Brand Behavior: Why we buy what we buy

“It’s two <click, click> two mints in one.”

“Mikey won’t eat it. Mikey hates everything.”

“You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “No, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate!”

Can you name the products these slogans helped sell? If you’re a late baby boomer or early Generation X as I am, you probably remember these commercials and can probably tell me which brands they are. This is what advertisers do; they try to make a brand memorable so that when you go shopping, you’ll look for that brand (brand awareness). At least the good ones do. But what makes a person brand loyal? Why do they choose one brand over another? Beyond the deep psychological aspects, the reason can sometimes be as simple as that’s what your mother always bought or you’ve developed a preference for one brand over another. These experiences often lead to brand loyalty, where you buy a particular brand no matter what the cost. For example, I always buy Dove soap. My mother always bought Dove. As a girl, I remember her mentioning that it was good for your skin because it had moisturizers in it. Whether it has any more or any less moisturizing qualities is irrelevant at this point; we are hooked. I probably will never switch to another brand of facial soap. This is the kind of mentality advertisers are counting on.

Marketers decide on the one characteristic it wants to focus on and develop their advertising to promote that attribute. For example, Unilever’s Dove product has been one of the two major “beauty bars” leading the market with Procter & Gamble’s Olay sometimes trailing and sometimes leading the way (Barnes, 2001). People of a certain age certainly remember the slogan, “One-third moisturizer,” but is this the only reason people have become loyal to Dove? It’s doubtful. They probably buy it because it’s what they’ve always used or it’s what their mothers purchased, rather than buying it solely on its merits. I remember one college professor that told us she has always bought Dial soap because it touted its antimicrobial properties. She said that later on she realized that all soap was probably germicidal, but regardless, she was loyal.

A brand has to have a distinguishing feature or selling point to differentiate it from other brands if it is counting on sales that have nothing to do with price. This leads to brand value: We pay whatever it costs for a particular product. Dove was smart in flaunting its moisturizing properties and Dial its germ-killing features. These characteristics were what their loyal customers were looking for when they decided which brand of bath soap they wanted to use. They developed brand value for its consumers. Loyal customers were willing to pay whatever the cost for Dove. However, there are other considerations for what makes a person buy the brands they do and to keep on buying them. One reason is price.

We often buy brands because of their cost. If we don’t find any intrinsic value of one brand over another, we then consider the price. There are several products I buy because they are either on sale or lower priced. For example, I always use toothpaste for sensitive teeth. However, I am not loyal to one brand over another. I check for the one that costs less. For example, if it happens to be on sale, I’ll buy Sensodyne, if it’s not, I’ll choose the less expensive one: either Colgate or Arm and Hammer. I cannot tell the difference in how well any of them work, so price is the determining factor.

“If I keel over in Walmart, drag my body to Neiman Marcus.”

Sometimes consumers disregard price altogether and buy the brand with the most prestige. Many brands carry with them brand equity. As silly as that may sound, many of us buy products that demonstrate how successful we are. How many successful people do you know have a pantry full of generic canned goods? Very few, I bet. We don’t want people to think we have to always buy the cheapest product. It’s called conspicuous consumption and we almost all do it at some point or another in our lives. This is especially true in the car market. Luxury cars are great examples. For instance, I know a man that only buys BMW or Lexus cars. To him, these brands show off his affluence to tell others how successful he is. And that’s ok. He can do that because he is able. However, this is the same man that dickers with every salesman over the price of a product, regardless of what it is and whether it is customary or not to haggle over the price. For example, he might ask the salesman at Sears how much he’d take for the vacuum that already has a price tag on it. Price, in this case, is king and not prestige. He, alone, decides when he wants to buy a brand for influence and when he doesn’t.

People have myriad reasons why they buy a certain brand, but why do people avoid a certain brand? Experience is certainly one reason. I remember when I was in first grade and wore a pair of pants that caused me to itch terribly. Apparently my mother had washed them with Tide detergent and we all had some kind of allergic reaction to it. I’ll tell you this, I have NEVER used Tide and I never will. I don’t want to risk going through the agony of itching all day long. I have experience with another well-known product that carries tremendous brand loyalty: cars, specifically Ford and Chevrolet. Typically, a person is either a Ford lover or a Chevy advocate, and never the twain shall meet. I think, for the most part, this loyalty is passed down from one generation to another. I know in my own family of Chevy owners, we wouldn’t be caught dead in a Ford dealership.

There are so many aspects that go into consumerism that advertisers have a gargantuan job trying to persuade us into buying one brand over another. They have to try to dissuade our brand loyalty, make us rethink our experiences, and have us go against routine to either switch our brand or try a new one. The marketer’s job is to get inside the head of the consumer, not unlike that of psychiatrist.

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Ten ways Yoast for WordPress Plugin can increase your SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is as important to social media marketing and blogging as creating a website or blog itself. If the search engines can’t find you, there’s no point in having a website/blog. You want your WordPress blog to be one of the top results for your specific keywords and SEO helps you accomplish this. There are a lot of ways to increase your SEO organically (not paid for). For example, you can Imageadd your WordPress blog to the search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Just look up the protocol for submitting your blog to these search engines. For your convenience, I’ve included the top three search engine submission links: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Ok, now that that’s said and done, guess what? There’s a new guy in town! The WordPress Yoast plugin. Yoast has a free SEO plugin for WordPress that handles the optimization of your WordPress blog. WordPress.org says their Yoast for WordPress SEO plugin can help you “write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site.” So how does a plugin help you write better content? By forcing you to choose a keyword and then making sure you use that keyword in your writing. What’s more, it also will tell you if your “title is too long or too short and [if] your meta description makes sense in the context of a search result.” It does a lot of other things too, like checking to see if your images have alt tags that contain your keyword and checking if you have a meta description and if it has your keyword. They say that this will ensure your content is the type that search engines will love, helping your blog rank higher. The Yoast plugin doesn’t stop there. It also guides you through your settings to make sure you enable permalinks, and insert meta tags and link elements that the search engines love. These elements “can control which pages Google shows in its search results and which pages it doesn’t show.” Suffice it to say, it’s a very powerful aid in SEO for your WordPress blog. It has so many other functions, it’s surprising it’s a free download. So now that we know that it helps us with SEO, how do we use it?

Joost de Valk, founder and CEO of Yoast, provided a step-by-step account of how to use the Yoast plugin to effectively increase your SEO.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the Yoast website, de Valk lists the features of this powerful plugin and how it can help your SEO. The following explains how to use Yoast to increase the SEO of your WordPress blog and then gives the reasons why you would want to do that:

  1. Post titles and meta descriptions (keyword-laden content increases SEO)
  2. Blocks meta robots setting (removes tag that prevents page indexing)
  3. Has a canonical link element (prevents duplicate content)
  4. Uses Breadcrumbs (for page navigation)
  5. Permalink cleanup (removes unwanted variables at the end of your link that hinders your page being found)
  6. Includes XML Sitemaps (so search engines can find your blog)
  7. RSS footer plugin (allows you to add info at beginning or end of posts in your RSS feed)
  8. Edit your robots.txt and .htaccess files (they tell the search engine spiders how to interact with indexing your content)
  9. Clean up your Head Section (<head> for better SEO)
  10. API (Application Programming Interface) Docs (specifies how software components should interact)

With Yoast for WordPress plugin, your blog will be better positioned to rank higher in the search engines. This is essential for getting people to your blog; your job is to create content that they want to read and share with others.

For more information on ways to boost your SEO, see these two previous The Social Observer blog posts by Leslie Lewis: SEO Help for WordPress: Part I and SEO Help for WordPress Part II: Quality Content Matters.

Congress Cutting Everything But Their Own Pay and Benefits

With the August 1st announcement that congress is considering another round of defense budget cuts–which affect our military members as well as civilian employees working for the Department of Defense–and putting an end to civilian pensions for military retirees, I decided to research congressional pay and benefits. I hope you’ll be as astonished and agitated as I was at what I found.

Congressmen get paid $174,900 per year to work a scheduled 126 days in 2013! According to The Washington Post (2012), “June 2013 will be the House’s busiest month, with a whopping 16 days scheduled for legislative work in Washington. Lawmakers will meet for 14 days in July and October, 12 days in the months of March, April and May and nine days next September.” Oh dear, they have to work a whole 16 days in June, their busiest month!

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112th Freshman Class of Congress

And not only do they work an average of less than two weeks per month, they also receive from $1.5 million to over $3 million in an allowance to help defray personal, office, and mailing expenses!

Members of the House get a Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA)  of $1,3353,205 (“In 2012, individual representatives received MRA allowances ranging from $1,270,129 to $1,564,613, with an average of $1,353,205.13.”) and members of the Senate get a Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA) (“In the fiscal year 2013 legislative branch appropriations bill, the size of the average Senate SOPOEA allowance is $3,209,103”). Furthermore, they are also not affected by the current sequestration; their salaries remain the same, even as most government employees are seeing a 20% decrease in salary due to this same sequestration that isn’t affecting congress!

And what do you think of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to a cut in congressional pay because “it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers’ jobs.” Do they deserve that dignity when they are proposing cuts everywhere else but in their own pockets? Does that seem fair to you? If not, you might want to consider taking action such as signing this petition to cut their benefits, or blog and tweet your opposition, or even send a letter to congress or the President. You are welcome to use the information in this blog in your letter. Here’s how to find your Representative, Senator and President. If you think it won’t do any good, think again! This is one of the best ways to have your opinion heard by our elected officials.

Epiphanies in Poetry

Is there a poem you’ve read that has prompted a visceral response? Something that touched you so deeply that it changed your outlook on life? If so, post your favorite poem and explain how it impacted you, changed you, affected you.

I have two poems that I can think of right off that have deeply affected me. As for changing my life, I don’t know if they’ve done that, but I do love the way they make me feel reading them. Incidentally, my daughter, #HeidiParton, has said that her love of writing came partly from the reaction I had as I read “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath to her when she was younger. She said it was exciting to see how the written word could elicit such a powerful response.  So below is  #Daddy by #SylviaPlath, followed by my reaction to it and then #DylanThomas’s #DoNotGoGentleIntoThatGoodNight.

Daddy

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You– 

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

My reaction:

I think “Daddy” is a very powerful poem. I can see Plath’s anger at her father for dying when she was young. I also see that those feelings for her father translate into how she consequently sees other men in her life, particularly her husband, Ted Hughes. I think growing up without a father that she alternately adored and abhorred, skewed her view of men. She seems to be so angry yet pleading in this poem. And  isn’t Plath’s resignation in the last line, heartbreaking? Especially considering her subsequent suicide.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

My reaction:

To me, it’s as if he’s begging, pleading, imploring his father not to “follow the light” and give in to death. It is so powerfully written. The words alone expose the raw emotion he feels, without even considering its poetic form. It was written as a villanelle (villanelles are required to have an intricate rhyme scheme and two lines that are refrains). I think the refrains are especially powerful. “Rage” is such a forceful word, it perfectly emphasizes how he feels about his father’s imminent death.

Save the Gray Wolves!

graywolfmotherandcub-faIt’s the worst news for wolves in 100 years.*

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the Lower 48 right now.

Wolves are one of the only species in U.S. history to be deliberately driven to the brink of extinction. Hunters waged a war on wolves at the turn of the century, killing cubs, mothers, whole packs indiscriminately out of fear.

The ESA was wolves’ salvation — and it’s still the only thing between them and the demise of the small, fragile population of gray wolves in the U.S. today. Delisting wolves now would turn back the clock on years of hard-won recovery work, and it could finish off this legendary species for good.

*Reprinted from The Sierra Club