Brand and Customer Decision Making

Brands carry a lot of weight in purchasing decisions for me. In some cases, it is the primary reason I will either purchase or not purchase an item. Kevin Keller, author of Strategic Branding Management, maintains that successful branding often creates strong, favorable, and unique brand associations to both functional and symbolic benefits. With so many product options, consumers need help in deciding on the right products and services. Scott Bedbury and Stephen Fenichell, authors of A New Brand World, further note that the most innovative product line will grow stale in the minds of potential customers if the marketing has become static, undifferentiated, or irritating for lack of change. [1] For me, it is those unique differences and my own personal experiences that impact my product selections.

The underpinning question is a value issue. In many industries, giving away samples is an effective, low risk way. Giving free samples encourage buyers to try unproven or unknown products. In environments like Costco, customers expect free items. However, some customers frown on free product offerings. Michael Solomon, author of Consumer Behavior, maintains that some buyers are materialistic and place a high value on status and appearances; price is usually a consideration. Therefore, the higher the price or more exclusive the product, the more valuable the commodity. This relates to prestige pricing.

In the end, organizations need to be consistent. Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, argue that customers expect and deserve consistency in the way an organization’s value-added message is put forth. Therefore, brand managers need to be consistent in their marketing approaches.

Marketing expert Regis McKenna argues that the decline of mass marketing and continued refinements of submarkets, the customization of services and products, intense global competition, and use of new technology tools in business all have led to a reevaluation of marketing. However, being successful in a crowded market place isn’t easy with fierce competitions from within and without (i.e. globalization) and well educated consumers. Businesses need to think strategically and better understand their customers. Keller further argues that relationship marketing includes marketing activities that deepen and broaden the way consumers think and act toward the brand. In theory, it takes the whole organization working together to support brand equity in any meaningful way in the 21st century. Again, this isn’t easy, as you have already noted.

As much as we hate to admit this fact, promotional campaigns have an impact on customer purchases. Therefore, companies must create a separation from their competition. This reality is not easily achieved. In fact, brand-building product, pricing, channel, and communication strategies must be put into place strategically. Furthermore, marketing must take the effort to make these connections with consumers; promotional activities are the cornerstone of these efforts.

Consequently, it’s important to understand what motivates customers to buy. In fact, Solomon further explains that to understand motivation is to understand why consumers do what they do. He also suggests that the specific way we choose to satisfy a need depends on our unique history, learning experiences, and cultural environment. If people believe that products are meaningful to them, marketers need to provide value, even if it’s free samples. Finally, businesses must design, manufacture, market, sell, deliver, and service products in a way that creates positive brand images with strong, favorable, and unique brand associations. Therefore, assembling the right marketing mix to consumers is critical to an organization’s success.

Below is a matrix outlining my brand interactions and product selections:

Brand Name
Product Category

Brand Usage

Rationale for Usage or Non-usage
(i.e. marketing mix)

Calvin Klein
Cologne

Frequently

When I started earning my own money, I opted for a better quality of cologne. Calvin Klein is one of the leading perfume manufacturers. I am attracted to the distinct smells in a variety of different product lines. The price is mid-to-upper pricing. The products can be obtained at a variety of outlets. Promotions target an upscale market.

Old Spice
Cologne

Never
(at least forced by parent)

When I was growing up, it was the type of cologne that your mother would buy you (manly scent and inexpensive). However, this is not the type of cologne that I would buy for myself. It is still a cheap cologne marketed to the working man. Nevertheless, it’s that masculine association that helps the company’s brand.

Fazoli’s
Fast Food

Medium Frequency

Fazoli’s is a fast food restaurant consisting of entirely Italian cuisine. The food is high quality and the environment is peaceful. Although it is not as fast as other competitors, it makes up for the speed with quality. Going to Fazoli’s is a break from traditional fast food.

McDonald’s
Fast Food

Infrequently

McDonald’s is all about speed of delivery. Quality is suspect. Growing up in my neighborhood, going to McDonald’s was a treat. Raising our three children, going to McDonald’s was a nightmare. Eating McD’s is not good for an aging appetite. However, individuals go to McD’s because of the speed and cost.

VerizonWireless
Telecommunications

Frequently

VerizonWireless is another industry leader in telecommunication services, including wireless. I use it because it has the largest cell coverage. I got connected with this brand on a men’s retreat in the TN mountains. No one had cell service except the Verizon subscribers. “Can you hear me now?” From that experience, I quickly left my current provider and became a Verizon customer (in case I was ever lost in the TN mountains).

TracFone
Telecommunications

Never

TracFone is a niche telecommunication services, primarily cellphones. The major market is pay per service. I found out about the company with my youngest son. My wife and I hoped a pay per service would help our son learn to manage his minutes. However, it was a hassle each month adding the minutes. Perhaps I got lazy with the whole process and my son complaining about his lack of minutes.

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