Building Brands with “Bridges"

Published: Monday, June 11 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

Ogden entrepreneur Scott Coleman speaks at the introduction of new ski inventions Hookease and Wedgease at Snowbasin on Monday, Dec. 5, 2011.

Ravell Call, Ravell Call, Deseret News

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High flying business founders excel at brand building and wisely connect their products to customers' hearts and minds. Grateful shoppers love a company's emotional offerings and happily make repeat purchases. Such a connection yields sustainability and profits.

The key to an entrepreneur's success is his or her ability to establish a strong bridge of understanding between what he or she has to sell and what interested consumers want to buy that will satisfy their emotional wishes.

There are two equally solid structural pillars that support each end of the buying experience bridge. One pillar is anchored by consumers and how they see themselves and how they want to be seen by others. The other pillar is secured by a business owner and the products that match, with perfection, the emotional perceptions of the target audience.

Many shoppers, both male and female, want to be seen by their peers as smart, popular, in style, envied, admired, free, attractive, acceptable or interesting. Leaders of great brands understand these emotional wishes of unique buyers and build products and messages that resonate with them. When this connection is well done, both parties are pleased and tend to continue a lasting relationship.

Over the course of my forty years in business and an undergraduate degree in psychology (in addition to my MBA), I have learned the power of this special and sometimes unappreciated arrangement. Business owners sell to people (not inanimate objects) and people have feelings, attitudes, and deep emotions that affect and determine why and what they buy. In short, every product, even a loaf of bread, can have an emotional link.

With this thought in mind, please consider a few examples of this powerful concept.

Harley Davidson sells motorcycles and communicates to both men and women that its product helps them escape their dreary and mundane lives and for moments, hours or a few days, to embrace the “outlaw” culture. Hop on one of their “hogs” and you are no longer a CPA, or a teacher or dentist. You are liberated, unfettered with the wind blowing through your hair and the sun shining on your happy face. The roar of the engine sets you free to fly. It grants you independence and the power to pursue your dreams of freedom. The Harley Davidson motorcycle transcends rubber and steel; it becomes a magic carpet ride.

As a boy, TV ads proclaimed smoking would make me a Greek god--a hero. Do you remember Marlboro cigarettes? Brand managers built a bridge to young men who wanted to see themselves and be seen by others as rugged and masculine. I can see in my mind's eye a rancher--tall, handsome and stately--high in the saddle on his majestic horse. His image beckoned all males to join him, to ride the range, to be "real men.” The subliminal message was compelling and strong. The link was extraordinary but unrealistic. If I smoked this brand, I would be tough, envied, admired and appealing, just like him. My status among my peers would rise. With a Marlboro between my fingers and smoke flowing from my nostrils, I would be someone special. For a few of my high school friends, the appeal worked, and tobacco became an unwelcome addiction and later the cause of their early deaths. Fortunately, the connection didn't work for me and I chose another path.

Lastly, I asked a son-in-law why he buys high-end Canon cameras and not less expensive brands. As I dug deeply to understand his feelings, it became clear to both of us that he is emotionally attached to high tech. It is part of his persona. He is a "techie." Canon camera products and their branding match his needs perfectly. He is seen by his peers and family as very computer literate; can fix any device; knows every cool app. He owns everything Apple makes, iPhone 4S, iPad 3, etc. Curtis and his genre are known by Apple. Apple brand managers make sure engineers build the best devices and then promote them perfectly to adoring fans. The emotional bridge is exceptional between Apple and its loyal buyers .

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