As stated in a previous article, branding has something to do with the mind of your prospect, not with your idea of the product.
Indeed, as written in the essay "Goal-Directed Consumer Behavior" by Hans Baumgartner and Rik Pieters in the Handbook of Consumer Psychology edited by Curtis P. Haugtvedt, Paul M. Herr, and Frank R. Kardes:
“Consumer behaviour, like other human endeavours, is unmistakably goal-directed.” (p. 367)
To be sure that we are talking about the same thing, I will provide the definition that Hans Baumgartner and Rik Pieters provide when speaking about goals:
“Goals are internal representations of desirable states that people try to attain and undesirable states that they try to avoid. Goals differ from other motivational constructs, such as needs and drives, because they tend to be more concrete and domain-specific, thus exerting a stronger influence on particular consumer behaviours.”(Ibidem, p. 368)
How are these goals organized?
“Goals are organized in semantic networks, with goals and their means as nodes and the relationships between them as a linkage.” (Ibidem, p. 369)
This awareness of goals as an organization of semantic networks is paramount for the marketer and especially for the PR consultant who is supposed to help you create, consolidate, and escalate your brand with the right communication.
Indeed, the PR consultant who is in charge of your brand positioning should be a master in the study of your audience, who consequently distinguishes itself for a specific goal hierarchy.
As a matter of fact, goals change according to the target you are attempting to appeal to in four dimensions:
Goals are organized in semantic networks means that they are symbols that bring to mind specific images your prospect can visualise.
If you have studied the basics of copywriting, you know that the ability of the copywriter to be effective isn’t measured by his ability to articulate sentences and paragraphs, but rather by his ability to articulate sentences and paragraphs creating in the mind of the readers the images through which he wants you to see the world.
Who should be your PR consultant, then?
The answer to this question is as simple as your ability to pronounce your name when someone is asking you what it is.
What the first social psychologist discovered is that what they called the crowd isn’t an undifferentiated group of human beings.
Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize with this thesis, although he didn’t discover anything new related to the relativism of personal identity.
The crowd is composed of different sub-groups, and it’s rare that one single person is going to be a permanent member of a single group for a lifetime.
A PR consultant should be an expert in understanding the common denominator of an audience, which is the common semantic network they share.
As a consequence, your PR consultant, whether your employee or someone you have outsourced, MUST BE a specialist in a specific niche. Not a generalist at all.
Why he must be a specialist?
He must be a specialist because to hit the best targets you need to surround yourself with the very best in appealing to that peculiar niche of prospects you are targeting.
They must be professional in knowing their inner process of thoughts and their most hidden desires.
If you are aware of their inner process of thoughts and hidden desires, you have the ability to break through their resistance by letting them realize a single thing:
“Woooww, this guy knows what he is talking about…
He knows very well how things are going in my industry and
what problems I face on a daily basis.”
Once you have generated this reaction and eroded his ability to resist by amplifying the negative effects of his problems, you have offered him the reason WHY he should become your customer.
Having underlined the WHY, it’s your obligation to picture in his mind the HOW, by installing your software in his mind and making his desire be buying the new goal that he needs in order to satisfy that desire.
The most important action at this stage would be describing linearly what the next steps are that your prospect needs to take in order to satisfy that goal.
This last sentence isn’t the objective of the article.
Indeed, what I am doing right now is giving you the right mental approach to plan a marketing strategy, which is based on what Robert Cialdini defined as "pre-suasion," and what Edward L. Bernays defined as "propaganda" in 1928:
Under the old salesmanship the manufacturer said to the prospective purchaser, “Please buy a piano.” The new salesmanship has reversed the process and caused the prospective purchaser to say to the manufacturer, “Please sell me a piano.”
Persuasion is a process oriented to affect.
To affect means touching the feelings, thus generating emotions.
Emotions, from the Latin ex-movere, means moving from a state to another one.
That status of affect must be able to bring about not a single or a multitude of distinct reactions, but more or less permanent attitudes which are, accordingly to Curtis P. Hauftvedt and Jeff Kasmer in "Attitude Change and Persuasion,"
“general evaluation of objects, issues, or people” (Handbook of Consumer Psychology, p. 419)
Branding is about generating a positive perception of a product well enough to change a given behaviour and orient it toward the product we are offering and the satisfaction of the most basic biological needs that the above semantic networks represent.
Another more explanatory definition of attitude is the one conceptualised by Christopher R. M. Jones and Russell Fazio in their essay "Associative Strength and Consumer Choice Behaviour," included in the Handbook of Consumer Psychology above mentioned:
“Associations between an object and a summary evaluation of that object” (Ibidem, p. 437)
Moreover, the two authors describe the real aim of your endless strategic approach in brand positioning and, by definition, brand building:
“The crux of the conceptualization of attitudes as object evaluation associations is that the strength of this association influences attitude accessibility, the likelihood that the attitude will be activated from memory automatically when the object is encountered.
Here the term 'automatic' refers to the attitude being activated “whenever a given set of external initiating stimuli are present, regardless of a subject’s attempt to ignore or bypass the distraction (Shriffrin & Dumais, 1981, p. 117)” (Ibidem, p. 438)
“Attitudes allow individuals to access stored evaluations from memory based on previous experience with an attitude-object rather than being forced to effortfully generate immediate appraisals of an object on every instance on which it is encountered, a process that is dependent on the availability of cognitive resources and is comparatively slow.” (Ibidem, p. 443)
The study articulated by Christopher R. M. Jones and Russell Fazio goes even further by explaining why this conceptual framework connected to the functioning of human behaviour has PRACTICAL consequences in brand positioning:
“Regarding category dominance, a brand has a relative advantage if for many individuals that brand is activated automatically from memory upon consideration of a relevant product category.
Consumer studies have observed that only the first brand recalled is likely to be part of a consideration set. If the first option considered is deemed desirable, actions toward acquiring that brand rather than a competitor are undertaken without further consideration, preempting the choice process.
Category dominance, the strength of the category-to-brand association, appears to be an important determinant of consumer choice that advertisers and marketers would want to foster unconditionally.” (Ibidem, p. 450)
This process is what the authors call instance dominance, which is automatic attitude activation.
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