007 is a fictional character. One who has set the benchmark for class and style for decades. He/She is what we would call an aspirational brand mechanism.
We don’t see the world as it is. Instead, we see our own interpretation of the world, shaped by our knowledge, emotions, and experiences. When we look at a product, we don’t just see it’s features; we see what we can achieve with it, what it will say about us. We imagine our productivity skyrocketing with a new computer, or family movie nights with a new big-screen TV.
When we see Daniel Craig drinking a Heineken, in a speedboat, with a beautiful woman, and on an island, we imagine ourselves as he and we begin to identify with the image, so we buy a Heineken the next time we’re at the bar. (This maybe somewhat complex to understand immediately, but future articles will delve further into this domain) At this point we are entering psychological conditioning, but for now we will discuss the surface aspects of aspirational marketing.
Aspirational marketing plays on our desires by portraying the products advertised as being able to fulfill our need for status, love, lifestyle, etc. Better yet, it creates loyal customers by appealing to this yearning and imaginative aspect of the human condition.
Aspirational marketing is about understanding imagination
As consumers, we don’t just look for products that meets our needs. We want to buy things that make us feel good about our purchasing decisions. We want experiences that validate our beliefs (e.g. a safe car vs a tough car vs a beautiful car) and business models that we can agree with (e.g. local companies vs international companies vs foreign companies). Aspirational marketing aims to satisfy this psychological struggle.
When consumers look at a product, they should be able to imagine themselves buying it, using it, and being better for those decisions. Aspirational marketing assumes not only that emotion is important to purchasing decisions, but also that rationality should be ignored. Following the premise of aspiration marketing, imagination is the most important consideration in creating a marketing strategy.
Imaginative brand strategy
Imagination is just as important for marketers as it is for consumers. Aspirational marketing requires a strategy imaginative enough to make a brand stand out from the crowd. One of the reasons aspirational marketing is so prevalent today is to combat the lack of diversity in the marketplace. For most products, consumers have a wealth of choice, and every brand has to work to be the one that’s chosen.
Since promotion, price, and packaging alone are no longer sufficient to differentiate a product, brands have shifted focus from the product to the consumer. Through aspirational marketing, brands unify their product and company to deliver a message that aligns with their audience’s yearning and imaginative worldview.
For aspirational marketing to be successful, this unification between product and company must be total. It must satisfy both the emotional and material desires of not only the consumer, but also employees and shareholders. The company’s values must be clear both in its products and its branding.
The aspirational brand appeals to Imagination
Aspirational marketing begins and ends with understanding how consumers see their world. For consumers, each buying decision is an opportunity to move closer to the life they imagine for themselves. Whether it’s a new phone that will make their day-to-day easier or support for a campaign that fights for a good cause, our decisions create our sense of self and our perspective on life.
Customers aren’t loyal to products with the most useful features, they’re loyal to brands that share their values and tell stories that they can relate to. When it succeeds, aspirational marketing is an irreplaceable strategy because products can be imitated, but the emotional connection between brand and consumer is difficult to duplicate.