10 Action points for building and sustaining valuable brands1. Be purposeful.
Every brand needs a purpose. Consumers assume brands are in business to make money, of course, but they also expect a well-defined and clearly communicated brand purpose. While that purpose might describe a way in which the brand changes the world, it must certainly describe the way the brand improves the customer’s life.
2. Be authentic.
It has never been more important for a brand to be real and to operate in a broad social context. The brand is there for all to see. And consumers today, especially members of the millennial and Gen Z generations, are likely to select brands that align with their beliefs, or at least do not contradict those beliefs.
3. Be in the conversation.
Consumers are making their voices heard across categories, expressing health concerns about soft drinks, fast food, and personal care products, and advocating for cleaner energy options. Brands need to be engaged, and to listen in a genuine way to both critics and supporters. Brands need to help shape the conversation in a transparent way. Change is inevitable. But the shape of change is not.
4. Grow the triple bottom line.
Pay attention to the financial bottom line, of course, but do not let the social and environmental bottom lines become victims of quarterly reporting pressures. Tell an authentic and forward-looking story about where the brand is now and where it plans to be in the long term.
5. Refine the brand experience.
At a time when most products are functionally good enough if not excellent, and every product is just a click away, little is left to differentiate one product from another except the experience of purchasing and using it. Making a brand experience memorable requires both adding embellishments and removing annoyances.
6. Talk to individuals, not generations.
Millennials and the Gen Zs know that brands are trying to sell them, and they are less likely to be sold when brands generalize about their entire generation. Narrow the focus. Marketing briefs that talk broadly about the millennial or Gen Z generations need to go back to the planning department.
7. Use data respectfully.
Consumers are providing marketers with information about themselves constantly. And while they may be fine with brands knowing that they buy shoes twice a year, they may be less pleased when shoe ads follow them online for six months. From the consumer’s point of view, the preferred transaction with a brand is: You can have my data, but only if you use it intelligently.
8. Simplify the value exchange.
To simply pay cash for a product or service is now quaint. Instead, consumers are asked for their data and comments as well as their money. All these forms of currency have skewed the value equation, and consumers end up giving more without receiving additional value.
9. Change the transaction mindset.
Develop a sense of partnership with the customer. Help the customer think less about the transaction (What can I buy from you?) and more about the relationship (What can I achieve with you?). Motivate the customer to purchase, but also enable the customer to better understand and appreciate the value exchange.
10. Widen the competitive set.
Take off the blinders if they are still on. The best opportunities – and potential competitors – may be waiting outside the product category.