Drawing on thousands of brand equity studies and on a recent, groundbreaking validation study that links survey responses with actual purchase behavior and neuroscience data, Millward Brown has established that a brand’s financial success depends on its ability to be meaningful, different and salient. On average brands that are highly meaningful, different and salient return a profit margin 3.7 percentage points higher than brands that are low on meaning, difference, and salience.
THREE QUALITIES, ALL IMPORTANT
Strong brands evoke an instinctive attraction and offer a ready justification for that attraction. Rather than try to figure out which brand is best, people are drawn to the one they find most meaningful. Without meaning, brands would have no value; everything would be a commodity, and a physical or tangible advantage would eventually erode as competitors copy, blunt or supersede it. On average, brands that are highly meaningful, different and salient derive over three times more of their volume from the strength of the brand than those that are low on meaning, difference, and salience.
Experiments in behavioral psychology have demonstrated that when similar alternatives compete against each other, they all become less attractive. When a consumer is considering less familiar brands, the one offering something truly different will be chosen more often and can charge a higher price. On average, brands that are highly meaningful, different and salient command a price 14 percent higher.
Salience gives a brand an advantage because of the habitual nature of human behavior. Consumers rely on mental shortcuts, or heuristics, when they make their brand decisions, and they assign greater importance to things that have ready mental availability. The effect is that consumers will often choose the brand that is the most salient. On average, brands that are highly meaningful, different and salient are four times more likely to grow value share in the next 12 months, with an average increase of 6.9% per year.
IMPLICATIONS FOR MARKETERS
Make Your Brand Meaningful
Whether your objective is to drive volume or command a price premium, your brand needs to stand for something meaningful. Does your brand make consumers feel good? Does it meet their functional needs well? Strong brands empower and inspire their users. Amazon, Audi, Ikea, Starbucks and Oreo are all meaningful brands that inspire existing users and attract more than their fair share of new ones.
Command a Higher Price through Differentiation
Brands can thrive at higher price points when they are seen as well-differentiated, desirable choices. For a great example, we need look no further than Apple, the most valuable brand in the world according to the 2013 BrandZ Top 100. Though Apple is highly meaningful, different and salient, difference is its strongest characteristic in nearly every category and country.
Grow Volume through Salience
Salience is an important consideration for any brand, particularly those seeking to drive volume sales. Salience is not simply top-of-mind awareness triggered by the category name; our research confirms that salience is best measured in association with category needs. To build salience, you must not only shout louder than the competition, but you must also shout about things that relate to people’s category needs.
THE POWER OF THREE
The most successful brands are not just meaningful, just different, or just salient—they are all three. Brand builders risk selling their brand short if they only acknowledge one of the three ingredients. Instead, acknowledge the importance of all three and use consumer insight, knowledge of the category, and brand objectives to identify the best area of focus.