No longer can we think about consumers in a strictly functional or logical way. The best brands of today, like Tesla, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Dove or Airbnb have found a way to capture the imagination of their consumers and take them on a journey of delightful experiences that fosters a deeper emotional and lasting relationship. These modern brands are basing their thinking on the fundamentals of marketing
Brands must treat their most cherished consumers with the respect that establishes trust, enabling consumers to open up to a point where they replace thinking with feeling. The logic of demand evolves into an emotional state of desire, needs become cravings and repeat purchases progress into rituals and turn into a favorite moment in the day. Consumers transform into the most outspoken and loyal brand fans and ambassadors.
Old-school marketing no longer works, but the fundamentals of brand management matter more now than ever
The old logical ways of marketing no longer work in today’s world. These brands feel stuck in the past, talking about gadgets, features, and promotions. They will be friend-zoned by consumers and purchased only when the brand is on sale. The best brands of the previous century were little product inventions that solved small problems consumers did not even realize they had until the product came along. Old-school marketing was about bold logos, catchy jingles, memorable slogans, side-by-side demonstrations, repetitive TV ads, product superiority claims, and expensive battles for shelf space at retail stores. Every marketer focused on how to enter the consumer’s mind.
Old-school marketers learned the 4Ps of product, place, price, and promotion. It is a useful start, but too product-focused, and it misses out on consumer insights, emotional benefits, and consumer experiences.
The Crest brand knew that the “Look, mom, no cavities!” TV ads annoyed everyone, yet they also knew it stuck in the consumer’s brain. No one cared how nice the Tide logo looked, as long as it stood out on a crowded grocery shelf. The jingle “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” was often repeated to embed itself in the consumer’s memory bank. The side-by-side dish detergent advertising that showed spots on the wine glass of a competitor, to shame consumers into using Cascade. Brands that continue to follow only a logical play will fail miserably in today’s emotion-driven marketplace.
New-school brands need to build on the fundeamntals to create a passionate and lasting love for their consumers
How can brand leaders replicate Apple’s brand lovers who line up in the rain to buy the latest iPhone before they even know the phone’s features? I see Ferrari fans who paint their faces red every weekend, knowing they will likely never drive a Ferrari in their lifetime. There are the ‘Little Monsters’ who believe they are nearly best friends with Lady Gaga.
It was amazing to witness 400,000 outspoken Tesla brand advocates who put $1,000 down for a car that did not even exist yet. I love the devoted fans of In-N-Out Burger who order animal-style burgers off the secret menu. Every brand should want this type of passion and power with their consumers.
Consumers have changed but the fundamentals remain the same
It takes a smart strategy to balance the rational and emotional management of the brand-to-consumer relationship. These beloved brands are so exceptional because of how well they treat their most loyal consumers. They make them feel loved. Being consumer-centric has been part of the fundamentals of marketing for a centruy.
The consumers of today must be won over. They are surrounded by the clutter of 5,000 brand messages a day that fight for a glimpse of their attention. That is 1.8 million per year or one message every 11 waking seconds.
Consumers are continuously distracted—walking, talking, texting, searching, watching, replying—and all at the same time. They glance past most brand messages all day long. Their brain quickly rejects boring, irrelevant, or unnecessary messages. Brands must capture the consumer’s imagination right away, with a brand idea that is simple, unique. It must create as much excitement as a first-time encounter.
Consumers are tired of being burned by broken brand promises. Once lied to, their well-guarded instincts begin to doubt first, test second, and at any point, they will cast aside any brand that does not live up to the original promise that captured them on the first encounter. A brand must be worthy of love. The best brands of today have a soul that exists deep within the culture of the brand organization.
Brands must be consumer focused. The brand’s purpose must be able to explain why the people who work behind the scenes of the brand come to work every day so energized and ready to over-deliver on the brand’s behalf. This purpose becomes a firm conviction, with inner motivations, beliefs, and values that influences and inspires every employee to want to be part of the brand. This brand conviction must be so firm that the brand would never make a choice that directly contradicts their internal belief system. Consumers start to see, understand, and appreciate the level of conviction with the brand.
Brands must listen, observe, and start to know the thoughts of their consumer before they even think it. Not only does the brand meet their functional needs, but the brand must also heroically beat down the consumer’s enemy that torments their life, every day.
The brand must show up consistently at every consumer touchpoint, whether it is the promise the brand makes, the stories they tell, the innovation designed to impress consumers, the happy purchase moments or the delightful experiences that make consumers want to tell their friends the brand story. The consumer keeps track to make sure the brand delivers before the consumer is willing to commit. Only then will the consumer become willing to open up and trust the brand.
The integrity of the soul of the brand helps tighten the consumer’s unshakable bond with that brand. Brands have to do the little things that matter, to show they love their consumer. Every time the brand over-delivers on their promise, it adds a little fuel to the romance.
Over time, the brand must weave itself into the most critical moments of the consumer’s lives, and become part of the most cherished stories and memories within the consumer’s heart. In today’s cluttered brand world, the pathway to brand success is all about building relationships with your most cherished consumers.
A brand idea must be interesting, simple, unique, inspiring, motivating, and own-able. The brand idea must attract and move consumers
The first connection point for consumers with a brand is that moment when they see a brand idea worth engaging the brand. The brand almost jumps off the shelf, grips the audience’s attention to itself on a TV ad, or compels consumers to click on a digital ad. The brand has to generate interest very quickly.
When the brand idea is interesting and simple, it helps the brand gain quick entry into the consumer’s mind, so they want to engage and learn more about the brand. With the consumer bombarded by 5,000 brand messages every day, the brand only has seven seconds to connect or else consumers will move on.
That is why the brand idea should be unique and ownable to stand out amid the clutter, and the brand can see enough rich potential to build their entire business around the idea. The idea should inspire the team working behind the scenes to deliver amazing consumer experiences. The idea must be motivating to consumers, so the brand can move consumers to see, think, feel, or act in positive ways that benefit the brand.
A brand idea must have enough longevity to last 5 to 10 years and enough flexibility to show consistency no matter what media options you choose. The idea must provide a common link across the entire product line-up. Everything you do should deliver the brand idea.
The brand has to show up the same way to everyone, no matter where it shows up. Even as the brand leader expands on the idea, whether telling the brand story over 60 seconds, 30 minutes or over the lifetime of the brand, it must tell the same story.
When the idea works best, the most far-reaching sales rep, the scientist in the lab, the plant manager or the customer service rep must all articulate the brand idea, in the same way, using the same chosen words. Every time a consumer engages with the brand, they must see, hear and feel the same brand idea. Each positive interaction further tightens their bond with that brand.
Use your brand idea to organize everything you do
As a brand leader, you have five consumer touchpoints to align and manage, including the brand promise, brand story, product innovation, the path to the purchase moment, and the overall consumer experience. The brand idea map shows you how to align all five consumer touchpoints. This thinking is part of the new fundamentals.
- The brand promise connects with consumers and separates your brand from competitors. The promise must position the brand as interesting and unique, utilizing brand positioning work to define the target market, the balance of functional and emotional benefits, along with key support points.
- The brand story helps the brand stand out from the pack and gain the consumer’s consideration for purchase. The brand idea must push consumers to see, think, feel, or act differently than before they saw the brand message.
- Innovation must help the brand stay on top of the latest trends in technology, consumer need states, distribution, and competitive activity. A brand cannot stand still. The brand idea should act as an internal beacon to help inspire the product development team to come up with new ways to captivate consumers.
- The purchase moment transforms the awareness and consideration into a purchase. The brand idea ensures everyone along the path to purchase delivers the same brand message, using retail and selling strategies to influence consumers.
- Create consumer experiences that overdeliver the promise, driving repeat purchase, and future consumer loyalty. When you partner with HR, the brand idea inspires the culture and organization, influencing hiring decisions, service values, and motivation of the operations teams who deliver the experience.
It takes a fundamentally strategic mind to figure out brand love
To show the differences in how consumers feel about a brand as they move through five stages, I created the brand love curve. It defines consumers’ feelings as unknown, indifferent, like it, love it and onto the beloved brand status.
For unknown brands, the strategic focus should be to stand out so consumers will notice the brand within a crowded brand world. For indifferent brands, the strategy must establish the brand in the consumer’s mind so they can see a clear point of difference. At the like it stage, the strategy is to separate the brand from the pack, creating happy experiences that build a trusted following. At the love it stage, the focus shifts to tugging at heartstrings to tighten the bond with the most loyal brand fans. At the beloved brand stage, the strategic challenge is to create outspoken, loyal brand fans who are willing to whisper to their friends on the brand’s behalf.
20 consumer activities
The brand love curve should guide strategic and tactical decisions that go into the writing of your annual brand plan. Here are 20 potential brand activities that match up to where your brand sits on the curve and how to move your brand to the next stage.
The fundamentals of brand management matter more now than ever.
Today’s marketers have become so busy, as they run from meeting to meeting, they have become a little overwhelmed and confused. They have no time to think. Marketing has become about ‘get stuff done,’ never taking the time to stop and ask if it is the right stuff to do.
To build a relationship, you must genuinely court your consumer. To move your consumer from stranger to friend and onto the forever stage, you need to think all the time. With the focus on access to big data, marketers are drowning in so much data they do not even have the time to sort through it all to produce the analytical stories that help to make decisions. Marketers are so overwhelmed by the breadth of media choices and the pressure to be everywhere that the quality of the execution has suffered.
If marketers do not love the work they create, how can they ever expect the consumer to love the brand?
My goal in writing this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. I know your role and the challenges you face. I have been in your shoes. I will share everything I have learned in my 20 years in the trenches of brand management. Using the fundamentals of marekting will help you be successful.
This type of thinking can be found in our Beloved Brands and B2B Brands playbooks
Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze your brand
- You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies.
- To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept.
- For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans.
- To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around creative advertising and media choices.
- When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.