Great brands stand for SOMETHING, stand for something UNIQUE, and stand for something unique and MEANINGFUL TO THE CUSTOMER.
The advantages of having a strong brand are many. They build trust, facilitate purchase, and improve profitability. What more, strong brands build loyalty and brand advocacy with their customers.
Prior to running a digital marketing agency, I was in brand management for CPG for close to 20 years. In that time, I noticed something that the best brands had in common. Whether the brand was a person, a small startup, or a globally recognized name – the brand promise followed three basic principles.
Principle #1: Stand for SOMETHING
Too often, brands (and companies) try to be too many things to too many people. Unfortunately by doing so, the brand ends up standing for next to nothing in the customer’s mind. Brands are smart to keep things simple. Each brand should have a simple stated promise that can be expressed in a single phrase. Here are some of my favorite.
- BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
- Geico: “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.”
- Disney: “Creating happiness through magical experiences.”
- Southwest: “Low fares. Nothing to hide.”
- Subaru: “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.”
What’s Your Brand?
Regardless of your personal feelings to these brands, we can agree that each brand promise is super specific. In other words, it stands for something. Now think of your brand. What is the single statement of purpose that embodies that brand best?
Maybe you’re not not sure exactly what your brand promise is, or perhaps you haven’t taken the time to define it. Either way, it’s important that you take the time to define it… AND make sure that everyone on your team understands it so that you’re all singing from the same sheet of music.
Principle #2: Stand for Something UNIQUE
While standing for something is a good start, it’s not enough to build a leading brand. What you stand for must be unique. “Me too” brands lack a unique selling proposition (reason why customers should buy from you). Customers aren’t loyal to “me too” brands. Brands that fail to stand out become commodities and often are left to sock it out in price race to the bottom.
In today’s competitive marketplace, customers want to have their specific wants and needs met in a very specific way. Gone are the days where companies are successful by making broad attempts at appealing to everyone. Hyper-targeting is the name of the game. Companies realize that not all customers are right for the brand, and that the brand is not right for all possible customers.
Smart brands hyper-target their best customers and tailor the brand to meet the demands of these customers in a unique way. There are many ways to uniquely define your brand. You may have a unique proposition that is focused on price, quality, convenience, packaging, geography, customer service or a social cause. There are others.
Real Life Examples
Take another look at Southwest’s brand promise: “Low fares. Nothing to hide.” If you fly Southwest, you’ve come to know the experience well. It’s an experience unique to other airlines. You expect to get a low fair. You don’t expect a lot of frills or hidden fees. It’s a simple flying experience unique to Southwest. The company thrives on being different and stays in its unique lane.
Take a look at your brand competitors and spend some time analyzing their products and services. What are their unique strengths and weaknesses? How to they market to their customers? How does their marketing play to their unique strengths or customer needs?
Now take a look at your own company. Then take the customer insights you have and carve out a niche. Be super focused and commit to that niche. By doing so, you’ll own a place in the customer’s mind and you have your unique selling proposition. At that point, you can build your marketing strategy around it and scale your business.
#3 Stand for Something Unique and MEANINGFUL TO THE CONSUMER
The best brands focus on meeting customer needs and wants. Avoid the temptation of telling people how awesome your brand is. How often have you heard this? “Our company has been serving you for 70 years!” Or how often have you fallen asleep as a companies spews dozens of product features that are meant to dazzle you. What is important to a company, isn’t what is important to your target customer.
This is something that companies often overlook. Even if you’ve been with a company and managed the brand for years, NEVER assume you know all there is to know about the customer. Instead, check your ego at the door and become a student.
Sit down with your loyal customers. They’re your “love” group and a safe place to get information. Find out what they love about your business and what unmet needs or pain points they have. You may be surprised at what you hear. If you don’t have a customer base, sit down with a group of prospective customers… just for feedback.
Companies can spend a lot of money on market research and focus groups, but even a handful of one-on-one interviews with your target customer can provide amazing insight that you can build your brand promise around.
When you get a list of prioritized customer wants, have your company review and determine how they can meet them in a way that competitors don’t. Customer centric marketing is marketing that starts with the customer and builds brand strategy from that input. It doesn’t guarantee brand success but it makes it more likely that relying on your own experience.
In the end, if your brand stands out and meets customer needs in a way that they truly value, these customers will reward you. They’ll stick with you and be powerful advocates for your brand. So remember…
Stand for SOMETHING
Stand for something UNIQUE
Stand for something unique and MEANINGFUL TO CUSTOMERS
If you do, your brand will not only stand apart and get noticed, it will build brand loyalty and advocacy!
For a great read on branding, we recommend a couple books. First is Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. The Bear Fox Principle is another good one… we wrote it. ???? Feel free to reach out if you have specific questions related to your brand and good luck!