Brand stature is a topic that comes up whenever we discuss a brand’s competitive outlook.
Like brand identity, it’s not something that can be measured or easily controlled. But unlike the perfect cup of coffee, it IS something that really exists anyway, and is actually very useful for understanding how competitive brands are evaluated by their audiences.
As we discussed in our previous blog, people tend to view brands in the same way they view other people. They ascribe characteristics and personalities to them. They treat them as friends or enemies, and they form relationships with them and develop loyalties to their favorites.
Chances are, you can probably name a few brands that you really like and support. You may even feel a kinship with them, which is kind of weird, because they’re just brands, and they don’t actually even know you exist.
That might be why they never return your calls.
IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
That’s the hard truth about brands. They aren’t real. They are just concepts floating around in your head.
Those concepts are formed by your own perspective of the way they present themselves – logo, imaging, messaging – as well as how they perform for you and others you may know. They are built out of nothing more than perceptions and opinions, like a castle made of thin air. This is a brand’s identity.
Again, it’s not really any different than the way people relate to other people.
For example, you may know someone named Steve who you think is a total jerk. Chances are that you feel this way about Steve because of something he did. Maybe he laughed at you when you spilled your milkshake all over your desk, and now you’ve got “blood in your eye.” As a result, you avoid and shun him as much as possible.
In reality, Steve probably is a jerk, but he could also be a remarkable person with indelible morals who donates all of his spare time to helping underprivileged children and rescuing animals. The fact is you don’t really know much about him, but you are willing to believe that his laughing at your spilled milkshake tells you all that you need to know about his character.
Here’s the thing, though. Your impression of Steve may be all in your head, but it’s not wrong. It’s just your perception. It’s Steve’s brand identity as far as you’re concerned. And it prompts you to act accordingly.
Now perhaps Steve goes out of his way to throw you a birthday party. He even makes a point to serve your favorite milkshake, because he wants you to like him and stop shunning him all the time. (In Steve’s mind, your brand identity may be that of an insufferable jerk).
There’s a good chance that this act might change your mind about Steve. Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all. This likely changes his entire brand identity for you. Sure, you’re still mad about the infamous milkshake incident, but now you allow that it could have been a misunderstanding. At least he’s trying to make it up to you.
Way to go, Steve. That’s the way brands have to do it, too. You can’t change someone’s mind about you without making an effort to do so.
Adding brand stature into the mix
In this scenario, Steve is someone you know personally. But what if he was someone famous? What if you’d heard people talking about Steve for months, and then you finally got to meet him, and the first thing you did was spill your stupid milkshake and embarrass yourself in front of him. Of course he laughed at you, because you looked like a fool.
It’s the same scenario. The only difference is that Steve is somewhat famous, or at least rather popular. But his brand identity is totally different as far as you’re concerned.
That’s because you really began forging his brand identity the moment you heard of him. The stories of others built an awareness of him in your mind, and allowed you to form an opinion of him, regardless of not having personally met him. So when he laughed at you and your milkshake-soaked desk, your subconscious mind did some calculating, and ruled in favor of being embarrassed rather than offended.
Why? Because of Steve’s brand stature.
Brand stature defined
Brand stature is your perception of a brand’s relative importance. Brand stature is ALWAYS relative, which is why we discuss it when evaluating brands competitively. It has a way of providing the “secret sauce” that determines how effective messaging or imaging for a brand will be.
It’s always relative because you cannot form an opinion about something’s importance without ranking it, be it consciously or subconsciously.
For example, you’re mad at Steve for laughing at your sorry milkshake plight, but you probably wouldn’t be blaming him if everyone you knew was laughing as well. So whether or not you want to admit it, you’re really comparing him to everyone else, and basing your opinion upon that comparison.
When we evaluate a brand’s competitive position in the marketplace, we have to consider how it is perceived alongside other brands. Is your brand more noteworthy, trustworthy, or well-regarded than others? And if so, why?
Generally, brands that have been around for a long time have greater brand stature than others. That’s because they have spent years carefully building their brand identity in the minds of audiences. Even if you haven’t personally experienced these brands, you’ve likely heard something about them, or can at least recognize them as having more experience than other brands in the same category. Once again, your awareness of them has built a superior brand identity for them in your mind.
More than longevity
A brand’s longevity is important, however, age is not the sole factor to determine a brand’s stature. As stated above, it is a perception of comparative importance that defines brand stature.
We mentioned that Steve might be famous, for example. Perhaps you’ve seen him in movies, sipping milkshakes and making it look cool. Compared to all the other losers you know, Steve’s brand stature is through the roof.
Brands can pull this off as well. In fact, most brand launches involve introducing the brand to as many people as possible all at once, such as with an event or media campaign.
The first time you encounter the brand, you might not think much of it, but you will still begin to form a brand identity for it in your mind. After being exposed over and over again, you’ll probably begin to perceive it as important. Again, you’re not wrong.
Likely, it was launched with a large advertising budget, so you understand, even if it’s only subconsciously, that someone has put a great deal of effort and faith into the brand. Compared to all the other brands that aren’t being advertised profusely, it must be important.
The power of image
But it’s not just repetition that propels a brand’s stature. It’s also the quality of the imaging and messaging as well. After all, a brand can spend billions on advertising, and put itself in front of you a hundred times a day, but if it comes across as weak, inept, or irrelevant to you, then all that advertising budget is doing is convincing you to avoid the brand. Brand stature REQUIRES a perception of quality.
For example, let’s assume Steve is not famous in any way. Maybe you’ve heard people mention him, but you’ve never had the opportunity to meet him and form an actual opinion of him yourself. When you finally do meet him, regardless of what happens with your milkshake, your perception of him will include the way he looks, how he dresses, and how he speaks.
If Steve dresses like he just climbed out of a dumpster or mumbles incoherently, you’re probably not going to put yourself on team Steve. But if he is dressed sharply, and speaks with passion, eloquence and charm, then you may just spill your milkshake while fawning over him.
Well-built brands can do the same. A brand does not need to have been around for decades in order to appear like a brand that has been around for decades. A brand does not need to spend a billion dollars on advertising in order to look like it has. Brand stature can be evoked through smart messaging and imaging.
BUT (you may have expected a but to show up here. If so, give yourself a gold star) it will ALWAYS be relative, regardless.
This is why competitive analysis is so important when building and developing brands. Your brand will inevitably have to compete with others, and its brand stature will be determined by audiences silently ranking it alongside them.
The only way to build a truly superior brand is by projecting a superior brand stature.
After all, what would Steve do?
In the blog above, the character of Steve is entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to Steves you know who think it’s funny to laugh at someone who just spilled a milkshake all over their desk like an idiot is completely coincidental.
If you are in need of an agency to help build or develop your brand, you might want to consider DAMN GOOD. We’ve heard it is a brand of absolutely incredible stature.