Brandspeak

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I read a lot of marketing-related stuff, and see a lot of references to marketing terms that make me wonder if we all have a common definition of what’s being discussed. To help achieve some small degree of consistency, I’ve prepared this guide to marketing terms, in an effort to translate brandspeak into something an average consumer might comprehend.

            What it means to                What it means to
Brand term  marketers...                    consumers....
Brand       An exalted demigod, possessing  A product.
            human-like characteristics
            and personalities that can be
            shaped, developed, and nurtured
            by marketers and now by the
            consumer that are engaged with 
            the brand.



Ambassador  A consumer that advocates for   A shill, a loser.
            the brand, and influences
            other consumers to purchase--
            and engage with--the brand.


Advocacy    The act -- on the part of the   Boring one's
            ambassador -- of extolling the  friends and
            virtues of the brand to         family to tears.
            friends and family.


Engagement  Turning on a prospect to a      Spending a boat-
            brand idea enhanced by the      load of $ for a
            surrounding context.            piece of jewelry.


Brand       The positive differential       Nothing. No one
Equity      effect that knowing the         in their right
            brand name has on purchase      mind would ever
            intention.                      use this term.


Brand       Repeated purchases to a         The result of not
Loyalty     single brand.                   having any choices
                                            or not caring
                                            enough to choose
                                            among alternatives.

Brand       Undesirable consumer            Sleeping around.
Promiscuity behavior, characterized by
            the absence of brand loyalty.   


Brandspeak is the result of a common marketing affliction known as delusions of brandeur. This affliction reared its ugly head again this morning as I read about another study promising to reveal the “secret” to customer loyalty.

In this latest study, researchers found that the key to customer loyalty is brand “warmth”. According to the article:

Researchers confirmed that consumers assess brands in much the same way that they do people: By sizing up a brand’s intentions toward them.

This, of course, only supports the delusion that a brand has the ability, like humans, to have “intentions.” It is, of course, a delusion on the part of consumers to think that a brand has intentions towards them.

Another piece of the research that caught my eye was consumers’ ratings of a brand’s honesty and the extent to which it acts in the best interest of consumers. Consumers rated both McDonalds and Burger King at 7.6 for honesty, and gave McD a 7.1, and Burger King a 7.0, on the second factor. The researcher concluded that:

“In brand positioning terms, this points to important opportunities for both chains. Whereas it seems that it will be an uphill battle for Burger King to gain leverage against McDonald’s by competing on an operational level, Burger King might find differentiation by focusing on the two warmth factors, where McDonald’s doesn’t yet have a real advantage.”

You’v’e got to be kidding me. In other words, restaurant location, pricing, food quality, or other factors like the influence of children on the decision process, etc. can be safely ignored by marketers for BK, who simply need to be seen as more “honest” and more apt to “act in the best interest of consumers”.

It’s a hamburger, people. It isn’t a life or death decision about treating advanced cancer. It isn’t a critical decision like how to invest your retirement savings.

The biggest delusion that marketers have is that people care enough about the marketer’s product category to make a conscious decision about which brand to choose. People have better things to do. Granted, for some people, fast-food Hamburger A versus fast-food Hamburger B is an important decision, one that will be influenced by factors like perceived honesty and acting-in-best-interest.

But marketers seem to forget that for a lot of people, it isn’t an important, conscious decision. And, as a result, they don’t focus on what’s really important — getting more people to care about fast-food Hamburger A versus fast-food Hamburger B (or whatever the marketer’s product category is).

And for some reason (although it’s not surprising), market researchers conveniently forget that brand-related attributes don’t have the same importance across categories. Why would the same attributes driving the selection of BP versus Shell apply to Tylenol versus Advil or McDonalds versus Burger King? They wouldn’t.

Delusions of brandeur live on.

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