Brands Sell Building Blocks of Identity

Successful brands sell you building blocks of identity.

Here’s how this works.

1. Most people have some vague idea of who they are, but don’t actually spend a lot of time and energy into developing this idea in a rigorous, coherent way.

2. You might have some personality traits that you like or dislike, some habits that you like or dislike, some in-group that you enjoy being a part of, some out-group that you detest.

3. Every product you buy is an opportunity for you to contribute to a story that you tell yourself about who you are. This can be inward-directed, outward-directed or both.

4. Like it or not, a Harley-Davidson motorbike says a lot about a person. The person is an ‘outlaw’, or at least trying to pretend to be. This extends to all sorts of purchasing behavior.

5. Febreze sold better as a reward for cleaning a home rather than a remover of odors (which most people get acclimitized to). People love to be rewarded.

6. If you want to establish a brand, think about what sort of story you’re helping your consumers tell themselves. And then make that story more powerful.

7. Differentiating your brand, or positioning, then, is all about being better at catering to a subset of your niche. Sports brands come to mind – Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Under Armour all have to pursue slightly different positioning statements. Nike is kind of the ‘default’, while the rest seem to play variations of “don’t be the default”. Reebok seems to be positioning itself as the “community first” brand, with CrossFit and whatnot.

8. I’m reminded now of how Converse had a bit that was “Shoes Are Boring, Wear Sneakers”. Bold positioning statements are powerful because of people’s natural in-group/out-group tendencies. Defining an ‘enemy’ is one of the most powerful things you can do.

More later.

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