Branding to Create Desire
Branders instinctively understand the difference between something people want and something they need. People will pay more and go out of their way to get something they want. But why? What’s behind the desire?
Imagine you’re the customer for a moment and your vacuum breaks down. If you have carpeting you might decide you “need” a new one. That’s a functional need. You have a problem – dirty carpets – that a new vacuum can solve nicely. You may not particularly want one, but because you value clean carpets you’ll pony up and buy the darned thing.
Starting a relationship with a brand from this kind of functional need is problematic. On the one hand, as long as there are dirty carpets people will buy vacuums. On the other hand, the purchase feels more like an obligation and may even cause you to go into resentment. “$250 for a vacuum?! So much for the spa!”
The real problem is the purchase is a commodity. There’s no emotional attachment. Sure, you’ll compare features and ultimately make a choice that solves your problem and makes you feel like a smart shopper, but your buying journey was forced by practicality not longed for.
Then along comes a brand like Dyson. Suddenly a vacuum isn’t just a commodity, it’s desirable. You may not even wait until the old one breaks down to justify getting a new one. The purchase shifts from being more than just a way to solve your dirty carpet problem; it becomes a statement about you and your lifestyle.
What happened? How did something so utilitarian and work-a-day as a rug cleaner suddenly become an object of envy? We can talk about the design, the functionality, the marketing, the designer-as-spokesman – each of these elements played a role in creating desire, but again, the underlying question is why?
The answer is the vacuum went from filling a functional need to filling a psychological one.
Just as every human being has fundamental physical needs such as food, water, air, shelter, sleep, excretion and sex, we also have basic psychological needs. Scientists disagree about some of the terms used to express these needs, but there are some fairly well-accepted categories. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for example, includes things like safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. (That last category hides a lot.)
The bottom line is if you want to generate desire in a customer, in fact, if you want to create any kind of emotional experience for a buyer, you first have to understand the underlying psychological need your product or service touches on. It’s critical for your branding and positioning.
More to come. Stay tuned.