Modern brands fight for a place in the consumers’ minds and hearts. In the new economy, Brand Love is the currency, with marketing shifting to building big ideas, leveraging purpose-driven storytelling, creating experiences, managing ubiquitous purchase moments, and steering the brand’s reputation. The most loved brands are based on a big idea that consumers connect with, yet that idea has to reflect the brand’s soul. The idea provides a clear purpose and set of values to create an organizational culture of people who live the brand and deliver amazing brand experiences that exceed any expectations. These brands are developed through observation of consumers, with innovation that beats down an identified consumer enemy that torments them every day. The growth comes from finding those consumers who are already motivated by what the brand does, and they are made to feel part of the brand, they desire it, crave it, and are outspoken fans of it. Instead of shouting at consumers, these brands confidently whisper to their most loyal fans, who then whisper with influence to their friends. These brands don’t just fight for a place in the mind, they fight for a place in the consumer’s heart.
Everything has to start with the consumer
Instead of figuring out who you want, focus on who wants you!!! As Brand Leaders, our days get busy, running from meeting to meeting, trying to deliver our numbers, gain share, and hit our forecasts. We have a few new products that are long overdue and now we’re trying to make the most of them. Finance has found potential cost savings from the plant but it’s unsure if it will be off-set by a one time surcharge. We have a presentation at Wal-Mart next week and think we’ll walk away with a new listing. We have a new claim from the R&D team that we think delivers superiority versus our closest competitor. And finally, we have the go-ahead to do a new ad, but we think our senior managers will insist that we make the ad to their exact requirements and that it delivers their new vision statement. This is an average day in marketing. Except, we have not thought once about the consumer. Maybe that’s the norm when we get so busy or face pressures to make the numbers. I always like to ask Brand Leaders: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?” It’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand. Know everything about your consumer, the little secrets hidden beneath the surface, that explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions of your consumers. Consumer insights are a competitive advantage that enables brands to connect on a deeper emotional level, showing your consumer that “WE GET YOU” so they stop and listen to your brand’s promise, story, innovation, and experiences that you create along the pathway to becoming a beloved brand. You will notice that the work gets better, you will see clearer paths to growth and you will start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes. When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies, and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.
Dare to be different
Our brand love curve has four phases that move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to Beloved. The worst thing you could be is ‘indifferent”, where you are basically a commodity. No more connectivity to your brand than the product itself. By the very nature of the definition, you need to be seen as different to move along the curve. The best brands own the zone where they are different by matching up their strengths to the needs of consumers better than anyone else can.
Looking at the Venn diagram above, we map out what the consumer wants, what your competitor does best, and what you do best. The winning zone for your brand to play in is the match up where consumers want what you do best. The losing zone is to play where consumers want it, but your competitor does it better than you. As we are maturing in the marketing, it is harder and harder to come up with a definitive win, so that is where you can win the risky zone by being different, being faster to market, winning with meaningful innovation, or building a deep emotional connection. The key to being seen as unique, not just for the sake of it, but to match up what you do best with what the consumer is looking for. Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone. This is where two competitors “battle it out” in the zone the consumer does not care about. As a brand, you have four choices: better, different, cheaper, or not around for very long. Which would you choose?
Build everything around a brand idea
The best brands use a Big Idea to help explain themselves in 7 seconds and use that brand Idea to help extrapolate that same brand story into 60 seconds or even 30 minutes, depending on the situation. In a crowded branded marketplace, Big Ideas help simplify your brand message so it’s easily understood and remembered, own-able in the customers’ mind and heart, and motivating enough to change consumer beliefs and behavior. This should reflect your inner purpose and brand DNA, helping to manage and shape the desired external reputation.
Align everything in your organization around the brand idea
Build everything around a brand idea that’s simple to understand and big enough to create a lasting impression with consumers. Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different, or cheaper. Use your brand story to motivate customers to think, feel, or act while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. You need a fundamentally sound product, with innovation that keeps your brand at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The purchase moment is where customers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision. Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their work-life so that your customers always turn to you first.
The best brands align their limited resources to distinct breakthrough points, that move consumers along the brand love curve towards their vision. Marketers have limited resources…investment, people, time, and partnerships. The problem is that when Marketers go to apply those resources, they have unlimited choices for the target market, brand messages, strategies, and execution activities. The best brand leaders force themselves to focus by using the word “or” more than they use the word “and”. Too many Marketers come to a decision point that requires focus, they try to justify a way to do both. Don’t tell yourself that you are good at making decisions if you come to a decision point and you always choose BOTH. Strategic Marketers never DIVIDE and conquer. They make choices to FOCUS and conquer.
When you focus, five miraculous things happen for you:
- Better return on investment (ROI)
- Better return on effort (ROE)
- Stronger reputation
- More competitive
- More investment behind brand
Show passion daily
The best brands instill passion in their execution that creates breakthrough ideas that surprise and exceed consumer expectations, becoming a favorite brand of the consumers. Our greatness as a Brand Leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand. It is a unique skill for a Marketer to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct, and decide, without any expertise at all. “I love it” is the highest bar for great work and exhibiting the passion to get to that standard will certainly make people want to work with you.