Building a strong brand today can be difficult. With the help of technology, you can build a brand overnight, or you could wake up in the morning to find that a brand has stolen your market share. There’s no better example of this double-edged sword than Dollar Shave Club, recently acquired for $1 billion by Unilever. Founded in 2011, the company exploded in popularity, becoming a major player competing in a multi-billion dollar industry.
The good news is that no matter how strong your brand is now, it can always become stronger. Throughout my career as an ad agency executive specializing in brand building, these are the five key characteristics that I have consistently seen in the strongest contenders:
One of the most underestimated areas being addressed in the marketplace today is the brand experience that companies are creating for their customers. Brand experience refers to sensory-stimulating attributes spurred from an interaction with a brand. These factors can be found in a store’s layout, employee interactions, advertisements, company website or even the in-store music selection. They all affect the customer’s experience.
No matter what generation your target audience falls into, the experience you provide your customer will work toward extending the length of your relationship, and ultimately the lifetime value (LTV) of your customer.
The best example of a great brand experience is Starbucks: it has crafted an experience that successfully draws in the masses. Its customers pay a premium for a cup of coffee, not because its coffee is the best, but because customers enjoy certain aspects of the brand experience, from the feeling of being in-store to the simple act of paying with Starbucks’ intuitive mobile app and earning rewards. Starbucks has invested in a premium experience in-store and in their digital properties.
Consumers are spending more time on connected devices such as mobile phones and computers. According to eMarketer projections, U.S. adults will spend on average over five hours on their mobile devices, laptops or desktops combined every day this year. In contrast, that is one hour longer than the average time spent watching television. To further this point, Accenture reported that 87 percent of consumers use a second screen while watching TV, meaning that their focus may be on their mobile device or laptop for even longer. Consumers are spending more time on social media, watching videos (while skipping pre-roll ads), reading content or playing games.
Brands must learn how to generate quality content that is engaging, entertaining, interesting, helpful and buyer-centered, and it needs to be easily accessible on the platforms that customers are using every day. This form of advertising is hard for traditional marketers to comprehend, as you often can’t pay to get more exposure. The brand’s reach depends on the content’s quality and virality. Those that can figure out how to perfect this formula will have a higher chance of building a much stronger relationship with their target audience, gaining increased exposure in the process.
Consumers want to see brands that have a bigger mission than just selling their products or services: they should stand by their mission and bring more value to the world. Brands of all sizes struggle with honing in on their mission and communicating it clearly to their customers.
While you want to be a lot of things to your audience, I challenge you to focus your energy on just one thing, and do that well. What was the original idea that started your company? What was the founding members’ core mission? Revive those values, boil them down to a single big idea, and put everything you’ve got behind ensuring that everything your brand does supports that specific mission and purpose.
Today’s consumers want to find quality in all aspects of a brand, from its content, to its marketing, to its social responsibility, right down to the way it treats its employees. Consumers are now paying closer attention than ever, and they have the tools needed to spread the word, whether their remarks are positive or negative. If a customer has a bad experience, leaving a review on Yelp is only a touchscreen away.
Every company should do a brand audit of all aspects and ensure that their brand material adheres to this new standard. Doing so will ensure your brand is serving customers as best you can.
Becoming digitally savvy is tricky, especially for smaller brands. But because consumers are digital natives, every brand should take a mobile-first approach to every digital experience, ranging from the images you post on social media down to your website. Be mindful of how your audience will be viewing your branded content and what functionality they will find valuable.
If your website is not built responsively and you are postponing rebuilding your site, move that to the top of your to-do list. A mobile-friendly website can spell out the difference between a prospect finding what they are looking for, and the same user becoming so frustrated that they leave and decide to purchase from your competitor.
Hone in on these key characteristics at your company to attract new consumers and create a stronger brand.