Recently, I came across this essay about a woman and her emotional relationship with her iPhone. It’s a poignant story about her struggle with anxiety and how throughout it all, her iPhone is what kept her calm.
The author, Ashley Abramson, describes a particular difficult passage in her life and says that during that time, “my iPhone was an electronic escape hatch.” It gave her “instantaneous access to a friend.” Using it, she says, helped her to feel better (“I could be funny”) and self-aware (“I stored 50+ mantras of who I was”). During some scary and honest moments, she claimed her iPhone “scroll sessions brought some color back to my life.”
I love this essay as a random reader because it’s emotionally brave and relatable. I love it even more as a brand strategist because it’s a gold-starred example of how to think about the role of a brand in the life of it’s user. If we want to build a relationship with our user, we need to dig this deep and articulate the brand’s role with this level of insight. We need to know all that we can about our user’s scared and honest moments in the dark.
When you think about your brand strategy, from what level of understanding are you drawing? Are you relying on a fairly functional idea such as your brand “provides solutions,” or “is the brand of choice”? Do you believe it’s better because you say it is? Do you load up on differentiated claims like “performs better, ” or “understands your needs better?” If this is where your communication ends, you might want to know that you don’t really have a brand strategy.
Getting to the bottom of your brand means understanding the thought process, the context, the “what’s-at-stake,” and the fears and dreams of your users. Think of this woman quietly grappling with her anxiety, do you think she cares about whether your product “performs better”?
It doesn’t matter whether you are targeting a busy mother of six kids or the facilities manager of a mid-sized corporation, your brand story should be framed with this level of empathy. When you develop your strategy, think about the words of “an electronic escape hatch” as an example of what your brand can mean to your users.
With the prolific choices of content and messaging flashing by in a thousand micro-moments, your target is moved by ideas that contribute (if even on a small level) to their emotional survival. This should be the goal for any brand. And Ashley’s example is the goal for understanding what that looks, sounds and feels like. In the world of brand strategy, these are our #relationshipgoals.