Brands are Built on Core Beliefs

Posted by on March 3, 2014

I look in the mirror and see the person I believe myself to be. You look at me and see the person you believe me to be. We don’t see the same person.

Businesses, too, see themselves differently than their customers do.

A flatterer disguised as a branding consultant will help you create an idealized self-portrait and tell you it’s your brand. I say “idealized” because we businesspeople judge ourselves by our intentions. Customers judge us by our actions.

Peace of mind comes from liking the person you see in the mirror.

But brand attraction happens when the customer looks at your company and sees a reflection of themselves.

We are attracted to brands that stand for something we believe in. Likewise, we are attracted to television shows, movies, books, websites, podcasts, newscasts and songs that confirm what we believe. This is known in psychology as “confirmation bias.”

Let me say this plainly: If you challenge a person’s core beliefs, they will avoid you. Agree with those beliefs and they will like you. This is the essence of brand building.

But not everyone believes the same things. This is why a brand-builder must choose who to lose. There is no message, no belief system, that appeals to everyone.

The Democratic party and the Republican party dominate American politics even though just fifty-eight percent of Americans align themselves with either of these two brands.

In a survey of self-identified “Liberal Democrats” and self-identified “Conservative Republicans,” Experian Simmons identified the Top 15 favorite television shows of each group.

Not a single show was on both lists.

Not one.

Liberals prefer shows of moral ambiguity like Mad Men, Dexter, 90210 and Breaking Bad, where the good people aren’t entirely good and the bad people aren’t entirely bad.

“I don’t mean to make light of it, but Democrats seem to like shows about damaged people,” said John Fetto, senior marketing manager at Experian Simmons. “Those are the kind of shows Republicans just stay away from.”

Conservatives prefer shows where hard work and talent are clearly rewarded. Reality shows and contests like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor and The Bachelor scored high with this group.

Interesting information, right? But not really surprising when you think about it. Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool of water and fell in love with the person he saw.

Confirmation bias strikes again.

How can you use this information to make money?

1. Quit trying to change your customer’s mind.
2. Tell them they’re right.
3. Confirm their suspicions.
4. Demonize their enemies.
5. Let them see themselves when they look at you.

Do these things and you’ll make more money. Usually, a lot more money.

But a strange thing happens when you

“go along to get along,” when you
agree with people you don’t respect, when you
fail to speak out against injustice, when you
allow etiquette and expediency to quietly replace
compassion and courage:

You look in the mirror and no longer like who you see.

How do we remain open to seeing things from a new perspective without losing clarity of self in the process?

If I ever figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Roy H. Williams

2 Responses to Brands are Built on Core Beliefs

  1. Troy Clark

    A good reminder of why it pays to to be true to yourself AND your business—”a brand-builder must choose who to lose”—so true, thank you!

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