What customers think of you 'is' your brand

One of the great things about NLP is how we can use it to break down complex or vague concepts into their simple, straight-forward building blocks.

Take, for example, the concept of ‘branding’. It can be explained in all sorts of complex, erudite, and comprehensive ways – but from an NLP angle it’s simply the activity of getting people to attach particular feelings to a product or service or organisation.

The marketing teams obviously want to ensure people attach good feelings to their brand and spend a lot of time and moment aiming to do this.

And sometimes events happen which result in people attaching negative feelings to a company's offerings.

Connecting positive feelings with, say, a product enhances the brand. Connecting negative feelings to a product diminishes a brand. (See this blog article on the demise of The News of the World newspaper.)

Let’s see how this works in practise…

Great offer – I’ll try that!

Some years ago I was waiting in a line of heavy traffic while, five or six or seven cars ahead, a Waitrose delivery van was reversing into a parking place.  Emblazoned in huge writing across the rear doors of the van was the announcement 'Free delivery on every order!'

I thought, that's a good deal, I might try them – especially as we didn't have a Waitrose store on the Isle of Purbeck where I then lived.

The 'snatch-back' offer

The van parked and the traffic began moving again and, as I passed, I noticed in tiny writing under this appealing offer was the addition 'over £50'. Ah, I didn’t realise there’d be a catch! It’s the small print again!

If I want to get free delivery I have to order over £50!

Mind you, that's not unreasonable. Getting a van and driver to specially deliver a pound of butter or a packet of cornflakes is plainly uneconomical. No one disputes that. And if the offer had read 'Order £50 and we'll deliver free!' that would have been a different matter as in 'They’re playing straight with me – I’ll seriously consider ordering from Waitrose.'

But they tried to cheat me!

First they built up my hopes. Then they dashed them!

They’re treating me disrespectfully – they think I’m a mug!

(And of course, if you look at it logically and reasonably, they didn't try to cheat me. But that's what I initially felt and it’s feelings that drive purchases and it’s feelings that drive brand loyalty and, if everything else is equal, its feelings that make the difference between choosing between one supplier and another. Branding is about feelings – not logic and analytical thinking.)

25% off everything

I had a similar experience not long ago in Bournemouth. The department store on the far side of the road had huge six-foot high posters in every one of their many windows announcing '25% off everything today'.

Intrigued, I crossed the road to have a browse in the store. As I got nearer the poster I notice something... There seemed to be writing INSIDE the '2' of the 25%, It said 'up to'.

And as I got right up to the poster I saw the multiple lines of tiny print announcing it was on selected lines, did not include other offers, etc etc etc.  And all this information was printed in tiny writing inside the bottom of the figure 2 of the 25%.

Disgusted I walked on.

60% off

Then, a couple of days ago I came across a similar poster in the window of another local store. (And, yes, my filters were now set to seek out dubious offers everywhere - and I found them...) This time they were offering an amazing 70% off ...

But, of course, they weren't - the devil was in the detail or, to be precise, in the small print. Loads of qualifiers and disclaimers in tiny print at the bottom of the poster,

Radio advertising’s ‘small print’

The radio advert version of small print is particularly fascinating. Not because it's especially clever or artful (it isn't) but because the people who make these commercials seem to have an amazing disdain form the listeners.)

First we get the enticing offer, often for financial services or special deals on cars. The offer is delivered in a warm, measured voice that sounds authoritative and trustworthy. This bit can take 20 or 30 seconds.

Then we get to the ‘small print’! This is delivered by a different voice, obviously picked for their ability to speak so fast as to be bordering on unintelligible and, in a frenzied 3-4 seconds we get all of the terms and conditions and disclaimers!

Let's hoodwink the punters!

These examples raise the question: do they really think customers are so dumb as to fall for these scams?

From an NLP viewpoint a more important question is do they realise what they are doing to their brand? Do they realise how these tricks merely turns off customers?

True, this approach worked up to 20 or 30 years ago. People had less choice so they’d put up with it. They also had loyalty towards their suppliers. There weren't so many cars so people didn’t shop around as much. And they didn't have the Internet.

That's all now changed but it seems that a lot of people in marketing and selling don’t seem to have caught on. They’re still trying to fool the ‘punters’ but it’s not working. So the online shopping world is destined to take over from the High Street; more choice, more transparency, better value, plus opportunities for comparing deals.

Why tricking customers undermines the brand

If we use NLP to look at what goes on when we encounter such great offers it goes roughly like this:

  1. We see an enticing offer: free delivery on every order, 25% off. etc.
  2. This catches our attention and motivates us. We are interested. We begin a thinking-feeling cycle in which we have favourable feelings towards the product/company and begin imagining dealing with them and the benefits of doing so.
  3. So we’re ‘sold’ and go to take action and buy the offer – only to have a metaphorical wagging finger saying Oh, no you don’t – silly person, you haven’t read the small print!
  4. Now they’ve snatched the good deal away from you. You feel cheated and stupid – and resentful.
  5. As a result the good feelings you’d begun attaching to the brand are replaced by suspicion and a feeling of being duped or patronised!  You feel cheated and even insulted that they should think you'd fall for the trick – which you did, for a moment.

Why do they it?

It’s amazingly short-sighted. So why would a company willingly do things which turn customers off – and have them attach negative feelings to the company i.e. reduce their brand? And in a highly competitive marketplace where people are becoming ever more canny and more prepared to check prices and deals on the net before purchasing anything from anyone?

Your own business

If you have your own business the lesson is clear and important. Are you aware of the feelings which you communicate with your present and would-be customers - does every aspect of your communication with customers cause them to attach good feelings to your business?

And might there be anything which, even conceivably, might result in your losing a customer’s goodwill and trust.

Your personal ‘brand’

And even if you don’t have a business you do have a brand – people associate feelings with you.

In NLP terms you are an anchor for them; you evoke feelings in them, for better or worse. So it’s a good idea to assess what feelings you evoke as a…

Friend: do people cheer up when they meet you or think of you? Or do you evoke misery, irritability, or depression?

Parent: up to a certain age children tend to have unconditional love for their parents. That said, what feelings do you evoke in your children? Fear – through being the strict disciplinarian? Fun – through being someone it’s good to be around? Boring – because you’re always asking about school and homework?

Neighbour: cheery and friendly – or always complaining about how others park their cars, the noise made by children, over-hanging hedges, etc.?

Customer: are you the customer who huffs and puffs if there is a delay at the supermarket checkout? Or do you break the tension with a joke or a kind, encouraging comment?

Colleague: Do you brighten up people’s lives with humour, stories and a genuine interest in them? Or do you sap energy and sympathy with a never-ending series of tales of woe and misfortune?

Manager or team leader: do you lead – with ideas, interest in your team, inspiration, courage? Or do you try to be one of the lads/lassies – complaining about the tough job the team has, the lack of support from management, etc?

You can fool all of the people some of the time..

Customers often continue to buy from companies that treat them disrespectfully. Usually they’ll do this through loyalty, out of habit, and because of laziness. But once they realise they can do better elsewhere they reach a tipping point and leave, forever.

The same applies in our personal lives – we have lots of choice in who we spend time with. Why should we spend time with someone who brings us down or treats us unequally? Especially we consider the finite amount of time available for socialising e.g. the time remaining after we deduct the time we spend at work, eating and sleeping, doing household tasks, health and fitness time, etc.

So it makes sense to use this time well and in ways that enhance the quality of our lives. The time we spend with people who diminish our lives, manipulate us or drag us down is time we do not get to spend in mutually enriching relationships! And this works for everyone – including our friends...



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