5 Words to Describe a Brand

The best brands make their customers feel better, and those feelings can be described in just a handful of emotive words. There should be five words that describe how a brand makes their customers feel. Those words can help guide a brand’s decisions as to how it deepens those emotional connections with their audience.

In my class we have a terrific exercise that gets everyone engaged and speaking about an essence of great brands. I ask the students to use only five words to describe a brand and how that brand makes them feel.

Not what the brands do, not what the brands say they do, but how that brand makes the students feel.

I ask the students to list five emotive words, then say what kind of category the brand is in (clothing, cosmetics, auto, etc.). It’s a conversation-starter for the students as they try to think of the brand just on those few words. It’s surprising (or maybe not), how often we can guess the brand just by a few emotions.

For example, a student used these words: “This brand makes me feel Smart, Sophisticated, Successful, Elegant, Respected.” The category was Auto. The Brand…Mercedes Benz.

Another: “This brand makes me feel Eco-Friendly. Protected. Aware. Intelligent. Relaxed.” The category was Outdoor Clothing. The Brand…(obviously)…Patagonia.

The best brands have a clearly defined personality that is specific in their emotional response they want to draw out of their customers. There’s a strong connection between how the brand makes them feel, and what the brand wants them to feel.Brands are like people, and have personalities.

When you evaluate people, you have an expectation of how they should act, behave, speak, dress, and generally interact with others. You trust a person to know who they are, and who they’re not. And, I bet you could use 5 words that describe how some people make you feel.

Brands are the same. Brands evoke emotion and elicit a response from you. You might not like them, but you should have a good idea of what emotions they evoke. For example, Monster Energy Drink is a totally different person than Red Bull, but they’re in the same category. I bet you would have different words to describe Monster versus Red Bull. You instinctively know what they are and what they’re not.

So here is my question for you: what are 5 words that your customers would use to describe how your brand makes them feel?

Don’t know? Ask ‘em. Send a quick survey to enough of your friendly customers that you receive over 50+ respondents. Choose a list of Emotions that you think are pretty close (to make it easier for them), and see what comes back

For an extra bonus to see how you think your culture matches to your customers’ perceptions, send that same survey to your team, asking them what emotions you want your customers to feel.

How close do those words match up? Do your customers have the same emotions that your team hopes to provide?

It’s a simple exercise that helps crystalize the way your customers describe how you make them feel.

So…can you guess this brand?

I asked a stylish and intelligent woman I know to do this exercise to describe her favorite brand of handbag. She chose: “Well-Dressed. Girly. Elegant. Successful. Special.”

What brand is this?

Author: Chris Foster

Chris Foster has been teaching Brand Strategy and Positioning at UCSD Extension since 2009. He has lead professional workshops and presented at numerous San Diego Marketing Association events as well as national events for the Direct Marketing Association; been guest lecturer at SDSU Marketing Courses; and participated in numerous professional panels.

For the past 20 years he has worked in all aspects of marketing and creative direction for start-up, growing, and established business environments. He has a passion for helping any-sized business transform their brand so they can more authentically connect with their audience.

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