The six brand characteristics preferred by consumers
They are everywhere. We find them almost wherever we look: in the street, on television or on our social networks. But like so many things that we are very familiar with, from time to time it is necessary to stop and think carefully about them to really understand what they are about.
What are brands? The first thing that comes to the minds of many of us when asking this question is a succession of logos of global fame. The simple image, the fortunate and identifiable iconographic specificity of a company and the products and services it offers.
Brands as we understand them today were born and developed with industrial societies, when free competition and increased supply obliged companies to make themselves stand out among their competitors with a name and graphic identity. But over time they passed from their identifying function to end up constituting a value in itself.
The world of brands is exciting, not so much because of the concrete reality of the products they label, but because of their symbolic component. Thanks above all to advertising, to years of carefully designed campaigns and images, but also to accumulated experience in the use and enjoyment of their products by people, brands have been filled with information, connotations and meanings, sometimes in an extraordinary way, have contributed to the consideration of a company and its commercial offer. Many products are substantially increased in value over others equivalent and sometimes identical, just by belonging to a strong brand.
Brands are living entities and evolve
But the brand idea is not static, and over time has undergone many transformations. The book 'No logo' (2000), by the Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein, denounced the practices of global brands that sold an image and a lifestyle aside from, and sometimes opposed to, the quality and objective characteristics of their products, the working conditions of their employees or the impact on their environment. Klein's book is an example of a certain distrust of brands that emerged in developed countries at that time, a phenomenon that, on the other hand, led to a substantial change in the management of corporate image.
In this sense, large companies have given a boost to their social responsibility policies in recent years. The digital revolution, the direct participation of consumers in the reputation of brands and the general awareness of the contradictions of globalisation, their impact on people's lives or on the environment have contributed to this, just as they have produced a substantial change in the scale of values of the consumers, and with this in the aspects of the brands that most attract their attention.
What has not changed is the companies’ desire to know the value of their brands as accurately as possible. There are numerous national and global indexes that periodically make an assessment of the most important companies in the various market sectors. Reference reports such as Interbrand (its prestigious global index or that dedicated to national markets such as Spain) or Brand Finance calculate the value of brands based on objective information such as turnover, but above all on consumer perception.
What do brand consumers look for?
These studies agree that it is no longer just the quality or the price of the products that weigh the most on the brands’ reputation. Intangible aspects such as coherence, transparency, trust and honesty are fundamental today. This is determined by The Meaningful Brands 2017 by Havas Media.
The report of this global agency, one of the most important advertising and communication companies in the world, based on more than 300,000 interviews in 33 countries and over 15 sectors, takes into account not only functional values such as quality, utility, security, innovation and leadership, but also others of a more emotional kind; personal (if the products of a certain brand help the development of one, or contribute to their happiness, tranquillity or health) but above all collective: ethics, social responsibility, diversity, sustainability or contribution to the general economy.
In this sense, the aforementioned Interbrand report reduces the factors that determine the strength of a brand to ten basic ones: four internal factors, corporate if you prefer (clarity, commitment, government and responsiveness), and above all six external factors, which are those that have to do with the direct experience of the consumers: authenticity, relevance, differentiation, consistency, presence and engagement or commitment.
And it is these six characteristics that we value more today, as opposed to others more obvious or objective, as endorsed by other specialised studies on corporate reputation such as Brands with Values and the Authentic Brands of Cohn&Wolfe.
A brand’s authenticity: its sign of identity
But what is the authenticity of a brand? According to Cohn&Wolfe, it is treating clients well, protecting their privacy, fulfilling their promises, offering quality, communicating honestly, acting with integrity and, finally, being genuine and real. According to their managers, before what mattered most was reliability; now it is increasingly important that the brand be respectful and close.
In the digital age, consumers are no longer passive receivers of goods and services. With our opinions, we can interact with brands and condition the decisions of others like us. That is why it is strategic to know our impressions, not only to decide on the launch of new products and services, but also to design corporate and advertising strategies. It has never been so important to have a solid brand, because brands have never before been so exposed to people’s opinions. Knowing the most appreciated brand values can be the key to the success of a business.