November 14, 2013

Badge brands

If television ads are to be believed (work with me, work with me), the surest road to the admiration of your peers and/or the attraction of hotties is to ask the bartender for the precisely correct beverage. Works every time.

Some examples might seem ludicrously obvious to, um, grownups, but they’re still persuasive to the target demographic, anxious males age 21 to 21-⅛. Badge brandsWe’ve seen the research that shows young men who state a beverage brand preference at age 21 tend to stick with that brand in good numbers – fully half are still loyal at age 29.

Beer and spirits are among the most visible of badge brands, but the category is not limited to consumer goods. CAT gimme caps are everywhere, yes?

We all define ourselves to the world with shoes, wristwatches, tobacco, designer gear, tattoos, logo stickers, baby strollers, cars – almost any purchase visible to others. What you buy makes a statement to your audience, whether it’s the other ladies who lunch observing your Christian Louboutins, the guys on your construction crew seeing the Camels rolled up in your AC/DC t-shirt sleeve, the passengers boarding your Gulfstream IV, or your street gang assessing your colors. You are what you eat? Nope. You are what you’re seen eating.

We had an interesting discussion the other day with a prospective client about badges and badge brands. The context was a new product launch in a category that’s clearly badge-worthy, one where the psychographic self-image of the user will be matched and enhanced by this visible purchase, especially if we get the naming right.

Over the decades, we’ve worked a lot with badge brands, executing brand messaging that sends out positive signals, without going so far as to backfire. BCSD, as Urban Dictionary says, means people will snicker at your Corvette.

These are things we know:

• Badges are important enough to create the intention to purchase.

• Marketers in these categories must create striking, distinctive brand narratives to reach badge status.

• There are often gender-role issues involved, because gender role anxiety is pervasive, and badges represent socially acceptable expressions of self. See Sure vs. Secret deodorants for a vivid case history.

• Packaging, we say, is the last dialog with the consumer. Hey, the package remains important well after purchase.

• Iron City beer is socially proper in that bar hard by the steel mill, but go for Three Floyds with your sorority sisters. Horses for courses, as they say.

Does your brand have a devoted constituency? If yes, get them to flaunt it. Harley tattoos, anyone? Snap-On Tools tshirts? Notre Dame onesies? If no…

Is there a demographic (or, more potently, a psychographic) audience segment looking for you as an affirmative badge? Is there a Hispanic motor oil? An LGBT rum? A motorcycle for the timid? A beer for gamblers?

If your brand addresses an emotional urgency for your customers/clients, why aren’t prospects joining in? (No fair using the easy-out “they just aren’t aware” excuse. That can prevent you from seeing qualitatively different attitudes to be addressed.) Customers, however, can become evangelists, and giving them a badge to be proud of could be rocket fuel for your brand.