" The slow death of the brand model | Haines McGregor

How We Choose Brands

In recent decades, brands have increasingly moved, to recognise that it ain’t what you say it’s what you do that’s important. Wat it means is that every encounter we have with a brand is a potential source of influence, mostly subconscious and typically more about empathy than superiority. Furthermore, it has been largely proven by leading psychologists that we don’t follow rational decision making based on evidence or weighing up alternatives…we simply make snap decisions. It doesn’t matter how significant the choice is, the voice of instinct usually trumps rational thinking

What has changed and why?

There are a variety of reasons behind the change:

  • Proposition is well suited to an advertising construct of a sales message, supported by evidence, but for many brands today it is unlikely that its consumers have seen the advertising
  • Marketing investment and indeed the overall experience from a consumer point of view is likely to be spread across a growing array of touchpoints
  • Discrimination from one brand to the next takes place with swift, largely automatic, and certainly subconscious generalisations and assumptions. They are the domain of Kahneman’s ‘system one’ style snap judgements
  • Lastly the idea of asserting superiority is being replaced by the notion of empathy. Not so much ‘I’m great! Let me explain why’ more ‘let me demonstrate I understand you’, simplistically a move from a more masculine style to a more feminine one

This shift is challenging for brand owners and managers as we are taught to think in narrative rather than intuitive or design led ways of thinking. But it is design that dominates the ways we have of connecting to consumers. So how do we approach design evaluation?

Working with personality vs proposition

Personality is much better than proposition at weaving together the various facets of the brand. It is an easier guide to activation in the broadest sense and can straddle physical, verbal, and visual more easily. The drinks industry has been, perhaps the most thorough in surrounding their brands with ritual, behaviour, and character. Take the influence of the chalice glass for San Miguel that helped propel the brand to No 3 in the UK, or the blue bottle and distinctive product character of 1664 Blanc, or the events and environments developed by brands like Johnnie Walker in Shanghai or Guinness in Dublin.  Personality is also the natural home of values, brand purpose, manifesto, and tone of voice. So, it’s problematic that personality often languishes in the corner of a brand model, the Cinderella of the marketing mix, and it’s fair to say has been somewhat neglected.

The issue is that it requires new types of tools and approaches to understand how best to work with personality. Here are some principles:

  • Work in development with intuitive methods as well as rational ones, especially visuals
  • Provide a rich array of visualisation for the final definition
  • Conventional brand models are inadequate to define a modern brand positioning, especially when working with multi-language local markets
  • Apply the definitions to an array of touchpoints and activation
  • Use archetypes as a way of constructing personality

For more information on we build richer, more engaging brands through deep character development and visual guidelines please contact Hayley Roe on Hayley.roe@hainesmcgregor.co.uk or on +44(0)7787 546747