You cannot look at branding today the same way you did only a couple of years ago.
Social medias are stronger than ever, and depending of the geographical and social markets (e.g. Europe, South East Asia,…; buying power, age group,…) you are targeting, you will not put the same emphasis on this or that media.
What’s more, the media that was strong last year might be fading away this year and be replaced in the heart of your target market by another one.
Also, don't forget that other factors such as content marketing, generation gaps, second screening, thought-leadership and the demographic shift are just some of the many things that are challenging brands to think differently.
Creating and sustaining customer trust and loyalty is more difficult than ever before.
Building relationships with consumers has never been more challenging, with so much competition for their attention:
To convince yourself, look at the constant barrage of pop-up and video ads that flash before our eyes every time you use your phones, turn on your computers or tablets.
Being an on-trend, relevant, inspiring, purposeful, innovative and community-centric brand – these are the things that will make people pause, listen and pay attention. Customers want to identify with a brand they can grow with, that earns their trust and makes them feel valued.
People want to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their business or life meaning and significance.
At the end of the day, a brand must become a consumer’s best friend.
Whether you are a Fortune 500 company, managing a medium size company or entrepreneur, here are six brand strategies that anyone in charge of marketing must not ignore:
1. Be creative, don’t copy what others are doing
Study and understand your own purchase habits and how a brand attracts you:
Will you first be attracted by a brand whose communication is nothing more than a copy / paste of a stronger and more popular brand?
Well, your clientele will feel the same.
Be creative, get your own communication strategy, understand why and how the strategy of the more successful brand works.
Based on your findings, inspire yourself to develop your very own ‘tone of voice’.
Take Beyoncé for example and the way she launched her 2014 album:
To leverage her personal brand, she went in a different way than her competitors - instead of releasing a new single (as advance promotion of the album), she released the entire album on iTunes with a full library of supporting music videos.
The drip-system is a good tactic, but everything is relative to the maturity of your brand and the engagement experience you want to ultimately create with your target audience.
People like surprises and want variety.
Don’t be too predictable. Mix it up.
Don’t grow complacent. Stretch your thinking.
Every brand is vulnerable.
Don’t take your audience for granted - it's much easier to lose them than to gain them.
This is why it’s so important to give your brand a refresh every year (not every 3-5 years).
Never forget that your clientele is reevaluating their needs more often than you might think.
Instead of being reactive to your audience needs, be on the front end and help guide them as they reinvent themselves.
Manage your consumer engagement strategy or someone else will do it better.
2. Ensure that everyone knows what your brand stands for. Don’t complicate everything
Too often brands complicate their unique value proposition (UVP) to get attention.
In their efforts to reinvent and renew, they complicate things that frustrate their consumers and shareholders.
A brand identity is most powerful when it evolves and its value proposition strengthens in alignment with the changing lifestyle demands of its audience.
Make things simple.
People don’t have the time (and don’t care) to figure out what your brand is trying to solve.
Customers want brands to be deliberate with their identity – straightforward while at the same time forward-thinking.
3. Your brand must feel reliable and inspire positive feelings such as hope
Brands influence lifestyle and one’s state of mind.
If your brand is not a lifestyle platform that inspires people and communicates hope, the impact and influence of your brand message will be worthless.
Coca-Cola is one of the brands that implement best that principle.
Apple – in a totally different market and way – does to.
Both brands inspire a life-style, give customers the feeling that by buying / using these products they will live a fuller, happier life and that they will be recognized by others as being different, better:
They are not part of the crowd, they are their own individuality.
Today’s customer expects more from a brand – not only the message it communicates – but how it is delivered.
That is why content marketing is so important and must be flawlessly executed to be effective.
Your (potential) audience wants your brand’s value proposition to come to life and impact their lifestyle with messaging that is educational and applicable.
A holistic approach to branding that gives people hope will accelerate your ability to earn consumer trust and loyalty, while allowing more transparent dialogue and feedback processes to keep your brand in continuous innovation mode.
4. Be innovative; continuously innovative
Innovation may seem to be an obvious strategy, yet many companies still fall short (or are too late) in their efforts.
Just ask Blackberry, Blockbuster, Volvo, just to name a few.
It’s no longer just about introducing new products, line extensions and/or technological advances to strengthen your UVP.
Today’s marketplace demands perfect timing and flawless execution with each new strategy you implement.
Consumers want to know that you are ready when they are.
That means your timing must be in perfect sync with your audience demands:
Don’t launch a new product, service or packaging/logo strategy if your brand’s audience isn’t ready and/or you are not prepared to execute the requirements for sustainable success – all the way through to the end.
Short-cuts are slow death in a marketplace where consumers expect brands to over-deliver before they actually commit to purchase.
Once you have established your reputation for excellence, your innovation efforts become a public relations strategy that pre-sells your consumers well before any new product event,
On the other hand, it might be damaging to the brand if you fake innovation, while you are in fact behind your competition.
Again, ask Apple.
Be truthful or it might cost dear to your brand on the long run.
5. Acknowledge your customer base, and pay them for their loyalty
Brands that “share the harvest” of their success with their audience are the ones that sustain the best momentum.
The spirit of giving must be a central part of every brand’s DNA.
Unfortunately, many brands forget to “give-back” to those who supported their growth.
Building and being a great brand is not just about market share gains and profitability; it’s about genuinely sharing the success of your brand with others (whether they have purchased your product/service or not).
Whether you have a few thousands, millions, or billions of euros in sales, make it a point to show your respect and gratitude to the people and communities your brand is serving.
Take the time to interact in ways that go well beyond the obvious.
Provide sponsorship (only if you are genuinely interested in supporting the cause), be consistent with your community outreach efforts, and actively participate in and support charitable events and organizations.
Fully deploy your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy (if you have one and you should).
If you have limited resources and/or just want to keep it simple, be sure to at least say thank you and show your gratitude.
Brands today have a much deeper responsibility to society and the more your brand touches the needs of the world and helps to make it a better place, the more abundant you will find the opportunities before you.
What’s more, keep in mind that the youngest generation – tomorrow leaders and today’s already strong purchasing force -, the so-called Millennials, preferably direct their buying power towards CSR and sustainable development-oriented brands and companies.
6. Is your brand ready for tomorrow?
Much like leaders must lead with a legacy-driven mindset, so should your brand.
As you develop your brand, what is the legacy that you are mindfully attempting to leave behind?
What is your brand known for?
According to Wikipedia, brand legacy begins from a point of origin (core idea) and considers historic message layering to derive a current perception as it pertains to the target audience.
A core idea is a word or thought that encompasses all facets of the brand.
For example, IBM’s core idea is computers, while Cadbury is chocolate.
What is the experience and/or product association you are attempting to leave behind for your brand and what will your audience remember most about how it impacted their business or lifestyle?
The most successful brands never fall victim to an identity crisis.
They know who they are and the responsibility they have to those whom they are serving.
Their innovations are consistently delivered, genuine and true.
They are focused on what matters most to their customers and on continuously making the experience better. Sometimes they may fall flat on the excitement scale, but their patrons remain extremely satisfied.
You know that you are building a solid brand legacy when your customer loyalty is so strong that they are not fazed by your competition.
When your core idea becomes synonymous with your brand, expectations rise and so do your strategic responsibilities.
This is when you must begin to allow your customers to play a more hands-on role in your brand’s evolution. This is when you begin to witness the convergence of your brand’s growing community (intimate followers) with the advancement of commerce (growth in the business).
Allow your customers to play a more significant role.
Align your brand’s identity closer to their own – again, look at Apple.
Each one of these brand strategies is equally important and they build upon one another to create and sustain the ultimate customer experience.
You must be ready to take on such an ambitious commitment, and then stick to it until you know your audience inside and out. Always be accountable to their needs and take responsibility to keep the momentum of the relationship moving forward.
Implement these six brand strategies, and you will build a power brand for the 21st century customer.