Brand Choice: Why Do We Choose One Over Another?

Brand Choice

When you work in branding, you often ponder brand choice and why people choose one over another. Is it the price? How about the perceived quality or reputation of the product? Or is it because someone else told you about the brand?

It’s easy to feel lost in an array of brands to choose from which is why it’s essential to have an established brand identity that communicates your why and your point of difference.

When a customer relates to and aligns with a brand story, things like price, quality, convenience, and even need, often come later.

We’ve explored brand choice in detail in this piece looking at some of the many reasons why people choose one over another.

Perceived quality

Quality is a key factor that may influence purchasing decisions and the concept of quality is often interlinked with a brand’s overall reputation.

For example, while Kmart is considered a much-loved Australian brand, most people wouldn’t consider Kmart as a brand that delivers on quality. It’s more likely to be aligned with a value status based on the perception of low cost.

The relevance or importance that quality plays may vary depending on the type of item you are purchasing. If you’re looking at technology brands, you are likely looking at items that potentially cost a few thousand dollars in comparison to say purchasing new activewear where the investment will most likely be less. This comes down to risk really. If you’re purchasing a costly item, are you prepared to risk purchasing a brand that’s perceived as low-quality or perhaps an unknown brand?

We recently conducted a poll on our Instagram account where we asked our audience what their #1 decider was when choosing a brand. Participants had the option to choose between perceived quality, price, reputation and brand values. 41% of people chose perceived quality as their deciding factor, closely followed by reputation.

While we’re aware that our Instagram doesn’t necessarily reflect an accurate representation of the wider community, we were fascinated by these results and somewhat surprised.

Product and packaging design

We all like to look at nice, pretty, or attractive things. If you were presented with two relatively unknown brands and one had striking and attractive packaging and the other had unappealing packaging, you would undoubtedly go for the more attractive option.

There are even times when you may purchase an item primarily based on the appearance or design of the product. This is more common with things like tea, wine, or even books. You know the saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover?’ Yeh well, most of us do!

Product design also has a role to play. Items like couches, watches and handbags are meant to provide functional value, however a lot of the time, we choose these items based on aesthetic and appearance first and then consider comfort, if at all!

We’re living in a world where as consumers, we have an abundance of choices so it’s essential to create a brand that visually communicates a point of difference and creates a desire within your target audience.

Don’t get us wrong, visual identity isn’t always about how nice something looks either. It’s also about consistency. If you want your brand to be recognisable and remembered, you need to ensure you are consistent. Consistency helps to shape brand perception; it can evoke positive emotions, build trust and loyalty, as well as differentiate you from your competitors.

Values and ethos

Brand values are essential for all businesses, particularly with the rise of conscious consumption. More and more people are concerned with business ethics and the decisions and processes companies make and how brand choice impacts our wider society.

According to 5WPR’s 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 83% of millennials want companies’ values to align with their own. Further to this, 65% of millennials state that they have boycotted a brand that took an opposing stance on an issue and 62% favour products that show off their political and social beliefs.

More and more, people are seeing their purchasing habits as an extension of their identity. They want to be associated with brands that they believe are contributing to social good, whether that be from a charitable, sustainable, environmental, animal, or human rights perspective. Likewise, people don’t want to support brands that they perceive to be unethical.

We’ve all heard of cancel culture and celebrities aren’t the only ones that are cancelled! Brands also face the risk of being cancelled, particularly if they don’t respond to evolving social pressures. This was evident last year when the Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the world and we were forced to reflect on how we treat, recognise and acknowledge Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. Globally known brands like Nike, Starbucks and Pepsi, to name a few, faced backlashes due to their response to the Black Lives Matter protests. Closer to home, heritage brand ‘Coon’ sparked debate over suggestions that their name is part of a racial slur. While the brand debunked this claim stating that they named the iconic brand after Edward William Coon, a man who patented a cheese making process in the 1920s, they did ultimately change the name.

Saputo Dairy, the company that owns Coon said it decided to rename the cheese after a “careful and diligent review to honour the brand affinity felt by our consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives.”

This example demonstrates the importance of business values and how they may also need to evolve with changing societal expectations.    

Previous experience

If you’ve had a previous experience with a brand regardless of whether it’s a product or a service, you’re much more likely to choose that brand again next time. There’s less risk involved in using a service or product that you’re already familiar with, particularly if your experience has been positive.

Self-identity

Some people consider their purchasing decisions as a part of their overall identity. Our buying power is a symbol of status. While we would like to think we don’t, many of us make judgements about when we meet new people based on their appearance, the way they present themselves and perhaps even the brands that they may wear. For example, if someone presents themselves in designer gear you tend to assume that they spend a lot of money on their attire and they value labels, as opposed to someone who might be in activewear or wearing a more affordable brand like Sportsgirl. 

Price

Price can often be a brand consideration. If something is too cheap, people may perceive that brand of lower quality. On the flip side, if something is too expensive, people may consider the brand as unattainable; think of luxury car brands, not everyone can afford to drive around in a Bentley!

Pricing is about much more than the cost of the goods and services it takes to create a product or deliver a service. It’s a key part of communicating a brand and its audience accessibility.

Brand loyalty

While similar to previous experience, brand loyalty differs in the sense that particular brands can build cult brand loyalty that isn’t necessarily built on one previous experience but on a greater connection to the overall brand beyond the product or service that they provide.

Frank Body built a significant social media following with over 800k followers on Instagram alone through their use of quirky language and user-generated content based around the hashtag #tfrankeffect, which to date has more than 50k posts attached of people sharing their experience with the product.

Another brand that built a cult following is the Aussie brand Black Milk. In their heyday (the early 2010s) their fandom grew to such a level that the founder, James Lillis, named them, ‘Sharkies’ because of, ‘how quickly and ferociously they devoured (or nommed, according to fans) the company’s products.

These examples show how brand loyalty is more than just a repeat customer. Loyal advocates will be the first to promote your brand to their community and in many ways, they act as an extension of your brand. 

Word of mouth

Good old-fashioned word of mouth is a powerful way of influencing purchasing decisions. We trust our friends and family and sometimes their word regarding a product or service will influence whether you choose to support that brand.

Word of mouth has evolved to also include word of mouse, meaning how people share and recommend brands online. Facebook even introduced the ‘Ask for Recommendations’ feature, which enables people to ask for recommendations from their community.

Emotional connection or nostalgia

There are some instances where people may choose a brand based on an emotional or nostalgic connection. For example, many heritage beauty brands like Dove are passed onto the next generation by their mothers. Similarly, toy brands often experience a resurgence when people grow up and have their children and want to share their favourite childhood brands like Care Bears, Lego, or Mattel. People associate their own positive experiences and memories with these brands and want to share those feelings with those they love.

Product or service features and benefits

If one brand has a product or service offering with better features that provide additional overall benefits, then it’s a no-brainer that this is likely to become a preferred brand. This is even more evident when people are basing their decision primarily on features and benefits without considering other key factors like brand reputation or cost.

Method of purchasing/convenience

Most of us want to make stress-free, convenient purchases. Our reliance on technology has created a see, want, buy culture where we want our purchases to be immediate. However, not all businesses offer the ability to purchase online which can lead to frustration. People also want to know that even if they are purchasing online, that they are purchasing from a familiar, reputable company.

Marketing agency Red C researched in 2018 and found brand familiarity played an essential role in search click-through rates. Of those surveyed, 82% who searched on Google chose a brand that they were already familiar with. Researchers also found that familiarity superseded the way results are ranked on Google with people choosing to scroll until they found a brand, they were familiar with, even if they were ranked 8 or 9.  In this instance, it’s a combination of both brand familiarity and the convenience of finding a brand online that has influenced brand choice.  

Brand choice: Why should people choose you?

The goal of creating a successful brand is to entice your customer base to become loyal advocates that return to your brand over and over again, even when new players enter the market. These people ideally rave about your brand and share their experiences with their friends and family.

Throughout this piece we’ve highlighted various factors that come into play when a consumer is choosing one brand over another, these factors need to be continually refined and considered for your brand to evolve and attract a loyal audience. If you’re an established brand, one of the primary ways you can start to do this is to engage with your existing audience and gain an understanding of why they choose your brand over others. A great way to do this is through surveys. These can be conducted with research companies or you can choose to run them in-house with a tool like SurveyMonkey.  Don’t assume you know what your consumers are thinking, more often than not, the results may surprise you and provide valuable insights. From here, it’s important to refine your brand strategy to understand your place within the market, who your audience is and why you should be the brand of choice.

If you need help to develop or refresh your brand, or to produce a brand strategy, please get in touch

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