“Who do you think you are” used to be asked of people when they said or did something rude or presumptuous. But now, it’s an important question that provides valuable insight into what motivates your target market to buy.
Welcome to the world of identity marketing. According to Robert Maxwell – president of research consulting firm Chelsea Media – it is no longer enough to create a brand identity to reach members of your target demographic group. You must first understand the social and pop cultural influences upon which people within your target demographic create their identity and lifestyle, then position your brand as one that integrates with that identity.
As explained in plain English by Maxwell in Advertising Age magazine: “If consumers identify with Prada and also identify with Michelob, Volvo, “24” character Jack Bauer, rock group the Killers and Doritos, marketers suddenly have a ‘brand identity chain’ – a group of consumers who share similar identities as well as product and media consumption.
“In fact, anything in the media marketplace that contains symbols consumers might use in constructing their identities qualifies as a brand. That includes companies, services and, most important, news and entertainment. The building blocks of news and entertainment – personalities, TV programs, characters, sports teams, bands, channels, websites and so forth – are all laden with symbols that invite connections with a consumer’s identity.”
Now consider your target market. If it’s the 18-to-34 male mobile entertainment enthusiast, his brand identity chain is likely to include Red Bull, first-person shooter/car racing video games, Scarface, hip-hop artist Chamillionaire, YouTube.com, Honda Civic, Toyota Scion – and probably also Jack Bauer and Doritos. All of these interests and preferences combine to shape his self-image and determine the other brands he buys.
So how can you make your brand one of the building blocks of your market’s identity? Let’s return to the Scion for an example. A CGA (computer-generated animation) commercial for the Scion tC uses video game-style graphics and action as the vehicle changes body colors while driving through a hip cityscape to a techno music track. The creative team for the commercial recognized video games and techno music as building blocks of the tC target market’s identity, and based the vehicle’s brand identity upon those elements.
The take-home message: let your brand enhance the identity of your consumers, and the resulting sale will be more than a purchase – it will be part of who they are.