Brandspeak and The Delusions of Brandeur

Subscribe Now!

Stay on top of all the latest news and trends in banking industry.


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.

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.

This article was originally published on . All content © 2023 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.