The level of quality and the features of a product are considered as a given, so they don’t strongly contribute to the promotional success of a brand anymore. Add to that the fact that product competitors have almost the same features, so consumers just skim by the features, and look for something else.
These days, we significantly base our choices on symbolic attributes. We ask these questions in forming a purchasing decision about a product:
How does the product look?
Where is it sold?
Which social status will I be pegged on if I buy it?
What kinds of people buy it?
What are people saying about it?
What is the relevance of its cost to its desirability?
Who makes it?
With these symbolic attributes fulfilling the buyer’s needs, the degree of trust he feels towards the product is elevated. The buyer will no longer assess the features and benefits; it is how he feels about the product that will move him to buy it.
Let’s take as an example one of the world’s most popular brands, Apple, and its most popular product, iPhone.
Many buyers choose iPhone because of its design and functionality, and it is sold in high-end stores. When you buy it, your social status is somewhat elevated because it is relatively expensive. According to a Forbes report, iPhones are used/preferred more by people who have attained higher education, have an income of more than $125,000, and work as professionals or are in business.
Trust creation should be the primary goal of a brand. It is the best shortcut to a buying decision, and is the fundamental basis of modern branding.
Branding is a powerful business tool, a concept that has been around for more than 5000 years. As our society moved from a mass production concentric economy to an economy that focuses on mass customization, our purchasing options have multiplied. We are fast becoming a time-poor people in an information-rich age.
As a result, consumers are no longer content with product promotions that just compare features and benefits. If you want your brand to stand out, you have to grab the attention of your potential customer in seconds, or you are forgotten.
In the latest Forbes report on the 25 World’s Most Valuable Brands for 2014, the top contenders were:
1.Apple, 2.Microsoft, 3.Google, 4.Coca-Cola, 5.IBM
What do these brands have in common?
These brands clearly have a strong, competitive stance, and they maintain a heightened sense of integrity, and a fierce dedication to aesthetics.
Why aesthetics, you ask?
It is actually very simple: people put more value on feelings than information in this time-poor but information-rich age. Aesthetics has become a prime advertising power that—on its own—it can turn a mere commodity into a highly valued premium product.
Let’s re-consider our iPhone example. According to experts, the color, aesthetic design and overlay pattern of a smartphone greatly impact the emotional reaction of consumers. A study conducted by JD Power and Associates indicated that consumers rated the following as their motivation to buy:
20% importance on features
22% importance on operations
24% importance on physical design
This research confirms that better aesthetics lead to a stronger perception of usability. Why? An appealing design excites our sensory receptors, which include mechanoreceptors—the receptor that makes us respond to mechanical stimuli such as vision and touch.
When brand communication is amplified via superb design, the message is potent and crystal clear. It then goes straight into the consumer’s brain without noise, distortion or even the need to think too much about it. Superb and professionally executed design, whether applied in websites, advertisement copy, or print, encourages trust. When trust is established, your consumers can’t say no to your product.