The consumer experience, even with the advent of e-commerce and the app economy that has modernized the buying process, seems relatively straightforward. We shop for products that we desire, or require, then pick the item based on its price, quality and value. In other words, we select things based on the thing.
But for generations, the gambit for companies has been about much more than their product. Instead, they are hoping to package an emotion, memory or experience that will hook a consumer and keep them coming back throughout their lives.
Consider some well-known brands in American society. Wal-Mart purports to be synonymous with trust while getting a home mortgage from Fannie Mae is supposed to confer the American Dream. Likewise, Southwest Airlines doesn’t sell you a plane ride, it is offering freedom. And all those dentists and middle-aged insurance salesmen riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle may actually be living Peter Fonda fantasies from the iconic film Easy Rider.
The power of a successful brand lies in its ability to get into our subconscious to illicit a familiar feeling. What advertisers refer to as mind-share is really a psychological exercise, done with logos and labels, to trigger our emotions and convince us to buy.
Research groups note that by the time the average kid reaches age 16 they will have seen six million advertisements. Large companies recognize that opportunity and reason that the earlier they can make an impression on a child, the more likely he or she will be to trust the brand into adulthood.
So that favorite soup or cereal you still buy might have less to do with its price, corporate culture or even the color of the packaging and more to do with security. It provides comfort because it always has.