You’re an elephant. You need to drink water – a lot of water. So when you find a nice big river-fed pond to drink from, your mind creates a mental image of where that pond is. Your elephant mind says, “a good source of water can be found in this location” and creates associations with the surrounding area that we call memories. Your mind notes the shapes of the trees near the water’s edge and the smell of the mud and the sounds that the water makes and, when you get thirsty, your elephant mind recalls those sensations and says, “Find this place.” These mental activities make it much more likely that you will find water because you don’t have to go searching for a new pond every time you get thirsty.
Our brains have evolved this function — the associations between sensory cues and the things we need — to ensure our survival. This function is still within us, and we use it all day long: how many times have you walked into the kitchen and opened one particular cabinet door because you’re feeling a little hungry?
This is the fundamental dynamic that we use every time we go shopping. Without brands a trip to the grocery store would be very complex and difficult. We would have no idea what was in each box and bag, and we would have to sample many different products to find the ones we want. Brands don’t just serve business owners, they also serve consumers – logos, text, colors and the familiar aspects of each label and package help us find the things we want. If you like a particular peanut butter you don’t have to sample a dozen different brands when you go looking for something to spread on your crackers. You pick the label — the brand — that you know and love.
Your customers want to create these connections because it makes their lives easier. If you own a hair salon and you do a good job on a new client she will probably be more than willing to come back a second time. She doesn’t want to try out every single stylist in town – it would take too long and be too difficult. The same thing is true for hamburgers and car repair and clothing. Once a customer develops a positive brand in his mind he can find what he wants quickly and easily and the business owner reaps the benefits of repeat business.
Paul is on a mission: he wants all Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables. Lots of people want to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets, understanding the role these foods play in good health and overcoming problems like obesity. But many people don’t know how to change their buying, food preparation and eating habits. Paul decided to create ways to help people find what they want.
Paul’s Produce is a dazzling array of color and smell and taste and, for cooks and those who eat lots of produce, a great place to find more unusual options. In the autumn, Paul might provide 15 different types of apples. In the summer, a squash display may include 20 varieties. Paul could count on his regular customers, but many new customers would walk in and become somewhat overwhelmed by the display, then leave without making a purchase. The desire for a healthier diet was not as strong as the fear and confusion created by a large display of unfamiliar food. Once Paul recognized this challenge, he was in a position to help potential customers achieve their goals.
Paul began providing informative point-of-sale information to guide new customers. The apples were stacked neatly beneath a big sign explaining the differences in flavors (sweet or tart), textures (crisp or soft) and uses (fresh or baked). Small printed guides with recipes and storage tips were offered, and produce experts were taught to direct customers to the varieties that best meet their preferences and needs. A squash cooking demonstration showed cooking-averse customers how easy it is to make a squash side dish. Paul posted all this information, including videos of the demonstrations, on his website, attracting local shoppers looking for new ways to prepare produce and giving existing customers a resource to help them remember what they had seen in the store. He also made a point of spending at least three afternoons a week in the store interacting with customers, sharing his knowledge and skills.
By helping customers find what they truly want — help — Paul was able to associate his brand with the idea of helpful advice, encouraging customers to return to his store and his website.