by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
In this recent recession, many companies are having to rethink some of their brand approaches. Too many have focused on the “stuff” they do or sell and have forgotten the emotional reason of why customers buy them. For example, many in the luxury category thought their brands were all about lux. Wrong. Luxury is a category, not a brand. As many have found out, even their target consumers are no longer satisfied with buying their brand just because it is considered luxury. Now, they must provide something of real value and that comes from the fulfilling an emotional desire.
The answer? Brands, regardless of category, must engage in a different way. They must either reestablish or actually create a real brand that is more meaningful than just the commodity of their products and services. Here are several key points:
• Be personal – Now, it’s no longer good enough to just connect with customers. The web is fast becoming a commodity media channel, the “specialness” is fading. It used to be that being on the web was cool. Now it’s a mandatory element in your marketing mix. Brands must connect on a personal level. People are looking for value beyond the products and services. Think of it this way, if you know someone on a personal level, you know what motivates them, thrills them and know their perspectives. This, in turn, allows you to provide real answers and meet their hearts desires.
• Be human – Brands need to express and communicate their values and what they believe in by the way they market and advertise. The key thing here is to be honest in what you express and the values you hold. They don’t have to be lofty or altruistic, that’s not the point. The point is that you have values and that they are genuine. For example, one of BMW’s core values is the love of innovative engineering. This is something that is baked into their DNA. Customers know this is a real core value by the way the cars are created, built and marketed. Though innovative engineering isn’t saving the whales, it is genuine and is highly valued by the company and their customers.
• Be evolving – Your brand needs to stay consistent, but how it’s interpreted needs to evolve and change. The world doesn’t stand still and neither does your customer. That is why it’s crucial that your brand needs to evolve with them. The essence of what you stand for should stay the same, but everything else should be open for change. Innovation, whether it’s on the product level, internal systems or reaching out to new markets, needs to be in constant motion. You need to find new ways to express your brands and the values you hold as discussed in the earlier bullet point.
• Be loved – Remember why customers loved you in the first place. As with couples, it’s easy to forget that initial swell of emotion during your first couple of years of marriage. You begin to take each other for granted as the years roll on and eventually you “grow apart”. This is true with brands and their customers. If you don’t continually work at engaging your customers and reigniting their love affair with you, eventually, they’ll grow apart. Apple is one of the best at keeping love alive in their customers.
In this new economic environment, brands must do more than just deliver the basics. The burden is on them to let the customer know why it is worth their time, emotion and money to buy their brand and buy into their brand. If you can do that, then you can mitigate economic effects because consumers will still spend both emotion and money, they are just more selective on who they spend it on.