How does Uber have a successful taxi business without owning any cars?
How does Airbnb have a successful holiday business without owning any accommodation?
Why do people pay more for Nike trainers when they can just get ones from the supermarket at a fraction of the price?
The truth lies in the value of intangibles.
But what are tangibles and intangibles in the context of a brand? Brand tangibles are the physical aspects of a brand, such as a logo, website, and packaging. They are the things we can see or touch. On the other hand, brand intangibles are the more emotional and psychological aspects of a brand, such as personality, reputation, and brand loyalty.
So what’s more important – brand tangibles or brand intangibles? Let’s explore this now.
Intangibles are the root of differentiation. The values that a brand transmits create a specific meaning around the product, which produces differentiation. Successful brands have found a way to communicate the intangible value of their products to consumers, which translates into a strong emotional connection and ultimately brand loyalty. The secret to their success is to find the true meaning behind the products and services they sell.
For example, Nike makes great running shoes. But their belief in empowerment, determination, and performance makes consumers identify with the brand and defines what it means and is worth to them. We will choose Nike if we are looking to associate ourselves with a specific lifestyle and attitude.
But this intangible value doesn’t come out of thin air. The intangibles are informed by the experiences that we have with companies. That might be the sound, the smell, the taste we experience, or the overall aura and ambience of the company. It might include visiting the store, interacting with the staff, and going on the website.
For example, if we go to Starbucks, it’s not just about the quality of the coffee. It’s about the ambience (we can sit there for hours and feel relaxed, not rushed), memories we have there (such as catching up with an old friend), and the special touches we can’t find elsewhere (eggnog latte, anyone?).
Brand tangibles and intangibles should work together to create a well-rounded brand strategy. Tangible assets should support the intangible assets and vice versa; otherwise there will be a disconnect. Intangibles provide the foundation upon which the tangible assets are built; without consideration of the intangibles, the brand lacks substance. Specifically, without understanding the personality or the strategy behind your brand, you can build a website, but it will lack the unique differentiation to set the business apart. On the other hand, tangibles bring the intangibles to life. Specifically, your website can bring your brand personality and ideal customer to life.
For example, Apple is sleek, innovative, and irreverent. We can see this in the sleek design, ease of use of the products, and a completely different approach to their competitors. They strive to be different. Their customers identify with this philosophy and appreciate how this is taken into account from how the products are built to how the store is organised.
In conclusion, both tangible and intangible assets are essential for building a successful brand. Together, the intangible and tangible aspects of the brand determine the overall perception and understanding of the ‘brand’. Success lies in connecting the two together and providing a cohesive experience of the brand across all these different touchpoints. In other words, leveraging both the tangible and intangible assets to deliver an overall brand experience.