debatably the “more attractive” version of the idea; it offered a solid web presence, iOS/Android support, open API, full photo editing features, and loads more features that distinguished itself from Instagram. That now-billion dollar entity that was recently acquired by Facebook should be taken as a case study:
How to nurture an idea while defending it against others.
Instagram successfully grew a loyal base, consistently injected its brand personality into the platform, and encouraged the storytelling possibilities their platform offered. PicPlz, on the other hand, remained stagnant; for all of the features in the world, users weren’t nearly as compelled to use the service (full disclosure: I had to, as an Android user).
From a logical and rational perspective, we should make decisions based on a simple cost-benefit analysis:
More features = better choice, right?
So the lesson here is clear:
Brands – both large and small – need to own the emotional (and sometimes irrational) pieces of their business in addition to the quantifiable benefits offered.
They need to own their brand, and if possible, their market.
Nothing should be able to replace it.
Just ask Starbucks drinkers, Dyson rollers, or drivers of Porsches or Harleys.
- by AWSC
- posted at 4:46 pm
- July 2, 2012