Building Your Brand's Warmth and Competence
If you want more customers, you need to get warmer.
It turns out customers stereotype companies the way they stereotype people. We want a combination of warmth and competence from our brands, just like we do from the people around us.
Stereotyping exists in relationships, whether we like it or not. A review of the book, The Human Brand, on the website for the Association for Psychological Science, lays out how we are inclinded to view individuals, but also groups.
"Society, for example, tends to view rich people as competent but cold, and the elderly as warm but incompetent," the authors write. "Welfare recipients are dismissed as cold (exploitative) and incompetent, while middle-class folks are regarded as warm and competent."
So it is with companies or product brands. The book's authors, business consultant Chris Malone and social psychologist Susan Fiske, look at a Darwinian instinct of warmth of intent, or, more simply, whether people are viewed as wishing others bad or good.
Understanding this instinct allows us to better see how to radiate warmth to consumers. That, in turn, helps keep customers, even when companies stumble. The authors cite Tylenol as an example. Tylenol has a good deal of brand warmth, certainly more than a competitor like Advil. As a result, even though it suffered a product recall, it still was able to maintain its lead in customer loyalty.
It's good advice for entrepreneurs. Here's a video of Fiske, one of the book's authors, explaining some of the pyschology around the subject:
Ray Hennessey is the former editorial director of Entrepreneur.