In our last blog, we met Jane the Consumer. Jane is wife, mother, registered nurse, Instagram user, and “dance mom.” Companies that want Jane’s business want her to identify with their brand because, if she does, she is more likely to think of their brand in a positive light, try their new products, and recommend those products to her friends. This week, we’re going to explore one of the four ways to create brand identity – to lead Jane the Consumer to identify with a brand.
People identify with brands for many of the same reasons that they identify with groups. People are likely to identify with brands (and groups) that share their values; this makes them feel a sense of belonging, that they are part of something meaningful. People also shape their identity by establishing what they are not; they draw contrasts between themselves and brands (and groups) that do not share their values, and thereby create feelings of individuality. This balance between belonging and individuality is crucial in forming identity.
Perhaps the best way for brands to target this balance and create identity overlap is to create a “them” to galvanize an “us.” Planet Fitness uses an “us vs. them” approach in their rather ubiquitous and comedic commercials, showcasing “average Janes” who joined Planet Fitness after quitting gyms where body builders and super models (known as “Lunks”) grunt and strut during their workout session. Planet Fitness emphasizes they are a “Judgement Free Zone” and encourages everyone to feel comfortable regardless of ability level. Their motto is simple, “We’re not a gym. We’re Planet Fitness.” This positioning and this slogan strike the balance: they offer affiliation and belonging (encouraging Jane to identify with Planet Fitness, who will accept her and not judge her) and also distinctiveness and individuality (distinguishing her from the body-building “Lunks” who go to gyms).
Creating a “them vs us” is one of four ways a brand can create identity overlap with consumers. Next week, we will present the next in our series on increasing brand identification in current and prospective customers. We will discuss how brands can leverage their established values with consumers.