It’s neither easy nor cheap to build a brand - so why bother? And how should you measure the return on your brand investment?
Whatever you sell - any product, any service - your customers are ideally buying exclusively from you - again and again, into the future.
In other words, your ideal brand not only creates short term revenues but secures future revenues. You don’t just secure a sale; you secure a customer. ROI on that has two sources - brilliant brands do double duty.
First, the absolute revenues. Strong brands, as we’ve seen, will generate a steady stream of sales and - typically but not always - sell at a premium and a higher margin.
Second is the value creation of brand investment. Often the economic value of the brand outstrips tangible assets: for instance, a current global brand study values the Apple brand at $214 bn. This is an extrapolation of the future revenues the brand has been estimated to secure.
This value is a function of many variables, but here are 5 basic principles or brand fundamentals that will set you on the path to a brilliant, valuable brand. And it’s not just about spending a fortune in communications.
Here’s how you can craft a brilliant brand:
- Knowing your customer inside out—This doesn’t just mean know the demographics and psychographics and you’re done. You have to know everything you possibly can. Include inputs from psychology, sociology, biology, anthropology, statistics, language, literature and more, including attitudes and buying behavior with competitors. You want them to choose you, so you need a better relationshipthan any other brand, right? Find out whatever you can about what drives the purchase decision - get on “first-name terms”.
Brand affinity is about selling to the heart. It’s about offering emotional benefits. These split into two: self-image and social image. Self-image is about how you feel about yourself. Smart? Capable? In the know? Cool? Social image is about how the purchaser feels others see them. Good parent? Selective? Wealthy? The most important thing to remember is to differentiate. Check out the emotional benefits offered by competitors, and run the other way.
- Understanding exactly why your customer buys—Of course, you’ll fully understand the functional attributes (you know how your product works) - but you don’t want a functional relationship. You want deep affinity with your customer so that they would feel disloyal if they did not choose your brand. The tendency is to focus on the hard, logical benefits that speak to the head, but with advanced shared technology it’s unlikely you have a unique functional benefit – the likelihood of a better mousetrap is scant
- Tracking your brand fundamentals—Make sure you monitor every move your brand makes in its relationship with the customer. Ring the alarm bells at the slightest deviation from the desired brand attributes and messaging. There’s a lot at stake here, so spend generously on solid tracking research. Talk often to your customers to track how they and the brand are getting along.
Staying on brand—Everything about the brand communicates. Everything. This is good and bad news. Staying on brand, purchase after purchase, builds confidence in your brand, deeper affinity and loyalty. Commitment and trust in the brand grow exponentially. The opposite is fatally true - going off brand can destroy your brand value overnight. Just like people, a brand can act out of character and confuse or even build resentment among customers - and the stronger the brand, the more this is true. Trying to cut costs in a way that hurts quality, changing the tone and manner of communications recklessly, producing a sub-brand that doesn’t jibe with the master brand. On the other hand, a strong brand can build the kind of equity that creates forgiveness if you make a false move - but don’t count on it.
- Maintaining a dialog—It used to be that brand communication was a one-way monologue from brand to consumer. Today the brand is not king but a peer, a friend, a servant, a coach, and so on. It’s now a two-way street in which the brand talks with or even up to the customer. Never at. Exploit digital opportunities and interactive experiences that help consumers bond with, and even influence the products and services they favor.
At the end of the day you’re after the illusion that every individual customer feels like the only customer in the world! Many may purchase your brand but the dialog—the relationship—between you and the brand is unique. So use these brand fundamentals to help set you on a path to a brilliant, valuable brand.