I am a New Yorker. I am a tech marketer. I fly Virgin. I buy organic. I blog. I care about human rights and healthcare. I wear Theory. I practice yoga.
I am more these things than perhaps the Irish, Catholic girl from a suburb of New Jersey I once identified with. I am, in some way, the sum total of all of these things.
I typically walk into the office in the morning with a Starbucks Venti. On some level, Starbucks has become part of my personal brand. I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Dunkin Donuts. Not my brand.
What brands define you and align with who you are? Or maybe more to the point, what brands align with who you aspire to be?
Today’s consumer identifies with brands on a personal, human level. We’ve moved from an era of “I like brand X” to one of “I am brand X.” Consumers align their egos and their personal belief system with the brands they choose to represent them.
We see consumer brands making the shift to cater to consumer motivations. Honda appeals to the fuel efficient millennial. Apple caters to a fanatical following who fashion themselves among the tech elite. Virgin attracts customers who care about a lower carbon footprint. Toms is the brand of choice for the caring consumer.
The reason a consumer attaches to a brand is often deeply personal. The choice goes to the core belief system of that individual to form a connection.
So, as a brand marketer, you ask, who are my customers as people? The answer isn’t a VP of IT in the banking sector. The better answer is, a New York wanna-be CIO who identifies with extreme sports. Is my customer just a grad student at Columbia, or also a young, urban millennial who hates waste? Is my customer just a retired government worker, or an aging boomer who is nostalgic for youth?
To understand our customers as human, we need to think about what they care about, what they want, and what they feel. My customer cares deeply about saving the company money. My customer wants to help save the environment and make healthy choices. My customer wants to feel the same joie de vivre they used to feel. These are more powerful brand motivators than role, demographic, or industry.
The sum total of your customers—their attitudes, their impression of the brand—become the human face of your brand.
As a new consumer, I don’t choose a brand. I am your brand.
This article originally appeared on Digital Age of Marketing.