A Plug for Branding

Gavin Heaton has recently blogged (here and here) about the limits of the term/concept “engagement” when talking about brands and their customers.

He got me thinking. Like all branding/marketing types, I wrestle with words – how do you express that magical connection between brand and customer? Are words even adequate?

plug.gifWhat came to my mind was an image. A very common one. Bear with me a bit here, since this is a half-formed ramble based on an imperfect analogy!

If I’m a brand owner, what I want is for my customers to be “plugged in.” Call it being Connected to the Brand (not an original phrase, but it will do).

My brand is shaped for a specific type of customer. And my goal is to find that customer – or allow that customer to find the brand – and get connected. If I’m a 110V 3-prong brand outlet, I’m looking a customer that matches – there are other “outlets” for other customer types.

If there’s no “juice,” of course, there will be no enduring brand connection. But my brand provides something to the customer – in some way, it energizes the customer and helps him reach his potential. I want to provide a steady current of benefits to her – need fulfillment, pleasure, ego stroking, whatever – so that it becomes unthinkable to disconnect.

Many of life’s “toys” and necessities need a periodic, or steady, flow of something to make them go. I’ve reached true “engagement” when customers feel that they must “plug in” – they must have that special latte; they must have the latest iPod to show off; they must read Seth Godin and quote him if they are to be considered a serious marketing blogger (hmmm….this even descends down to our feed readers).

When people plug into our brands, and our brands plug into people, everybody wins. We get to show off our brands through our benefits which others display, or talk about – and maybe they ask for brand extension cords (OK, maybe this analogy is going to get stretched too far…).

What does your customer look like? Why should they plug into you? Is your brand outlet customer-ready, with a well-matched flow of benefits and energy that will power them up?

And, what other analogies can we use to portray the “end game” of branding – enduring customer connection?

(Image credit)


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