Emotional Experience as Brand Creation in the Conscious Business
In March 2012 I ran a talk on Conscious Business where the audience was keen to understand in more detail some key drivers behind the Conscious Business model. One question that resonated was how does the idea of building “trust capital” work for or against the building of the brand awareness.
Trust capital is the degree of trust that exists between all stakeholders to a Conscious Business. A critical form of trust capital is that held by consumers of the brand with the business and the way it conducts itself in its markets.
I related in my talk as a response that just last month it was reported in the media that some Coles Department stores had withdrawn a line of men’s and women’s underwear and other garments from some of its stores. The reason was that Coles had come under fire for sourcing these “Mix” brand product lines from a “sweatshop” in Bangladesh.
This Bangladesh supplier had been uncovered and exposed as allegedly operating a hell hole of a business where poor itinerant workers were subject to instances of allegedly being beaten, sacked, sexual harassment, imprisonment and being deprived of their rights and monies owed to them as workers. An international body devoted to investigating the exploitation of workers in third world countries exposed this situation.
Coles was forced to act after pressure was applied. Coles stood to make handsome margins through the exploitation of those workers as the lines of goods were cheap to buy as a result and the retail margins were subsequently impressive. Yet they stood the lines down. What what was it that made that decision override economic considerations?
The key driver was brand reputation in the eyes of the community within which it operates and how its brand identity is underpinned by the promotion of values. Coles has a brand that positions itself as a community sensitive, value driven retailer. Its brand image stood to be tarnished if the community came to dwell on its supplier relationship and perceived lack of values and ethics in sourcing products from such a controversial source.
It takes a company and therefore its brand a long time to create brand awareness that ties into respect and positive associations. Respect must be earned. A company or person can unfortunately lose that respect and create a negative brand association from just a single emotionally charged incident. How is this so?
It is critically our first experience with that brand or experience environment that shapes the creation of that formative brand within the person. Brands live within us as neural associations within the brain. This is true of all objects we experience in our life. Neuroscience has proven that once a person creates their model of reality around that initial experience then the brain will seek conformity to that belief and current state.
Neuroscience has found a few facts about the role of the brain in this conformity process that helps shape and alter our feelings about consumer brands. We all have “lazy” brains which act to process less than 1% of incoming sensory data from our environment. We tend to resolve all encountered objects, including brands, into neutral, positive or negative emotional categories.
We each have a series of pre-processors and filters in the brains sensory and cognitive processes. These act to help our “lazy” brain strip away neutral or redundant information from the senses and also information that that is not congruent to current conclusions, beliefs and values about life.
If our first experience of a product, service or brand is positive then we will create a positive brand signature within our emotional self but if it’s a neutral or negative experience then an essentially resistant or negative emotional brand signature will be the result. Once that signature has formed then it is hard to shift.
A single strong negative experience can flip a positive brand in the mind of a consumer into a bad or negative brand but it is harder for a negative brand to transform through positive experience into a positive brand in the minds of consumers. Businesses must watch and protect their brand identity for this reason.
This is tough for businesses that create an initially negative or lukewarm response with the customers, staff or other stakeholders with whom they interact. Many will not get a second chance. Worse still the affected business now has created a negative unconscious ambassador whom is carrying around a negative message for the world to hear and encounter.
As a business owner or retailer one must feel and be in one’s emotions in order to create the basis for an emotional relationship and user experience with others that will create that positive targeted brand outcome. Many left brain managers get this aspect of business wrong and instead rely on the 4 P’s of marketing (Price, Promotion, Product, Place) in order to attempt to create customer loyalty and a positive relationship.
Some are not conscious about which emotions they are evoking or want to evoke in their customers, staff, and other stakeholders to the business. Given they tend to discount the relevance of the emotional outcome of the interpersonal dynamics of their business, they tend to not care nor have a goal or plan to create a targeted emotional outcome or effect.
Still others do not realise that the pre-sales experience where the engagement is happening but the experience has not yet occurred, is also critical to the resultant brand experience formation. If the person having the experience arrives with an emotionally based expectation and this is not recognised, made conscious and reinforced, you probably have lost that person right then and there as well, even if the product or experience is then subsequently solid.
This is because the emotional “reason for coming” was not met. For example many businesses create false expectations through advertising that cannot be met and in doing so they create sabotage due to the fact that there will be a disappointment or emotional letdown in the actual product or service experience. This is a kiss of death to that brand.
Coles knew they faced a moral dilemma in dealing with a supplier who behaved in an unconscionable fashion. The decision to protect their brand was the correct one.
If you wish to know more about Conscious Business and how the power of the user experience is your brand then contact us. Find out how you can get on board to create your own new era business.
For further details or contact myself directly on 040 7577793 for more information on Conscious Business.
Enjoy your month consciously!!
Director, Conscious Business Australia