Brands can be the Comfort Food for the Soul

For those living through the “Perfect Storm” of October 2012 that hit the East coast of the U.S., we all, collectively, had our senses heightened out of need. Many had no electricity, the coast had severe flooding, wind damage was everywhere and there were all manner of challenges in the days following the storm. What I found interesting is how some well-known “brands” comforted my soul as the winds howled and the storm raged on.

For example, we heated up Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and Tomato soup in the evenings over a propane stove. More than the warmth of the soup, the Campbell’s brand enveloped us with a smile and a comforting feeling that all would be OK. It was like a grandmother’s hug.

Five days into the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I was driving in my car when I tuned in to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers… better known as the Car Talk radio show on PBS that started on the air for 35 years. It’s one of my favorite programs. It wasn’t what they were saying that made me feel so safe… it was their voices that just made me feel like everything would be OK. Their “brand” was a reassurance. I even know that the show was a rerun, but their voices, like very old friends, were comforting.

In the chilly days that followed without power, wrapping my fingers around a mug of Folgers coffee provided a moment of physical and emotional warmth. It wasn’t just a cup of coffee. It was way deeper than that. And Folgers was there for me as my soothing friend.

The true test of a brand is whether it can build a strong foundation of equity in a consumer’s mind over time. If properly managed, a brand should become a reassurance of consistency and quality.

And in tough times, we tend to turn to these brands for solace. In other words, we seek them out, use them, and then feel as if we are safe. More than nostalgia, it is fundamental trust.

It’s not that we need severe weather situations to think about brands. Rather it is the moment to learn where our strongest connections exist. Really smart marketers understand how important brand equity is to achieve and sustain market leadership.