Nobody buys anything for the sake of having it.
Purchases always solve problems. And, problems are always driven by deeper needs. In between the problems and the deeper needs are tensions. These tensions are value-driven: in other words, they are driven by wanting the world to be one way and not another.
Each value has two poles: a positive and a negative (e.g., clean/dirty, love/hate, freedom/suppression, etc.). It is the battle between these two poles—because moving towards the negative is always a possibility—that creates tension in customers’ lives. It’s these tensions that companies should seek to solve.
A company’s goal should be to create offerings that move the customer closer to the positive end of the value spectrum. By doing so, the customer associates positive movement in their lives with the brand.
Different companies can solve similar problems in people’s lives. It’s the way in which they uniquely reduce the tension that differentiates one brand from another.
Consistently giving customers tools to overcome tensions reinforces behaviors. Reinforcing behaviors is what makes customers develop a relationship with a brand and makes them likely to consider that brand first when making a new purchase. Reinforced behaviors lead to purchases.
When an ad falls flat, it’s usually because it has nothing to do with tensions or it solves a problem that the customers don’t associate with the brand—it isn’t linked to a reinforced behavior. It may be visually appealing; it might even be clever enough to win an award. But, just being visually appealing or clever doesn’t drive purchase. The lack of effectiveness results in companies constantly switching directions. And when they constantly change directions, they lack the consistency required to create reinforcement.
Companies that don’t solve a tension have weak brands. Companies with strong brands consistently help customers overcome tensions and become the heroes in their own journeys.
The best way we’ve found to uncover these tensions is to talk to your customers: specifically your Brand Lovers—the customers that love you the most. These customers love you because you help them in their lives over and over again. As a result, they have a better perspective of what you can do when you’re at your best than your average customer does.
Once you understand these tensions, you can more clearly express your ability to solve problems and more easily reinforce desired behaviors to a larger customer base.
And, that makes your brand pretty irresistible.