Hot Minute #28: Why Brand Equity is Like Running with a Candle


Brand equity is a beautiful thing.

Equity means customer loyalty, industry status, and recognition. People *know* you. Johnson & Johnson, Duracell, and Smucker’s are old familiar friends in the minds of buyers because they deliver a predictable product, at a predictable price, with a predictable packaging or personality that generations have come to trust.

In our last episode of On Branding, Dr. Neale Martin, author of “Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore” described the pitfalls of “cognitive costs” in the mind of the consumer. A brand that was ‘outed’ for using controversial ingredients. A social media feed that Tweeted something offensive. A price hike or ‘new formula’ that feels like the rug being pulled out from under you.

“If I don’t trust you, then I’m always thinking about you,” Dr. Martin explained. Similar to the infidelity of a spouse, he said, it creates mental exhaustion to constantly flip the scenario around in your mind. Likewise, if people trust your brand — perhaps even bought it for years without a second glance — then your brand goes on autopilot in the minds of the consumer. Purchasing decisions, then, are driven not exclusively by trust, but by familiarity, comfort, and habit. Thus, equity.

Brand equity is like running with a candle. You don’t want to spill any hot wax on yourself, and you certainly don’t want to trip and light someone’s front lawn on fire.

It’s important to realize that brand equity puts you at the forefront of doing what you do best, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reinvent yourself either. What are your competitors doing that excite their habitual buyers? Why do people buy *them* on autopilot? How can you market a new product that serves a specific need, on the idea that they already love you?

Equity is not an excuse for your brand to go stale.

Today, think about how your brand’s existing reputation can leverage its hard-earned equity and upper hand to deliver delight, reinforcement, or surprise to the consumer that’s been purchasing from you consistently for the past year. You already know they’ve made the right choice. Now is your time to seal the deal.