The human side of brands

In an effort to reduce choice complexity, Generation Y’ers (like any consumer) group products together in a so-called consideration set. Brand salience or uniqueness is the most important factor for brands to become part of this consideration set. Over the past week we already dicussed Coolness & Realness, the first 2 components of the CRUSH Branding model, an InSites Consulting model summarizing the five aspects that are key in developing branding strategies with Generation Y. When discussing uniqueness (the third component of the CRUSH model) in our international youth community we found 5 dimensions youngsters link to unique brands.

Many young people link the unique things around them to specific places or locations.

It is “something that exists nowhere else”. German participants of the community talked about ‘Ampelmännchen’ and ‘Ampelfrauen’ in Berlin (traffic light figures wearing a hat). They were introduced in 2005 and have since spread like a meme across several cities of Germany to the east side of the country. Other examples combine place-bound uniqueness with heritage-based realness like a beautiful metro station in St Petersburg, French baguette or the German Club Cola. Club Cola is a cola soft drink which was originally manufactured for the Socialist Unity Party of Germany at the end of the sixties, so that East Germany could have its own cola similar to the taste and appearance of the ones sold in the Western world. It was extremely popular with the East Germans. Today, Club Cola is still available in Germany and because of its DDR heritage it has become a cult drink over the years. The brand’s slogan, built on uniqueness, is “Nicht für jeden. Nur für uns”.
Of course innovation and creative segments of culture like for instance art and design are key drivers of a brand’s uniqueness. Art and design are seen as true craftsmanship, meaning it automatically embodies a unique artist’s approach. When young people receive a crafted gift from one of their friends for their birthday, it is seen as a unique and very valuable piece. So working together with artists or designers, like Beck’s recently did with an augmented reality piece of art by Arne Quinze on top of the statue of liberty in New York, automatically adds uniqueness to the brand. “Handmade” as a label has the same result. Another option for brands is stimulating personalization of their products, because when youngsters are customizing their Eastpack bag or their own Nike shoes, they become unique designs and thus more valuable.

The last dimension of uniqueness is linked with people, the human side of brands.

There’s nothing more unique than a person, and brands which are linked with specific persons – like for instance Facebook, Virgin or Apple – are therefore more unique than brands youngsters can’t connect to a human face. In a broader perspective, you could also see this human face of brands as the employees or staff working for the brand and representing the brand’s value and personality to consumers. Whether it’s the shop assistants, the help desk staff or just employees talking about their job on the train, they are the human face of a brand and will support (or ruin…) a brand’s uniqueness.


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