Brands are part of our everyday lives, fully entrenched.
Many things can be branded, and we immediately think of products and services. But places too can be branded and yes, even religions are brands.
People brands have made huge inroads over the last few decades. Just think of Brangelina, Lady Gaga, Mick Jagger, Messi vs Ronaldo. Everything is a brand – even your favourite Superhero – and our experiences with these brands influence how we value them.
In this constant environment of change, either brought on by disruptors, our current global pandemic, or the next phase of the Industrial Revolution, customers’ expectations from what they perceive as value from brands are also constantly shifting. And many brands will not survive.
So, what is the value of branding? How do we ensure through our brand that we continuously adapt and deliver experiences for our customers that are valuable to them?
There are 5 core pillars to building a great brand that will continue to deliver value to your customers.
- Link the THINKING & FEELING
- Build TRUST
- Offer VALUE beyond your product/service
- DIFFERENTIATE to those people you want to connect with
- Help those people to CONNECT and BELONG.
1. Link the Thinking and Feeling
Thinking of brands like Apple, Nike, Coke, Amazon – love them or hate them, you know exactly what you will get from them.
Brands that moves from a noun to a verb and is part of the everyday language pretty much reached the holy grail of branding. Skype your family. Photoshop that picture, Hoover the carpet, and most famously – just Google it!
Hearing the names Blackberry, Blockbuster, Kodak, evoke perhaps a bit of nostalgia inside you and you wonder what happened to these great brands that played such a big and important part of your life.
How does a brand become a great brand? And how does a great brand stand the test of time?
Steve Jobs was unceremoniously fired from the company he started, Apple, and brought back again when it was in deep trouble. Steve took over the branding and marketing for Apple and made it relevant and desirable again. During this period, he said “It is a noisy and complicated world out there. People have too many choices and similar offerings. So, for people to believe in you; For people to value you; they want to know 2 things: Who are you? and What do you stand for?”
Great brands connect, resonate, and then spread like wildfire. Great brands connect our thinking and our feeling.
When you connect thinking and feeling, you get someone’s attention and you keep their interest with the promise of something great. You offer something valuable beyond just your product or service. You do not just differentiate; you make a difference. And by making a difference, you evoke emotions…and then “they” help us to belong.
By belonging to something, you implicitly trust it.
An excellent example of connecting the thinking and the feeling is South Africa’s Discovery Health and their Vitality programme. Discovery Health took a grudge purchase, medical insurance, and they turned it around by rewarding people for living healthier lives. When you feel better about your health, you don’t mind contributing to that product that helps you to keep healthy. Discovery Health turned a negative into a positive.
2. Building Trust
Trust is not something that just happens. It takes consistency and time, to build trust. When you hear “Trust me, I’m Batman/ I’m Superman” you do trust, because you’ve seen consistently over numerous times that when Clark Kent goes into a red telephone booth or the Bat-Signal lights up Gotham City, they are going to save the day.
Trust gives everyone the reassurance beyond the point of no doubt.
If you think about it, trust starts within us – our senses. Our senses have been developed over time to inform us of goodness, beauty, excitement, risk, danger, etc. We trust our senses unconditionally because consistently, they’ve been our beacons in life and we continuously learn from them. Either from influences in our environments, past experiences, and stories from other people.
We don’t just trust our environments; we also trust people. Trust in people has been built over time with reference to the expertise and competence they bring. Pilots, Game rangers, Doctors, Lawyers (or maybe not always ). We blindly trust them with our lives due to the inherent trust that lies in their capability. We trust them because what they are promising (have been promising) we can depend on and rely on. They create value for us.
Trust = Reliability + Desirability x Experiences
So how do you get people to TRUST you?
Our world has changed drastically and is still changing at a more rapid pace with the 4th industrial revolution not only knocking anymore, but with its foot in the door, and not to mention the unprecedented challenges Covid-19 has brought. The PUSH economy is now a PULL economy and the people (your customers) are making the decisions. They are empowered and demanding.
Whatever they experience in their personal life, that becomes the standard and they expect it in ALL aspects of their lives.
To tap into this empowered and knowledgeable market, TRUST remains the foundation. The essence of Trust is when people find value from you. As a business, to add value, you need to deliver value beyond your product or service. All of us make our decisions based on the maximum value being received.
The value received can be objective (eg. better sound, faster connectivity, quicker payment, lower price, no repeat of personal information, etc) BUT it can also be subjective (ie. ethical standards of the company, the social issues that the company support and you also personally value, embracing diversity, etc).
As with the key factors to build a great brand, value is derived from all the interactions people have with your company and product/service. At every touchpoint. That is even before they sign up or
purchase your product, and definitely after. The value you create needs to run through the DNA of your organisation. It can’t be ring-fenced in the innovation team, Marketing, Communications.
It needs to be a way of life.
When you truly offer value, you have an outside-in approach as a business. You build relevant and
valued experiences to your customers’ needs at the right time; at the right place.
4. Make a difference
People and consumers have different needs and will find value in different solutions. People want to belong and connect to other people and organisations that share their values. You can therefore not be everything to everyone. You will end up being nothing to no one.
Be unique and don’t just be different – make a difference.
5. Connect to Belong
Denise Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do said: “Your brand needs to be like a lighthouse. People and customers must quickly develop a clear sense of who you are, what you stand for, and why. And then you project that image intensely, consistently, and saliently to the point where it is a clear beacon to the people you want to connect with.”
The power of connecting between an organisation and consumers results in a two-way understanding and long-term relationship. When you truly connect, you connect on an emotional level because of your shared values and belonging.
So how do you connect on an emotional level?
You connect on an emotional level by once again applying a human-centered, outside-in approach. Storytelling.
Storytelling has a natural appeal to people. We all love a story. When your brand is a story, it will help you stand out from the cluttered world we live in, it will help you to be differentiated, and most importantly, it will help you to be remembered.
Your brand will be defined by what people, your customers, AND your employees think and feel about you. Unlock and cultivate the value you offer and keep building on the trust you earned.
Sumarie is a Judge at the upcoming International Customer Experience Awards.