“Brands need to work harder”: Lessons in modern brand building from top consumer brand experts
“We’re now living in a world where consumers have an unprecedented amount of choice and information and, ultimately, power. Brands have had to respond accordingly, they can’t take their consumers for granted anymore.” — Emily Heyward, cofounder of Red Antler and author of Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love from Day One.
The bar has never been higher for brands and the builders behind them. Consumers look to brands to have a point of view, to take a stand, solve real problems, and develop a relationship that goes beyond the transaction.
But it’s more complicated than just that. Brands must navigate a global public health crisis, join important social justice conversations, figure out how to work with Amazon, determine their differentiation, and more.
Last week, hundreds of founders, investors, operators, and marketers joined our virtual event with Red Antler and Silicon Valley Bank to dig into what drives obsession for our favorite products and rules for modern brand building.
We heard from Abigail Stone, cofounder of Otherland, Arnaud Plas, cofounder of Prose, Web Smith, founder of 2PM, and Silicon Valley Bank vice president Mark Berman, in a conversation moderated by Lerer Hippeau Principal Caitlin Strandberg. The panel was followed by a fireside chat with Red Antler cofounder Emily Heyward and Lerer Hippeau Managing Partner Ben Lerer.
You can watch the full video here.
Here are our 10 favorite takeaways.
On working with branding agencies:
“It’s critical for founders who are investing in branding that you need to take a fully active and engaged role in that agency’s creative process. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re not surprised at the end of the process and to show up and make time to give creative feedback and get comfortable with doing that.” — Abigail
On evolving your brand:
“You can’t only be timeless, you have to be timely. I see a brand like a piano, you have to be consistent, but you can play different notes and different music to re-engage with the context and environment especially in light of current events.” — Arnaud
On standing out in crowded categories:
“It’s important to consider quantifying founder-product fit, finding the founder-product fit and, plus and hopefully, that founder has the potential to build organically. If I can find a founder who is the embodiment of the brand and they also have an organic acquisition flywheel of sorts, you’re talking about something that is a potentially winning equation.” — Web
On launching new brands in a world with Amazon:
“One way we’ve seen Amazon used well is as a channel for brand discovery or advertising. One challenge we’ve seen with the channel is when your brand’s success is predicated on consumer education during the purchase journey since you’re removing control.” — Mark
On defining your brand:
“You never really nail it. It’s a continuous progress. The brand is like a living element and so the timely part is never done, because, by definition, the context will change. You will have to adapt and you will have to continue to nurture your brand over time.” — Arnaud
On valuing the strength of a brand:
“Brand drives lifetime value, brand is the relationship and the closeness the consumer feels to your product and keeps them coming back again and again and again. There should be a direct correlation between strong brands and strong lifetime value, which then in turn leads to potential opportunities to broaden your product set that would be attractive to M&A inbound.” — Mark
On catching our attention:
“We need to believe that there’s a reason for this business to exist in the world, that it’s a substantive improvement on what came before. It has to either be creating a new category or fundamentally transforming its existing category.” — Emily
On beating out copycats:
“No matter what you’re doing, there’s going to be competition. You have to continue to be out ahead, continue to surprise, continue to innovate from a product perspective and continue to find new ways to tell your story that demonstrate why you’re actually better and why the others are a cheap imitation.” — Emily
On brands taking a stand:
“It’s not enough for a brand to say ‘we need to have a cause, who should we donate to?’ If it’s something you could take off and the brand would be the same, it’s not deep enough. It’s a part of the story, but the story wouldn’t exist without it.” — Emily
On breaking out:
“If, as a company, you’re not getting to some pretty meaningful volume within your first year on a run rate basis, it’s much, much harder to break out. If you don’t come out of the gate somewhat hot, it’s hard to get that momentum later. That’s an argument for making an investment in great brand early.” — Ben
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