Many years ago, I worked for a market research firm that did a lot of brand research. In our brand studies, we asked respondents to evaluate a brand in accordance with how they placed it on the “ladder of the mind,” as it was referred to then. The ladder, which has seven steps along the brand preference continuum, reflects the fact that consumers tend to think about brands in terms of consideration sets rather than in terms of purchase probabilities. An added bonus of using the ladder and its respective verbiage is that the scale is designed to be internationally acceptable, something that is often called into question with a numerical purchase intent scale.  You’ll see what I mean as you review the responses to the “ladder of the mind” question. The response are…

  • This is the only brand of [product] I would ever consider using
  • This is one of my preferred [product] brands
  • This is not one of my preferred [product] brands, but from what I’ve heard about it recently, I’d like to try it/try it again/learn more about it
  • This is not one of my preferred [product] brands, but I’d use it under certain circumstances
  • I’ve heard of this brand of [product] but don’t know much about it
  • I’ve never heard of this brand of [product]
  • I would never choose to use this brand of [product]

Each of those seven response choices is given a short-name category, with the categories shown in the rungs of the ladder in the image above. Clearly, the hope/wish/dream is that, as customers move through the customer experience lifecycle, the experience with the brand is such that they also move up the rungs of the ladder and  ultimately say: “This is the only brand of X that I would ever consider using.” What a powerful statement that is! This is when you’ve reached the state of brand insistence, defined by as:

A type of exceptional consumer loyalty to a particular trade named product where they actively pursue its acquisition and will not accept a substitution or generic product instead. The ultimate test of a successful marketing campaign for a business brand is the degree of brand insistence that it generates for the product among consumers.

All that to say that the customer has achieved a stage of brand preference whereby he/she will accept no alternative, pursue no substitutes, and will search until that brand is found or what until it is available.

It takes a lot of work by an organization for a customer to get to the point of brand insistence. The brand is backed up by a culture and an organization of people who support what it stands for, who work tirelessly every day to make sure the brand (and its promises) are well represented. I would argue that the definition above also needs to make reference to the customer experience, not just to marketing. The experience must be done right. You must live up to your brand promise. You must be remarkable. You must be consistent. You must earn your customers’ trust.

“Your brand is created out of customer contact and the experience your customers have with you.” –Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Chairman, EasyGroup

If all those things are done right, customers form an emotional connection with the brand. Until the customer sees consistency from the brand, that bond can be easily broken. Consistency begets trust, and once there is trust between the brand and the customer, that emotional bond becomes solidified, and brand insistence takes over.

Can you think of a specific brand (in a given product category) with which you’ve achieved brand insistence? There are probably the usual suspects, e.g., Apple, Harley-Davidson, or Nike, but what others would you declare?

“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.” -Scott Talgo, Brand Strategist