For Enduring Credibility, Build Your Brand ‘Science-Up’

By Neil Ravenhill, Senior Vice President, ScienceAffinity

A quick internet search will tell you that there is a science to brand naming, strategy, identity, engagement, choice architecture, channel strategy, and nearly every facet of brand building. But what’s obscured many times is the science that fuels the brand.

Companies spend enormous human capital and time developing the perfect product they imagine their customers would want. They plan everything to the T, assessing competitive environments, canvassing customer groups, developing a killer identity and campaign, doing everything by the book. And yet the uptake turns out to be slow, and they are left wondering where they went wrong. The answer many times is much closer to home than they imagine.

There is a tangible reason that your product is able to outperform competition or offer customers an advantage. That’s why its essence is quantifiable, and you should ground in that scientific fact. Studies have shown repeatedly that brands grounded in quantifiable facts form enduring bonds. When brands index on emotions untethered to the facts that back them, they confuse customers and fail. Consumer product behemoths like Apple and Tesla understand that intrinsically. Yet health companies—who are fundamentally scientific—sometimes need to be reminded of that.

Pulling at your brand threads

We often hear the excuse that science can be overwhelming for people, who are more emotions driven. And yet, as the swirling controversy around COVID vaccines amply demonstrates, people want to know more about the science that fuels product claims. People want to be educated and they can quickly sense the dissonance between the science behind a product, its claims and its brand. They want to understand the basis for product claims and make informed brand choices. Which is why we believe that building brands science-up removes dissonance and creates greater resonance.

There’s a way to build brands science up. By pulling at your brand thread carefully you can start to purposefully unravel it and look for the following inflection points:

  • Did you ladder your brand’s essence to your science, its features and benefits?
  • Did you unearth points of dissonance between your audience and your brand?
  • Did you articulate the precise and contextually relevant bridges that bring greater resonance between your science and your audience?
  • Did you craft a generative, generous, future-facing vision that allows your brand to scale with time?

A client recently brought to us a brand campaign aimed at a rare pediatric disease they had been developing with their agency partner. Three months out from product launch, they were still unsure about the creative. Testing wasn’t being able to solve for what was missing.

We started by pulling at their brand threads and discovered that their agency partner had defined ‘Confidence’ as their brand essence. The problem with ‘Confidence’ is that it is a category benefit. It’s a table-stake and completely non-differentiating. ALL health products could theoretically use ‘Confidence’ as the brand essence, including their competition.

Diving deep into their science we encouraged our client to go beyond ‘confidence’ to ‘psychological safety’ since their product originally defined the category and was the current standard-of-care. The resulting creative emphasized intimate parent-child bond, solving for what was missing from the previous creative. The client went on to have a very successful product launch, with a clearly differentiating brand and campaign that was grounded in their science.

Diving deep into the science behind a popular facial aesthetics product for a client trying to protect market share against newer, cheaper competitors, we identified ‘perfection’ as their brand essence based not only on their science, but also the journey of their science over time. This led to a strengthening of their brand, preserving key HCP relationships, and it generated a successful new B2B campaign that uses different customer voices that speak to why and how the product is ‘just perfect’ for them.

Tethering your brand to your science

Building brands science-up helps people to not only understand the science that fuels that brand and believe its claims, but also connect with it emotionally at a much deeper level. People compare brands on multiple aspects, and there is a heterologous distribution in this – it could be a single element or varying mixes of elements such as ESG values of the brand or the manufacturer, alt culture recognition, niche specialty, or even the profile of the people who developed it. For a multi-brand company there will also be loyalty and advocacy layered in. Focusing on audience insights around the idea of your new product, automatically tethers you to the context of your audiences’ known environment (context tether), or your existing brands (loyalty tether), while failing to recognize your unique offer outside of these tethers. You need to build affinity for the science behind your product in order to cut these tethers and ensure your brand can truly represent your product.

A product’s science or technology—and the benefits that customers can expect—is core to ensuring enduring brand credibility. Whether you are bringing a new sneaker with composite rubber soles to the market, a food product, or a fully integrated wellness app, without building the affinity for your science your most important factor is lost amongst lesser important messages. Without your science being a core part of your brand story, you are simply not capitalizing on your biggest differentiator.

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