I’m a consumer. You’re a consumer. Like it or not, we all are. We spend our days blasted by marketing messages and inundated with information; bashed around the head with products and services vying for our attention, which should all be the results of a company’s brand building strategy.
And while the channel may differ and the message may vary, ultimately the end goal of a brand building strategy is same: to drive purchase. But what propels consumers to actually take action and how can we create products that stand out in increasingly crowded markets?
I believe the most powerful brands are those built on a strong foundation and driven by a believable, and most importantly, authentic mission. One of the things I always try to instil in the start-ups and businesses I work with is that just because you have a product, does not mean you have a brand; and it doesn’t mean you have a brand building strategy.
If you were to see Coca-Cola and a Pepsi next to one another and take them purely on face value as brands, rather than taste profile, which would you choose?
I’m not a statistician and I have zero data to back this up but I imagine the overwhelming majority would go for the Coca-Cola. Why is that?
Coca-Cola has ingrained itself in our psyches as the brand that creates and stands for happiness.
And it’s worked! When I think of Coca-Cola, I think of Christmas. I think of positivity. I think of uplifting jingles and that’s because Coca-Cola has always created their brand building strategy and hinged their marketing activity around the emotional feeling of drinking or sharing a Coca-Cola. And what happens when we think about Pepsi? I personally think flashy celebrity and footballers. I think Michael Jackson’s hair on fire. I think inauthentic social impact (I mean, millions of us lashed out over that last car-crash of an ad campaign).
Why am I saying this? Because I believe the most powerful brands are the ones who manage to create a powerful, emotional connection with their audience through a strong brand building strategy.
But how can you do this yourselves?
1. Ask the right questions
Have you ever sat down and taken the time as a team to interrogate why it is you do what you do and why anyone else might care? To build the right brand building strategy with a strong foundation, you have to ask the right questions to ensure you’re all rallied around the same message and goals. You can’t expect other people to understand what you do if you don’t understand it yourselves internally first. And be explicit. Think about what you do and don’t do. Whom do you do it for? What would they tell their friends/colleagues about you? Would they care if you went away?
2. Think about how to position yourself in the market
One of the first things I do at any brand I join is a market analysis to understand who the key players are within our immediate and surrounding fields; how they communicate — what they look like, sound like — and where I believe there could be a window for us to own a unique space. Map it out in a way you can visualise to help you really clearly see where the space you can own lies and then how you can create a personality and an identity that will resonate with your target audience.
3. Create a personality you can live and breathe across all marketing activity
Not every brand can or should be the same. The best brands are those who identify a narrative and a personality they can authentically they live and breathe across all of their campaigns. Think of Marmite. They have always been divisive and are unashamedly bold in the way they do that.
Love it or Hate it; either way, you’re going to feel some strong emotion towards it and that’s exactly what they want.
4. Balance emotional and rational drivers across the stories you tell & campaigns you create
The best brands create an emotional connection with their consumers. And that drives brand loyalty and purchase. I’ve just given the example of Marmite but look also at the likes of brands such as Zappos and Nike. When I think Zappos, I think of unparalleled customer service and delivering happiness. I couldn’t tell you their price point. And then think of Nike. Nike stands for empowerment — if you have a body you are an athlete, “just do it.” Not, “here, buy our shoes.”
5. Build diverse teams
It is very easy, especially in smaller businesses, to hire individuals with similar backgrounds, beliefs and mind-sets. And while this may facilitate cohesion from day-to-day, it can lead to a dangerous echo chamber and narrow marketing output. Diverse teams and a strong emphasis on hiring will help you create more rounded products and services for your customers and to ensure your marketing messages and brand building strategy don’t reflect the reviews of a small set of individuals.
6. More than just a segment
We run the risk in this world, subsumed by data and target audiences, of lumping people into groups and thinking we can hit them all with the same message/creative and hoping it lands. We need to test, iterate, funnel users depending on the action or inaction they take. And we must remember to make them feel special and like this is relevant to them. Remember, you’re speaking to a million voices of one, not just a million voices.
7. Better content and storytelling will drive better performance
I repeatedly come across the same issue with tech startups, funnelling money into paid social, SEO and AdWords but with little to no thought put into the message or creative they’re paying to promote. Yes, you may be delivering relatively low CPAs, but are these going to be valuable lifetime customers and could those CPAs be even lower if you invested some time and energy into creating more compelling content and messages. I can 99.9% guarantee it.