Whether in B2B or B2C markets, good economic times or bad, large businesses or small, brand matters. It’s far more than just a design aesthetic; it is a core part of a business’s value.
You know this, of course (though you might be surprised by just how much brand matters – it’s estimated that brand represents around 30% of S&P 500 companies’ market value). The question instead is – given that importance – how can you make the most of your brand in the modern digitized economy? How can you maximize impact both outside and within your organization?
The answer to that lies, in short, in understanding your customers and how they engage in today’s commercial landscape. But let’s dig a little deeper.
Meet the challenge – and seize the opportunity – of a digitized economy
In many respects, digitization has made life harder for brands:
- Multiple brands compete for customers’ attention, in real-time and across several channels.
- Online marketplaces and comparison sites see brands shoehorned together, challenging brands’ ability to maintain a ‘prestige’ image, and pushing focus ever-more onto price.
- Customers come to purchases via increasingly varied routes and devices.
This landscape is also in constant flux. Even just a few years ago, the typical consumer route-to-purchase might be using their desktop PC to access a brand’s homepage. Today, that same customer is more likely to search for a product on Google, check reviews on her Amazon app, and then use a comparison tool to find the lowest price around – all on her phone. Or she might just say “Alexa, buy me an iPhone X.”
In short, companies wanting to get their brand noticed must do so in a highly complex, fluid commercial environment.
However, there are positives – many of them. Those same factors – the market’s dynamism, the multiple touchpoints in a customer’s purchase journey at which to ‘implant’ your brand – also create myriad opportunities for those brands that can seize the opportunity.
Know your customer
Central to that, though, is ensuring you ‘know your customer’. And not just today’s customer, but tomorrow’s too. That is, understanding what they value, how they engage with brands and the route(s) by which they come to buy.
Ask yourself: when will customers be most responsive to my brand’s message? At that point, what other brands might they see? How can I ensure mine is clear and stands out? What information should it convey? Which emotions should it evoke?
For example, if customers principally shop for your product on comparison sites, or value your brand’s heritage, it could be a simple action, such as recoloring your logo to stand out from others or emphasizing your brand’s history in your packaging, could materially increase your impact.
Target your marketing
When faced with so many ways in which customers might engage with your brand, the temptation from a marketing perspective might be to try to be in all those places, or to plow resources into the latest ‘hot’ marketing trend.
In reality, however, it is those businesses able to target their marketing very precisely that are likely to succeed over the longer term: those that can carefully assess both the growth and profit potential of particular opportunities, and distinguish long-term shifts in consumer preference from ‘fads’ that die out as quickly as they blew up.
It wasn’t long ago that branded stress-balls seemed to be the ‘go-to’ brand-recognition gimmick – in today’s digitized (and waste-conscious) world, that already looks very passé.
Harness the power of data
When it comes to both getting to know your customer and understanding the trends that will shape tomorrow’s market, data is crucial.
‘Big Data,’ when combined with algorithm-driven tools able to analyze it at speed, offers brands an unprecedented opportunity to understand both their customers and broader market dynamics. Integrating those insights into your marketing strategy, and continually verifying and refining them over time, could, therefore, hold the key to maximizing your brand’s impact and influence.
There is a cost to this: it may require you to hire new skills (data analytics, for example) or invest in large data sets. However, think of the benefits. The data could help pinpoint where your finite creative marketing resources are likely to have the most significant impact, predict emerging trends, model the effect of different marketing strategies, and more.
By contrast, fail to utilize data available effectively, and you risk getting left behind, chasing customers or trends that have already passed or failing to accentuate the aspects of your brand that customers value the most.
Earn and protect your customers’ trust
Regardless of where you target your marketing, the importance of focusing adequately on winning – and maintaining – consumer trust is unchanged.
Indeed, the proliferation of brands and choice online has seen consumers place ever-greater emphasis on reputation and trust. 83% of Americans surveyed recently said recommendations from friends made them more likely to buy a product, while 86% check online reviews of local businesses. Also, it’s no surprise: faced with near-identical offerings from multiple brands, consumers will gravitate to those brands they trust.
This acts as an important reminder that a brand is about so much more than a logo or slogan. It’s about all aspects of your offering, not least your customer service. So in seeking to maximize your brand, give due focus to your brand’s reputation with customers – both those you have and those you hope to win.
Align your brand and business strategies
It seems like common sense to say a business’s brand should align with its business strategy. And yet significant misalignments are far from uncommon.
If synchronous, a brand strategy and a corporate strategy can complement – and mutually reinforce – each other. Of course, the opposite is also true.
This has evident financial implications. If your brand marketing is targeting one consumer group, but your broader corporate strategy is focused on an entirely different demographic, you are likely wasting money, fast.
However, it’s also about authenticity.
Just as with trust, authenticity is an aspect of your brand’s power that should not be underestimated. From a customer’s perspective, a company whose corporate strategy conflicts with its public-facing brand will appear at best confused, and at worst duplicitous. That’s also why – as much as your brand needs to be agile and dynamic to thrive in today’s fast-paced, multi-channel landscape – consistency of messaging across channels remains vital.
Those principles of consistency and authenticity are just crucial within your business. If your brand proposition doesn’t match your strategic mission or values, can you really expect to get your teams to buy into and ‘live’ the brand?
Look in and as well as out
Indeed, that ‘internally-facing’ component of your brand is one that shouldn’t be ignored in attempting to maximize its value. A strong, authentic brand can act as a ‘focal point’ around which all aspects of your business can align themselves – from the way people treat each other to the work products they produce. This can help not only to create an internal ‘esprit de corps’ but also to ensure all parts of your business engage with customers in a consistent way that promotes your brand values.
Know your customer, understand your market, be true to your values. These are lessons as old as business itself, yet when it comes to maximizing your brand’s power, they’ve never been more vital.