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The Crucial Question For Your Brand

What is its purpose? Every business, every product and every service was brought about to fill some sort of market need. But as the old saying goes, people don’t buy drills because they need drills. They buy drills because they need holes. Every business is selling something (drills) but the customers are buying something altogether different (holes). The business that can figure out what their customers get out of buying from them has the single most important insight it will need to build a successful brand. Think of it another way. There’s something you want to buy so you go out and buy it and you’re happy. But why? Theoretically, it’s an exchange of equal values. The joy you get out of what you bought should be exactly equal to the loss you feel out of giving away your money. You should feel absolutely neutral about it. But you’re happy. That’s because you also get an emotional benefit out of making that purchase. It makes you feel smart, cool, good-looking, whatever. Every business needs to answer this question: What purpose do our customers have for us? What emotional benefit do they get from “using” us as opposed to our competition?

The customers (or clients) rule. They decide what brands they’re going to allow into their lives. They filter everything out that isn’t valuable to them. You do it yourself. Perhaps you’re keen on Porsches so the Porsche brand is a big part of your world. Perhaps you couldn’t care less about Hello Kitty so you pay no attention at all whenever that brand happens to cross your path. There are other people to whom Hello Kitty means the whole world but who couldn’t identify a Porsche if it ran over them. Every one of us builds a bubble around ourselves and lets some brands in and keeps other brands out. In a sense, we’re each customizing our brand portfolios.

Let Boardwalk sleuth out the true emotional
benefit you provide your customers.

You’re already selling to your customers but why do they let you into their bubble while they screen out other brands? You know you’re selling them drills but what are the holes that they get because they buy from you? It’s crucial that you know the answer to this question. Armed with it, you can focus all your marketing communication around your ability to meet that need.

The only way to get that answer is to engage in a little qualitative research. You need to work with an independent researcher. This is not something you can do yourself. Your clients know you too well; it will be hard for them to give you straight answers. More than likely, they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. An independent third party will be able to offer interviewees confidentiality so they feel free to open up and reveal what they really think. Experienced researchers also know how to formulate questions that get to the answers behind the answers. That is, they can get past the drills to the holes. They can discover the emotional benefits your product or service provides.

It’s quite a revelation to learn what your customers really get out of patronizing your business. Once you know what their purpose is for you – what they use you for – you’ll never look at your business in quite the same way. And everything will flow naturally from that: what your mission ought to be, how to phrase your brand promise, how to position yourself in the market, etc. You can take your business from good to great just by getting the answer to one question: What purpose does our market have for us?


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