Influencing the customer journey through brand

May 2019 | Danny Pinhas

Many people assume that our role ends once the brand has been created, but it is when the proposition has been locked down, the tone of voice principles have been established, the colour palette created, and typefaces cut, that the brand inevitably starts being used.

Building a brand and its component parts is arguably the easy bit. Where it gets interesting is when you start to understand how customers process information and how these components should be used to grab attention and sell.

In a world where consumers are overwhelmed with options, many clients, particularly in retail and hospitality, need their brand to be built so that they are useful and easy to apply at any point of the customer journey.

Imagine the daily coffee purchase on your way to work. It may start with walking past a coffee shop and seeing an A-board, queuing up and taking in any ambient staging, interacting with the barista and their branded t-shirt, receiving a branded coffee cup and helping yourself to branded sugar, then being prompted somehow to engage with the brand on social media.

Applying brand effectively to the customer journey means establishing brand recognition at every stage, to do this, brands need to be built cleverly and flexibly in order to deliver all these things well, whilst also delivering on the brand or campaign promise.

Just how easy is it to make someone pick something up in the supermarket aisle, where thousands of products are calling out for attention?

Behavioural science tells us that having some form of endorsement or social proofing on the point of sale communications drives increased conversion. While that may sound complicated, it really is not. As a wise woman once described it to me:

The customer doesn’t need to understand what they are looking at in order for this to work. It is their system-1 brain -- the automated part of the brain on the hunt for shortcuts to decision-making --, rather than the logical and rational system-2 brain, which is active in situations like this.

With so many options and decisions to make, the system-1 brain frantically looks for help and essentially any excuse it can find for making a decision. This is the humble shelf barkers time to shine, with anything from an endorsement, to a “best seller” shoutout providing exactly the shortcut the lazy part of our brain is looking for to help make a decision.

In an article for Inc. Kevin Daum, CEO of Intermark Group -- America's largest psychology-driven marketing firm -- published 10 psychology truths that help brands to influence buying decisions. Amongst these truths Daum highlights that we don't like thinking too hard, our decisions are automatic and hidden, we're impressionable, FOMO is real, we hate losing more than we love winning, we are biased, and we hate to admit all of this.

People are so influenced by social proofing, that a recent study on Amazon found that we value the number of reviews a product has more than its actual rating.

These truths, while hard to swallow, translate everywhere and can be applied at many points along the customer journey, whether it is delivered digitally, via print, or sensory marketing.

One great example is music.

In 1999, a study was conducted where, over a two week period, a supermarket played French music one day and German the next, to observe if this influenced which kind of wine consumers purchased. The study found that on the day's French music was played, French wines outsold German wines, and on the day's German music was played, German wines outsold the French. Whatsmore, when they later surveyed the customers, they found that none of them were unaware of the effects the music had on their product choice.

While many still believe that building a brand is as simple as designing an identity, which can be done by any skilled design agency, the role of brand in its true form today is much more encompassing and requires a brand agency to bring together dual skills. Understanding the aesthetics needed to design an appealing brand, as well as intimately understanding the customer journey to be able to add value and influence sales.

Of course, none of this is revolutionary, these tactics have been around for a long time, but they are still too often overlooked.

Brand and the customer journey are not separate – to generate the most powerful results, they must go hand in hand.