From Star Wars, Star Trek and all the other science fiction movies you may have seen, you probably know that portals or wormholes are postulated pathways through the fabric of space-time so it can be traversed must faster. That's exciting because our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is 4.24 light years away. It would take many lifetimes to travel to its orbiting planets unless there is a portal, or shortcut, through which humans might travel. That's the bad news. The good news is that NASA claims to have found hidden portals in Earth's magnetic field. According to Jack Scudder, a physicist at the University of Iowa funded by NASA, we have portals right here on Earth. Here's what he says about them
We call them X-points or electron diffusion regions...They're places where the magnetic field of Earth connects to the magnetic field of the Sun, creating an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun's atmosphere 93 million miles away.
If you are into science, this is exciting news. If you are more interested in marketing, I can tell you that it might even be more exciting. Why? It provides another fantastic physics metaphor for branding.
Finding shortcuts into the brain
In developing brand identities for companies and products, marketers do their best to penetrate buyer brains. How? They create marketing instruments such as names, logos, slogans, jingles and mascots to do what is analogous to non-invasive brain surgery. The end objective is to use these instruments to effectively create shortcuts to purchase. If marketers are able to achieve this objective, they find (or develop) portals in the brain where messages (1) travel much quicker, (2) produce buying actions and (3) form habits.
Recognizing the difficulties
While you may think this is easy to do, it's not. Why? There are many reasons. The important ones are:
- The human brain is complex and designed to forget most things,
- Buyers are bombarded with roughly 20,000 ad messages a week,
- To manage the clutter, people have a network of filters in their brains that screen out most of these messages.
It is in this environment that brand marketers have to operate. Those that anticipate the difficulties are the ones that are likely to more successfully penetrate the obstacles.
Getting buyers to tune into your brand and tune out your competitors
If you do branding effectively, buyers will "tune in" to your messages and "tune out" those from your competitors. Using your branding tools, you will be taking shortcuts through portals while your competitors will have brain filter obstacles in 600 miles of 100 billion grey matter neurons to traverse. After you take these shortcuts, your effective branding tools will help to save buyers considerable time and money. They will reward you by preferring your brand and making it a habit that will be hard for your competitors to break.
Traversing the portal
Now that we know the objective, how do we do it? The process below is conceptually easy. The proper brand architecture and execution, however, require the marketing skill equivalent of a good brain surgeon.
- Identify the lock. To find the portal, you need to find the needs that are not being properly filled. This will end up identifying the target audience that has these unfilled needs. I call this audience "the lock" -- using a "lock and key" metaphor.
- Create the key. The easiest way to penetrate the lock is to create a "do not duplicate" key that will open the wormhole or portal through which your brand will travel into the brains of your target buyers. In layman's terms, what is the key? It is the image of the product that fits the lock (fills the need) much better than your competitors. A "do not duplicate" key satisfies an important need and is unique, which limits the competition.
Create branding tools to make the key
To create the proper key, we use a variety of branding tools. The big three are name, logo and slogan. These are symbols that help buyers feel comfortable buying your brand. If done properly, they also give your target audience unique benefits that they can only receive from your products. Quite often, the big three are not enough. It helps to employ other branding tools. These include colors, type fonts, jingles and mascots. All of these tools taken together help you find and traverse the portals in the buyer's brain. The quicker you get there and the more unique the key you create, the more likely they'll remember your products and exclude your competitors.
Once you have the right key, you use it in your promotional vehicles. You communicate your key to your lock using traditional and online media such as business cards, letterhead, ads, brochures, Web sites, videos, social media, etc. The more effective your communications, the quicker your messages will speed through the portals in the buyers' brains and be remembered.
Closing the loop by creating a feedback system
After you communicate, it is important to measure how well your branding and communications are working so you can take the appropriate corrective action. It is likely you will have to fine-tune things based on the feedback you receive. The universe is dynamic and constantly changing. The portal you found may disappear, and you might have to find others. Or, you may discover even quicker paths into buyer brains. As we develop better tools, we are able to see more details about our universe and make adjustments to our keys for ever-changing locks. As with science, branding requires 24/7 vigilance. Expecting to find new things and change course is what makes it all the more interesting. Best of luck on your journey.