Branding is Association Design for fun and profit.

Effective branding induces the public to associate your brand with important aspects of their identity, thereby transforming cost-benefit buying decisions into identity-based decisions.

Thus the glamour that transmutes sticker shock pricing into a “reassuringly expensive” marker of quality — reassuring precisely because the premium becomes a reflection of the customer’s worth

When the main benefits your brand delivers are self-affirmation, status, and hope, you can charge almost anything you want.

OK, confession time: that was actually 80-words.

But if you can forgive me for going over by 5 words, then keep reading for a full explanation.

Let’s dig down into Cost-Benefit vs. Identity-Based decision making.

The former needs little elaboration. It’s the buying mode of consumer reports:

“What choice offers the most bang for my buck?”

But identity-based decision making is where your treasure’s buried.

If you’re a man and you give up your seat to a pregnant woman, let’s say on an airport shuttle or subway, you’re not doing so because it represents a preponderant advantage to you.

Your self-image as a courteous gentleman prompts you to stand and offer your seat.

This mode of decision-making asks:

“What kind of person am I (or do I aspire to be)? And what would that kind of person do in this situation?”

Absent identity-based decision-making, rationalizing the cost of designer clothing, luxury cars, and statement-piece watches would be next to impossible.

Is a Rolex really that much better at telling time than a Casio, or even the phone in your pocket?

But what about services and less visible products?

These can also be made into identity-based decisions.

Are you the kind of person whose time is more valuable than money?

You might be able to mathematically justify that decision, but it’s at least as much emotional and identity-based as rational.

While hope can be as much about “peace of mind” — ensuring tomorrow remains as good as today — as making tomorrow brighter than today.

The more you value your regularly scheduled life, the more you’ll pay extra to have disruptions to it either eliminated entirely or handled as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In a similar manner, how much do you value — or demand! — competence, expertise, and professionalism from the people in your life?

Tell me that’s not an identity-based question!

So, yes, effective branding can also transform services into Identity-Based buying decisions.

The trick lies in powerfully evoking and implanting the right associations to the right elements of the customer’s identity.

That’s the magic that separates the advertising pros from the all-show-and-no-go’s.

Cause if your ads aren’t creating those all-important associations, then your so-called branding won’t be worth much in the way of increased margins and market share.

Want to put the power of association design to work for your business?