We see adaptations everywhere! Simply defined, an adaptation, from an innovation point of view, is any behavior or device that seeks to accomplish a task or a goal in an apparently easier or better way. For example, if this toddler is wearing a diaper or pull-up, what is the adaptation?
Exploring adaptations is useful in that it can often lead to an insight about how we can create innovations to help make living easier or better. So have at it. This picture is full of them!
It wasn't that long ago that brands made the claim of no preservatives, no artificial flavors, no artificial colors was a point of differentiation. I remember when Tropicana effectively disrupted the orange juice category with its not from concentrate, nothing added, nothing taken away claim. Today, however, I opened this can of Chef Boyardee and noticed that it included what I believe to be new claims on the can of all of the above. Maybe they've always been that way, but this is the first time I've seen it called out. Good for them. But...I don't think this is going to disrupt anything. Today, this is table-stakes, price of entry stuff. Purely defensive I suppose. Consumers have moved on. Even my hair stylist mentioned this today (I don't remember why?).
So, what can a brand do to drive relevance and differentiation in this world of un-differentiation? The answer, I believe, is to connect your brand to human motivations. How do you do that? Well we do this by helping brands understand the motivations that their brands implicitly express to consumers and how that might be different than their competition. With that insight, we can then show them how to focus their voice through this lens and build not only their differentiation but also their authenticity. The formula is something like this:
We stand for MOTIVATION that is why we TANGIBLE CLAIM.
For example, Chef Boyardee might choose to focus on a motivation of FAMILY (the desire to have, nurture, and please your family). Thus, it would give the NO, NO's a deeper meaning than table-stakes. Instead, they become proof of the brand's character.
We have no problem understanding that, as human beings, we have motivations that guide our behaviors, both consciously and unconsciously. Have you ever considered, however, that brands can express motivations and that these kinds of expressions are especially powerful attractants to human beings?
While we do all kinds of qualitative research, we developed and often use a methodology we call Blink Apperception Research (BAR) to dig into how brands express motivations and how these brands can build their resonance with consumers by telling their brand story through the lens of their distinct motivational profile. The fascinating thing about BAR is that we consistently discern substantial differences between brands in a tight competitive set that ordinary brand image tracking research fails to detect. In fact, often the reason companies hire us is that they believe that their brand is relatively un-differentiated versus its competition and they would like to find a way to change this.
The BAR method is based on the methods psychologists have used for years, called Thematic Apperception Tests or Projective Research, to elicit stories from patients that could be psychologically revealing. Of course, BAR is specifically designed to elicit stories about brands from consumers. Which brings us back to our initial question... do brands express motivations? The answer is yes they do.
As an example of how this works, consider a well-established brand that competes in a well-established category with other well-established brands. It is no surprise that these brands are all seen as trusted/reliable in image studies. When we explore the motivations these brands are expressing, we see a much different picture. One brand, that is trusted/reliable strongly expresses the motivation of HONOR (or the desire to follow parental values to do the right thing), while another more strongly expresses the motivation of STATUS ( or the desire to be seen as having a higher social standing). Both are "trusted/reliable" but their inherent stories are completely different. By understanding your specific brand motivation, you can begin to focus your communications, branding, and innovation through the lens of your ownable motivation, thereby increasing brand differentiation. Without this insight, you could be trying to tell a story about your brand that just doesn't seem to stick, and the reason is that it is out of sync with the brand's implicit motivational profile.
We would be happy to share more about this topic with you and how it might be able to help you increase the differentiating resonance of your brand.
This blog offers stories and discussions on how to build more relevance and differentiation for brands. The author is Timothy Coffey, Chief Revolutionist of Launchforce Strategy, a consumer research consultancy that specializes in highly creative qualitative methods. His experience ranges from brand and research management at Procter & Gamble to innovation management at Tupperware to founding and leading an integrated marketing strategy agency. He is the author of three books, Innovation Myths & Mythstakes, The New Super Consumer, Mom&Kid, and The Great Tween Buying Machine.