How your product brand can gain an emotional advantage

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Just getting a presence for your product in most markets can be hard work. A longer runway than anyone expects. A lot more patience required as well. Long days having to justify every metre of shelf space you’re allocated. And to what end? It’s hard work taking your product from an option to a choice. But that work is worth it, because, done well, you’ll emerge with a distinctive emotional advantage. Your product will become one that more customers actively consider.

Understanding the different roles

For too many product managers, doing all the work to get on the map just elevates them to the status of another option. That’s not the same as being a choice.

Options form part of the line-up for how customers decide. Option means you’re available, you’re on the list, in the books. You’re a speculation. Choices are a conscious decision in themselves. Choice makes you an active decision, one part of yes/no, either/or. You’re known, you’re quantified, you’re considered.

Others want you to be an option

Now, if you’re in the business of selling variety – like supermarkets, book stores, speakers’ bureaux, search engines – options fill out the stock book. They reflect well on you because they prove that you can tap the market. They give you a long tail. And they give your clients the sense that they have the full pick of what’s available.

Chances are, for that reason, if you’re in the business of selling range, you welcome options (or at least the best options) with open arms.

If you’re the product maker, becoming an option feels like an achievement. It may have boosted your ego to have made it past reception, but if you just stay an option, frankly, you’re making up the numbers. And it’s easy to forget that, in order for the market to continue to work efficiently, for every brand that becomes a choice, so many more must either become or stay options.

Today’s marketing environment has tricked many brands into believing they are contenders. They see themselves as a choice. But until that traffic monetises or that shelf placement improves, or the call volumes really lift, they’re more likely to be an option.

Fundamentally, the shift from option to choice isn’t based on attention, luck or talent alone. It’s often based on shifting third party perceptions – of your value and your potential value.

You want to be the choice

The problem with just being a participant in a market is that you are often so dependent on market conditions to do well. If the market does well, the tide rises for all and you benefit. Slippage happens just as easily. That’s why you want to be taking your product from an option to a choice.

If you have no real say in the market, if your presence does not influence the buying environment, then you are still an option. To shift to being a choice, you need to give people a deliberate reason to pick you. You need to gain and leverage influence. You must find and tell a story that goes beyond standard category fare.

Options are the trees. Products are the wood. Being seen is hard. In sectors dominated by like-alike, sound-alike products, it’s about finding an emotional advantage. Drawing people to you. Not just catching their eye, catching their imagination, lifting your value and your recall.

Otherwise you’re just another product in yet another supermarket.

Making the shift from product to choice

Start with one simple and brutal question. Why are we really here? Because until you fully understand your distinctive reason for being chosen, there’s a good chance you will just remain available.

Once you know that – a second, equally simple question follows. Where do you need to invest to realise that emotional advantage?

Shifting from an option to a choice involves changing people’s perceptions of your product’s value. The best ways to actively shape and improve these perceptions will often be through brave marketing campaigns or distinctive partnerships that enable potential customers to see your product in ways they haven’t seen it before.

Ultimately, time and measurement will tell you if you are doing this right. As you make the transition from being merely available (an option) to actively chosen (a choice), use software like Tracksuit to watch specific metrics such as customer preferences, market share and brand recognition. Closely monitoring these factors will help you track the evolving perception of your product in the eyes of your target audience.

Understanding what motivates buyers to see you as a must-include is critical to creating and managing a robust place in the market. Through interviews and analysis, we help identify what could make your product brand noticeable – in its own right and/or as part of a brand portfolio. We can also help with developing the story that will underpin you gaining that elusive emotional advantage. To make that happen, please book a brand storytelling workshop or simply ask us to write your product’s brand story.

Photo by Peter Bond on Unsplash

One thought on “How your product brand can gain an emotional advantage

  1. Love this post Mark – so insightful.

    Interesting to cross check it with this guest post from @Kathy-Sierra (sigh… only a guest post, when will she back illuminating our thinking full-time) following her ongoing theme of its all about the user – and making them kickass:

    I think her post added to yours, gives some idea on how to become a choice not just an option.

    Thanks for the thinking.


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