This article was originally posted in the May 2023 edition of Hunter Business Review.
The marketing holy grail is building a brand your customers love so much they sell it for you. So how do you build a brand that drives your business forward?
What is brand?
Marketers love a buzzword, so let’s avoid the jargon and start with the basics. Your brand is more than your logo. In fact, it’s an iceberg. It’s made up of both the visible parts (logo, colours, name, website, advertising) and the invisible parts below the surface (vision, purpose, reputation, positioning).
Think of marketing as a first date. If you just focus on the surface level stuff, you’ll struggle to build a lasting connection with your customer. By building the intangible parts of your brand, you’re making your brand more human. It’s about what’s on the inside; shared beliefs, values, personality, this is what makes your brand loveable.
Why care about brand?
Without a strong brand, your product becomes a commodity, competing on functional attributes alone like price. The most successful brands go so much further than features and benefits. If you can nail both the visible and invisible parts of your brand, you will build a competitive edge impossible for the rest of your market to imitate.
The world’s most valuable brand
Think of Apple, the world’s #1 most valuable brand for the tenth year in a row. The Apple brand is worth $482 billion US dollars. How? Firstly, innovation, design, and customer experience are at the heart of why Apple is so successful, it’s all these intangible things that make people Apple obsessed. Secondly, Apple’s brand consistency across every touchpoint is second to none.
Apple’s products deliver on quality and performance. But it’s so much more than that. By focussing on the intangible parts like brand, purpose, and ethos, when you buy Apple, you’re buying more than a product. This investment in their brand has allowed Apple to defy category conventions, and create innovations beyond just computers including the iPhone, and apple watch, dramatically increasing their market share and global revenue.
Where to start? Listen first.
We don’t all have Apples marketing budget, but you can strengthen connections and attract new customers by listening first. Customer insights may already be under your nose. Feedback forms, google reviews, online forums, Google trends. Glean insights from your existing feedback loops and go from data to insight by asking why. Further research via focus groups, online surveys and internal workshops will give you a crystal-clear understanding of the problem you can solve for your customers and also gain buy-in for your new strategic direction. But you must ask the right questions.
Landing that second date
Next is brand strategy. Purpose and vision should be your top priority to build a brand that means something inside and out. For purpose, think about what you believe, why you started, why you exist. It’s about standing for something. And vision. Where are you going? Rally your troops with a long-term, ambitious, hell-yeah goal.
Walk the talk
The most important bit. You must practice what you preach or don’t bother. If your purpose is about making a positive difference in the world, you need to live it. And for companies who previously sat on the sidelines, Gen Z is coming for you. In a transparent world, your silence now speaks volumes. But pick your battles, you don’t need an opinion on everything. Be authentic and choose issues relevant to your staff and customers. Just do something.
For organisations looking to grow, your brand can be your most powerful weapon in business. The key is to build a brand that means something and then live it. By going beyond functional and building a lasting emotional connection with your customers, you also grow advocacy, loyalty, brand equity and market share. And if you don’t know where to start, trust your gut.