As a brand strategist, I’m seeing a lot of brands that were once successful losing in the market. Why? Several reason: resting on laurels, using outdated branding techniques that no longer work in 21st century markets and not being in touch with cultural shifts. We define a brand as “the quintessential qualities for which the consumer believes there is NO substitute”. This means making the consumer feel massively great about their brand experience. If market share is waning, it’s one of the signs consumers don’t have this feeling. Here’s how to get it and make it stick:
1. Know WHY you exist – What is the passion that fuels your core purpose? Coca-Cola is a great example of this: they exist to put happiness within reach of everyone everyday. Figuring out your brand’s WHY is the essential first step to figuring out everything else that you need for success.
2. Know your audience REALLY WELL – WHO does your brand serve and what is its role in your customer’s life? Your brand must reflect your audience’s values. Unilever’s Dove knows the women it serves – women who believe in authentic versus superficial beauty. No retouching, no super thin models in its messaging – just real women talking to real women about real beauty with Dove as the solution for them.
3. Know your niche – Long gone is the era of “mass branding”. The 21st century is all about “niche branding”. Define your niche and then focus relentlessly. Align your niche with your WHY and be super-relevant to your WHO so you become a brand people trust. Mtn. Dew, long a staple with gamers, will launch Game Fuel in January 2019, “the first drink made by gamers, for gamers”, according to Forbes. With ingredients to improve alertness and accuracy, it has packaging that assists uninterrupted gaming – a resealable tab and a textured no slip grip (like a controller) on the can sides for ease of use.
4. Know your benefits not just your features – How something works is interesting, but how it makes you feel is transforming. That’s the difference between BRANDS versus mere products. Don’t focus on functionality over emotion. Without this emotional bond your offering is just one of many. Tylenol knows this power and uses it to great effect. Its tagline is “For what matters most”, reinforcing the idea that feeling good and being engaged in your life, not sidelined by pain, is of most importance.
5. Cultural context – Understanding the cultural forces of change in the culture that can have an impact on the lives of your WHO is important to protecting your brand story. Gillette found this out the hard way when it initially discounted Dollar Shave Club as an inexpensive knock-off. DSC’s irreverent jab at Gillette’s super-premium priced razors started to put a huge dent in the razor behemoth’s dominance of the market. For years, Gillette had been trading up its consumers to ever-higher price points (Sensor, Sensor Excel, Mach3 and then Fusion) and didn’t see the undercurrent of consumer dissatisfaction. Boom…in came the hilarious ads for DSC, and the “amazing and affordable” razors it offered. This cultural blindspot left Gillette vulnerable.
6. The “1-Thing” you own – Once all of the previous steps have been taken, you can now distill your message to its essence – the “1- thing” your brand can own in your customer’s mind to keep them coming back. Disruption and dominance are created by owning this “1-thing” as evidenced by the following:
· AirBNB – Belong Anywhere
· Google – Organize World Information
· Amazon – Buy Anything Online
· Harley Davidson – Freedom
· Disney – Imagination
· Nike – Just Do It
· Pepsi – Youthful Vibrance
· Lipton – Sip of Sunshine
· Lean Cuisine – Feed Your Phenomenal
· Snickers – Hunger Satisfaction
7. Consistent across consumer touch-points – Last but far from least, one of the most important rules of branding is to be consistent across media channels. A consistent, focused visual presence and copy tone is vital to brand health. As Forbes states: “Brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility.” Don’t be invisible! Think of your own favorite brands and their maniacal focus on consistency.
Successful branding means communicating your “1-thing”, being crystal clear on WHY your brand exists, WHO it serves and in what niche and the emotional benefit it provides. Failing to understand these fundamentals then broadcasting diffuse or inconsistent messaging will cost you in dollars, visibility and trust. Don’t let that happen!