Brands create value not just by the product or service they offer, but by the connection with, and meaning they have for their customer. Once the consumer has an association with a brand, they also adopt the values and meaning of the brand as a way of expressing who they are and what they stand for. The meaning of a brand is just as important as the actual product itself.
Their thinking is based on what this purchase says about them as a person, how will they be perceived. Consumers purchase brands based on who they want to be aligned with. What does the product say about the type of person they are, the way they think and look? For example, car, music, clothes, hairstyle, accessories and furniture purchases are all expressions of their identity. We create our identity by the purchase decisions we make.
Companies need to understand that consumers will judge them based on their believes and what they stand for. The consumer is not only looking at what the product and service can provide but at the meaning and story behind the brand and how it can contribute to their life. Why would someone want to wear, use or be associated with this brand? What does this say about them as a person?
Consumers are not only making their choice based on the best, the cheapest, or the most gadgets. They are making decisions based on the meaning behind the brand, and the soul of the company. The company needs to be honest and transparent about everything they do. With the advent of the internet the world is a small place where people can express their thoughts, views and comments very easily with accessibility to a huge audience. If companies step out of line for a moment and are not true to their beliefs and values, it will not go unnoticed and can have hugely negative effects on the brand. Such is the case with Nike and their use of overseas labour.
Patagonia competes with Columbia however there is no difference in the quality of their products. How has Patagonia captured the marketing edge and created a passionate return customer? The company was started by a band of climbers and surfers, so the business reflects the same values as their customers. Patagonia donates money to environmental causes, they give their employees breaks at work to go surfing, and their founder was one of the greatest climbers in history. They understand their customer and their beliefs. Their self-expression is aligned with the company.