Grab a magazine, web browser random link or look out of the window until your eyes rest on a brand name.

As quick as you can, decide if you are aligned with that brand. Yes or No?

You just went through a very quick process from brand encounter to an alignment decision which involves the 5 steps explored below.

1. Comprehension – Do I get it?

The first thing we do when we encounter a brand is assess if we understand what it is. Yamaha, Revlon and Russia are easy. For most of us Gretsch, Parlux and Tokelau won’t be.

If we don’t get it, if we don’t immediately understand what it is or does we can’t move forward and so we drop out of the brand assessment process at this stage.

I’ve often wondered why many small businesses go to the lengths of sign-writing their logo and company name on their trucks but fail to communicate what it is they do. Without that, the contact details and calls to action are irrelevant and so is any creativity.

Some provide tantalizing but essentially useless hints:

FD Clipmanstern
Corporate Solutions

I was at a technology exhibition recently. I spotted an attractive looking stand and went to take a closer look. After at least 60 seconds of looking at logos and imagery and reading straplines and bullet points I was still at a loss. I had no idea what was on offer.

Determined to resolve my cognitive dissonance, I asked for help. 30 seconds and many more words later I had a date for coffee but I was still none the wiser about the offer. I walked away from that brand physically and metaphorically, having been deprived of alignment by a lack of comprehension.

This happens billions of times every day.

They’d do well to read Dont’ Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

2. Relevance – Is it relevant to me?

This one is easy and it’s another Yes or No. I get it but is it relevant to me and my lifestyle? This would be where Revlon and I part company but where Koenigsegg gets a Yes.

3. Placement – Can I place you in the genre hierarchy?

OK, I know what you are and you are relevant to me.  Our next step is to pull into our mind other brands that share the genre. They all fall into line and that line is created from our own perception of the comparative worth/character of each brand in the genre. Try doing this now with Ford, Mercedes and Honda. It’s likely that you will afford them different places in that hierarchy. Why is that? That’s one for another post.

4. Definition – does this brand define me?

Are the values and characteristics I perceive to be associated with this brand in line with mine? I might want a big 4×4 but my environmentally-aware conscience might derail that decision.

5. Alignment – Am I aligned to this brand?
The final step is the alignment decision. Am I utterly comfortable with public and close alignment with this brand? Does it describe me? Do I aspire to be like the other people who I link with this brand.? Is there a tribe I want to lead or join associated with this brand? Is this a lifestyle decision rather than a brand one?

The consumers who get to this stage and answer yes are potential evangelists. The most powerful marketing force known to man. Super Peers.

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Mark Walmsley