10 action points for building valuable brands
Innovate and delight
Regardless of category, consumers have little problem finding products and services that work well and are good enough. Good enough doesn’t stand out from the competition, however. It certainly doesn’t command a premium or keep customers returning for more. It’s not enough to ask, does this product or service perform well? The key questions are: How does it make the customer feel? Does the customer feel just OK? What would it take to make the customer feel delighted?
Be meaningfully different
Many people have a lot of stuff, and much of it has a sense of sameness. This isn’t necessarily a criticism. A lot of the sameness is at a high level, a function of an overall rise in product quality because of consumer demand and fierce competition. In these circumstances, when people need a clear reason to choose one product or service over the next, being different becomes more important. Difference defined broadly can be about product functionality but also about brand experience and communication.
Stand for a purpose
Every valuable brand needs a purpose. Not every brand needs to make the world a better place, although aspiring to that ideal is intrinsically a good thing for brands to do and it can be commercially smart.
But every brand needs a purpose beyond simply making money. At its most basic, that purpose is to have a positive impact on the lives of customers. In a world where a brand’s appeal – both functional and even emotional – often doesn’t make it unique, purpose becomes an important differentiator.
Walk the talk
Make the purpose clear both inside the organization and externally. Align the organization behind the purpose. Every member of the organization is a potential brand ambassador. Manifest the purpose in everything the brand does. The positive impact that occurs to a company’s bottom line and Brand Value when its people believe in and align around a purpose can be significant.
Build and maintain trust
Trusted brands are more likely to enjoy higher Brand Power. In other words, a trusted brand is more likely to come to mind when the consumer is purchasing in the relevant category. Trust accrues over time. But trust is fragile. Brand actions today are transparent. Be honest. Be worthy of the customer’s trust. Address problems openly when they happen. Demonstrate that the brand understands any customer concerns.
Renew and improve the brand experience
Make the brand experience seamless from the brand promise to product performance, and delivery to customer service. The brand experience needs to be compelling and consistent in both the physical and online worlds. It needs to fulfill the customer’s desire to dream, explore and find products and services – in a convenient, time- efficient way. Brand experience is one of the important ways brands can be different from the competition and delight customers.
Rely on consumer insights
As big data gets even bigger, it’s important to remember that connecting the dots always reveals the same picture: a human being with basic needs for survival, protection, relationships and meaning. Intelligent consumer insight is the foundation of success for any brand, big or small. Consumers don’t want to be treated like a unit in a demographic category. It’s about human beings, not algorithms. The combination of big data and analytics can lead to consumer insights and a more personalized brand interaction with the customer. It’s important to know exactly how much personalization is acceptable, however, especially as home automation and the Internet of Things potentially reveal so much more about how people live.
Organizational siloes impede speed and change. They make branding more difficult. Abandon the traditional branding siloes in favor of an integrated approach. The flow from research and data gathering, through analytics and insights, to creative execution and shopper marketing works best when the communication experts communicate and collaborate easily with each other. This kind of “horizontality” works.
As important as it is to do everything right, it’s also important to get the word out. A strong and genuine brand proposition with a big idea, well executed and creatively communicated, enjoys a multiplier effect that helps drive value. Be clear about what the brand means then suffuse that meaning through all parts of the organization, from the C-suite through HR and the every other function. Traditional marketing – promotion, sales and distribution – will remain important, but part of a larger mix of activities, which increasingly will involve digital and social media.
Once the brand is sufficiently different and purposeful and being implemented throughout the organization and communicated externally in a coherent, consistent, and effective fashion – it’s time to change. Branding is a process with no end. It moves as fast as consumers change – in the best cases even faster. Successful brand builders are always unsatisfied. They’re always chasing the future.