The power of intangibles in adding value to your brand

I originally wrote this Blog post for my company's Blog, at Tenth Crow Creative, but am re-posting it here with some updates as I believe it is a perpetually important and valuable topic.

In his book The Brand Flip, Marty Neumeier (also author of the classic The Brand Gap) offers a concept that marketing strategists and executives, and really anyone who contributes to any experiential elements of any brand, should take seriously to heart. It's one that seems so obvious upon first read that you're like well yeah, of course, but with some consideration, it becomes clear how easy it is to let these 'intangible' brand elements slip by, unaddressed. 

First, it would be good here to agree upon a simple definition of a 'brand' so that we can proceed on the same page. I'm going to borrow Neumeier's definition here, because it's excellent and accurate. He defines a brand as "a customer's gut feeling about a product, service or company." Yes, perfect, because it captures it all: design, feeling, reputation, experience, memories, and even the way that a brand can fit neatly into a customer's vision of their future self. Ok, on to the intangibles.

Intangibles are the things that add value to a product or experience that you can't touch or see. Invisible and powerful, they shape our overall impressions of a brand and offer brand planners and guardians a chance to gently shape the nuances of an audience's experience. Here is Neumeier's list of brand intangibles (from pg 26 of his book):

Authenticity: offer the real thing

Availability: make it easy to get anywhere, anytime

Belonging: offer a sense of community

Clarity: make it very easy to understand

Certainty: remove all doubt about its benefits

Control: put the customer in charge

Curation: act as tastemaker on behalf of customers

Delight: deliver more than reliability

Findability: make it easy to see, choose, or discover

Flexibility: be eager to accommodate requests

Guidance: add support, learning or interpretation

Hope: offer a chance at future success

Immediacy: give quick delivery or priority access

Inclusiveness: allow customers to contribute

Lightness: eliminate weight or density

Optimism: make customers feel positive

Patronage: help customers support a cause

Personalization: let customers configure their purchases

Protection: keep customers safe from extra costs

Safety: protect customers from physical harm

Simplicity: streamline the product or purchase

Speed: help customers save time

Style: incorporate beauty or personality

Surprise: disrupt expectations

Symbolism: help build customers' identities

Marketers, print this list and paste it to a wall in clear sight. Or, better yet, bring it to your next operations meeting and talk with your team about how some of these intangibles could be better incorporated into your businesses' products, processes or customer-facing experiences. Can you improve findability and immediacy on your website? Can you increase the clarity of your email newsletters? Can you offer guidance on topics that are important to your customer on your company blog, or via events in your community? Can you add an element of surprise into your products' packaging experience, giving them something to smile about upon opening your box? Your customers will thank you.

These days, companies need to be competitive not just through real benefits offered by their products or services, but on experience, engagement and meaning. The value of intangibles become clear as day when you think about their contribution to those deeper elements of brand impact.

Clare Albers