The Branding Game

Advertising messages are like first dates, you just want me to see your good side in the hopes that I’ll stick around for another date. But if we know brand advertising is deceptively positive why do we buy into it? Do brands overpower our brains or do they simply tap into how our minds work? A recent TED Talk explored this idea. How a brand assigns and communicates value can significantly impact how consumers perceive it.


When we go on a first date, we’re taking a chance at getting to know someone better based on the surface details we know. Similarly, when a consumer buys a product for the first time often they are buying into the brand imagery. We make brand choices based on our perceived value in the brand. That value is set by the utility of the product enhanced by the history we associate with it. Advertising can’t control the utility but the story can. By creating a strong brand story the value of a product can be increased. Likewise an experience, the combination of our sense and beliefs, can be altered to change the perception of pleasure. Creating a valuable story around a product can physically alter the pleasure we gain from it. For example pouring the same wine from an expensive versus a lower end bottle changes the perception at a neurological level; because we believe it is more valuable we perceive it as being better.


Much like dating, we can’t look at a first date as the only deciding factor in the relationship. A consumer will look beyond the imagery and the product; they are won over with the full experience. Each experience has the capability of strengthening the brand’s value to the consumer. The difficult part about playing into the consumer experience is that the brand must create and then fulfill that value. It is something that must be earned repeatedly. Joseph Pine, a business consultant, asserts that we are now living in what he calls the Experience Economy. Brands have the opportunity to create a consumer experience. The more authentic, and consistent the experience the more it appeals to the consumer because it rings true. Brands like Disney, Starbucks, and Chipotle excel in this space. They are consistent in the experience and true to who their brand image which is endearing to consumers. If you wow someone on a first date and they agree to the second the experience needs to be just as good for them to continue to build the relationship.


The framework of value tied to experience represents an enormous opportunity to independent retailers. By examining the store is positioned in the community, how the shopper visit is curated, and how key differentiators are shared stores can reassert themselves as ‘high value’ experience. Changing the perception of the experience can increase the consumers’ pleasure and win a new set of brand advocates. While discussing value propositions, curating experiences, and winning brand advocates may sound complicated, at its core it is the same as dating. If someone takes a chance with you create an experience that makes him or her want to go on another date each time.

Why do I work at AWG? “I chose to work at AWG because I want other people to love shopping local grocers as much as I do.” -Andrea