Companies often see consumers as fully formed individuals whose identities pre-date their brand affiliations. In reality, brand identity and the consumer comprise a commingled dance — one that is never finished and always evolving. This is central to the concept of Embodied Branding.
Consumers engage in the lifelong endeavor of personal “image management” by constantly re-evaluating their image and tweaking it to change how they’re perceived. Brands contribute to that evolution; however, too few capitalize on the power of that intimate relationship.
Here are 3 ways brands can strengthen bonds with their consumers’ identities:
1. Treat every consumer like an influencer
Consumers understand that appearances matter. Influencers form official partnerships with brands in exchange for compensation, but every consumer holds sway over their personal networks. How they show up plays a huge role in shaping their individual social capital, as well as the culture around them.
When brands recognize that a consumer doesn’t need a million followers to be an influencer, every sidewalk becomes a runway and every social media post an editorial ad. Brands that treat each consumer like an influencer allow them the creative freedom to personalize and localize that brand affiliation, fostering viral, authentic traction and making them a part of the conversation.
2. Allow consumers to be the product
Like it or not, modern society turns individuals into living brands — this is perhaps the most literal translation of Embodied Branding. After all, “conspicuous consumption” is more prevalent than ever, with endless outlets for capturing and broadcasting our identities in permanent records of who we are and how we’d like to be seen.
The way in which consumers fashion their appearances reveals less about consumer realities and more about how they imagine themselves. Savvy brands position their products and messaging as tools for consumers to curate and merge with as they express these idealized identities.
Consumers want to demonstrate belonging and group affiliation, while also distinguishing themselves. These consumer and brand alliances can then inform and facilitate that balance, as understood and filtered through the lens of the brand.
3. Democratize brand affiliation
The democratization of fashion has flattened the traditional image hierarchy. With the rise of street-style dominance and influencer-created trends, branded merch is at the center of this equalizing movement.
That’s right — gone are the days of runway models and couture as the aspirational pinnacle for consumers; instead, they want relatable expressions of style and image with a clear path to replicating those looks in their own lives.
Direct-to-consumer brands cut out the middleman and connect directly with their would-be consumers who, in turn, quickly become self-appointed brand ambassadors. Large brands can follow-suit by offering comparably relatable campaigns led by “real” people, creating an instant and enduring “us” mindset amongst consumers.