The science of branding is fascinating, because it tells us more about ourselves than we’re normally willing to admit.  For example, a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research (reported here by Fast Company Design) indicates that merely being associated with a brand can actually boost some people’s self-esteem:

In the study… women were given bags to carry around a mall for an hour. Some carried Victoria’s Secret bags, others carried plain pink shopping bags. Women who were given Victoria’s Secret bags revealed that they felt more feminine, glamorous, and good-looking than those with the pink shopping bags — just by carrying the bag.

Are we really that susceptible to the impressions that a logo or a color scheme creates in our subconscious?  Is branding that powerful of a social indicator?

To some people, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Consider the case of hybrid cars.  Owning a hybrid must mean you’re a conscientious individual who cares about the environment… right?

Not necessarily.

One study found a huge disconnect between the presumed and actual reasons people buy a Prius:

Green-car buyers want to show the world what kind of people they are. PsyBlog describes a University of Minnesota study that showed the prime motivator for Toyota Prius hybrid buyers was that it “makes a statement about me.”

For these buyers, the environmental benefits of the Prius were only fifth in the list of reasons to buy.

Another study found hybrid drivers were more of an insurance risk than non-hybrid drivers because they took more liberties with their eco-friendly car.  And yet another study casts aspersions on people’s motivations for “buying green” altogether:

[A] second study found that people thinking about status do not purchase green products when no one else is going to know about it. When purchasing light bulbs over the internet, for example, they selfishly choose the better features of the nongreen option; when other people will know about their decisions, they go green.

So, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself: how does your brand make people feel about themselves?  (And, ideally, do people mean what they say?)

One way to find out is by tracking what people are saying about your brand across all social media channels.  Do your customers frequently tweet about how good your product makes them feel?  Are there multiple Facebook groups dedicated to fans and supporters of your services, causes or brands?

If so, congratulations!  You’re creating a brand experience that people want to be a part of.

And, if not… well, just call us.  We can help.

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