Walking the Walk: The Significance of Brand Behavior

By Summer Teal Simpson Hitch

The branding game has changed in the last 25 years. One contributing factor is the post-2008 consumer shift in purchasing raison d’etre, or motivations. And, with that, a heightened collective discernment to false advertising or identity.


Meet the Neo consumer, the gamechanger. Increasingly, shoppers are looking to patron businesses and brands that they identify with, rather than being led by savings alone. So what does that mean? It means it's time for brands to walk the walk rather than talk the talk.

“We’ve seen a significant shift in the way consumers embrace brands,” says Kelly O’Keefe, professor of brand management and innovation at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter advertising school. “If you think back to the ’90s, advertising was the tool for building brands. It worked by connecting brands to short messages or images. But it stopped working. We’ve had companies tell us one thing and do another. And what happens to us as consumers, when we feel like we’ve been lied to, is that we discount the message and look for deeper signals.”

I borrowed this quote from an awesome Inc. article on the topic of Brand Behavior, an industry topic we've been digging into a lot lately here at Focus Lab. In a nutshell, Brand Behavior asks the brand and the company to embody the brand identity, be the brand, don't just project an image.

Embracing this should be easier than it sounds. Because at the end of the day, it's about you. You start to define Brand Behavior by first defining who you are. Brand personas can be helpful with this: If your brand were a person, what are some of their signature characteristics? Where do they shop? Are they into art or science, yellow or gray, classical or metal? What activities do they engage in? What are their core beliefs?

From there you start to map out behaviors that follow that personality. Much like your own personality shows up in your choice of personalized stationery, powder room candle, floral drapery, curated music selection, and farm-to-table dinner menu, so will your brand's personality show up in similar considerations for business collateral, decor, events, and partnerships. And like you profess your interests via various social media channels, so will your brand. And like you make friends, so will your brand attract consumers.

Appeal to the Neo shopper by relating to them. How? Let them know how you share interests: art, music, individuality, community, local food, local business, getting outside, culture, style, activity, a good cup of coffee, a great beer, good design, a handsome space, a smart joke, personalities, fun, a conservation ethos, generosity, etc.

Don't just tell people who you are. Be it. Do it. Live it. You, Business Leader, you know what you're interested in. Engaging in what interests you comes across publicly as real instead of staged. Regardless of the venue or forum, the objective is to be yourself. And, in doing so, to attract people to your company without soliciting a sale.

If you're interested, here are some more great reads on Brand Behavior:
Brand Behavior: Does your Company Walk the Walk?
Brand Behavior Drives Results

Need help getting started, or defining who you are? We can help with that.