Brand Identity: You Are What You Buy (Sometimes)

Posted by: Jessica Cornick, PhD
  • May 8, 2017

Meet Jane the Consumer. Jane is a wife and mother who is also a registered nurse, an avid Instagram user, and a “dance mom.” Jane belongs to a variety of groups, some she has joined (for example, the wider network of nurses across the country) and some she has formed (for example, a group of dance parents who have bonded through dance classes and recitals.)

These roles, relationships, and groups have become part of Jane’s identity and are central to how she views herself. Why does this matter to marketers?

To understand that, we need to delve into the concept of identity. An individual’s identity is multi-faceted and include things like roles (e.g., mom, daughter, boss, volunteer, etc.), relationships, goals, activities, traits, and even groups (sports teams, alumni groups, etc.)

Consumer behavior researchers, including those at LRW, have applied the concept of group identification to brand identification. Just as groups can be incorporated into one’s self-identity, so, too, can brands.

When an individual identifies with a brand, they feel connected to it and see themselves as part of a larger community of brand loyalists. They are also more likely to have positive mental associations with the brand, seek out positive brand-related information, and ignore the negative information. This is a natural extrapolation of the psychological phenomenon known as confirmation bias.

Positive brand identification among consumers ensures a host of positive outcomes for the brand, including brand loyalty, resistance to cross-marketing from competitors, likelihood to purchase brand products in the future, and willingness to promote the product through referrals. If Jane the Consumer drinks Pepsi every day in the hospital food court, she may be more likely to overlook the bad publicity associated with their recent commercial. If Jane wears Burt’s Bees because the company shares her commitment to sustainability and natural ingredients, she is more likely to try other Burt’s Bees products and recommend them to other dance moms.

Given that high brand identification among consumers is desirable, there are a few things brands can do to boost brand identification. In the next four blogs, we will highlight one of each of the following strategies for increasing brand identification: clearly expressing what defines your brand, leveraging company values, creating opportunities for identity signaling, and helping people come together. Employing these techniques can boost your brand’s power in the marketplace via identified consumers.

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