I work as a brand designer and a brand builder, and I’m fascinated by how branding affects me as a consumer. Are the effects different than on a non-designer? Or am I like everyone else when I’m outside of my design cave?
Sometimes I’m hyper aware of how branding affects me, and I make mental notes on how a brand makes me feel. It’s what I do, so I pay attention to this stuff. The big question for me is – does it encourage me to act?
Brand action depends on my interest in the product, like with most people.
I’m brand loyal with technology, which makes sense because I interact with it all day, every day. I’m an Apple and Nikon guy. But will I choose a Smart TV because I like the Sony logo better than the Samsung logo? No. I’ve owned several brands and the choice always came down to features, performance ratings, price, and aesthetics. That doesn’t mean the visual brand has no affect on me.
If all things were equal?
If products were equal in features and benefits, I would make choices based on aesthetics – visual brand and product design. That’s where branding comes in. How it makes me feel. Which is what MY job is—to create visual brands that make people want to be a part of, or connected to it.
I had to buy a new iMac last year. Apple was offering free Beats headphones. I’m not a headphones guy and I know very little about that landscape, but I know the Beats brand because, well, it’s everywhere. And $250 headphones for free, from a well known brand? I’ll take it!
Spending money makes a difference. So does brand exposure.
Had I been a consumer actually purchasing headphones, I would have learned from my audiophile friends that Beats don’t necessarily provide the highest quality sound. But you know what? The package was pretty darned cool. The box was well-designed. The branding and packaging were so well done that I actually got excited! A product and a brand I had been indifferent about caused excitement — that’s solid branding. And the product sounds good! It’s been an overall positive brand experience. Would I have paid for them? No. I’m not the audience. But I would purchase them as a gift for the right person, because of the brand experience. The brand exposure had a positive effect.
On the other hand, I am woefully oblivious in my choices of many other products and services. I even have a hard time remembering my brand of toothpaste. I just can’t differentiate. I’m pretty sure it’s Colgate. Or Crest. I don’t know. Both brands look and feel too much the same to me, which makes me really not care about either one. That goes for most products I see at the grocery store.
My conclusion: While I am acutely aware of how branding affects me in regards to products and services I have interest in. I can foster real passion for and connection to them. But the choices I make about products I don’t really care about are lost to me in the ocean of competing brands. That goes for most of us. Not just designers.
Passionate self-interest will drive brand choices. And those choices can be affected by branding.