Consumers make choices based on feelings. These feelings aren’t hollow. They arise from deeply felt emotion, based on how the services and products they purchase connect with their personal values and aspirations.
Value determines the relevance and attractiveness of brands. This insight is true for both personal and business brands. Since a brand is the sum of the experience consumers derive when relating with a product, an organization or a person, the intensity and importance of that experience ultimately determines the brand’s overall likability. That has great commercial implication for sustenance in the long term.
Therefore a brand cannot afford to be hollow. Built into the brand’s core must be deep human attributes that resonate with the target market. In fact, the question of strategic traits comes in here.
It should be seen this way. If your product or your organization is a human friend, what characteristics (i.e. a way of behaving, a way of reasoning, a way of relating with others) would you appreciate in that friend?
Meanwhile, this is not just a question of personality alone. The whole approach calls for a strategic architecture to ensure the traits drilled into the core of the business and its personnel match the expectation of operating environment or market.
Many businesses in Africa and Asia fail in that regard. They don’t take the time to draw up cogent road maps into the minds of the target market. If consumers cannot perceive a differentiating but likeable trait in your business or products, it is just a matter of time before clients retreat, and distributors stop yielding their precious shelf space to your products.
A business can’t connect with its market without exhibiting some shared attributes. Essentially without those shared attributes, the market and the business will continue to be two opposing ends – some sort of misfit.
It is first about the market. What is its state? What is missing in it, emotionally and physically? How can your business adopt a positioning that would provide a solution to the felt dissatisfaction or discomfort in the market? For real, these are no marketing questions. They are strategic questions.
A lot of marketing questions end up hurting a brand. But strategic questions probe deeper, and mostly adopt long term views.
Deploying a strategic approach to building a business is like raising a child for a favorable future. It is first ensuring that enduring traits that suit and will help dominate the generation are built into him or her.
Diana O’ Brien, CMO at Deloitte, said this approach is ‘to get people to understand that everything we are on the inside will in fact show up on the outside’.
She added, ‘so let’s try to make those two experiences the same; we‘re not perfect, but let’s at least have some aspirations about where we want to go and why we want to go there’.
That is how to build a brand – like having a sense of purpose, a sense of destiny. That is how the Peak Milk brand has endured by being ‘inspirational’. That is how Nike grew by making its shoes look like the only reasons dreams come true. That is how Apple rose from mere functional products to becoming products for self expression through rare blend of art and tech.
However, it takes serious internal marketing to business into a brand. That is the perspective of Diana O’Brien of Deloitte as mentioned earlier. A brand can be empathetic, considerate, luxurious, flamboyant, enchanting etc. This character will have to be drilled into people that work for the brand; and every communication and product must align with the select value.
How then do you build great value into your business to turn it into a strong brand? Take a human approach. The British, being overly conservative, would seem a logical example of value building and adaptation:
- Identify Purpose – More or less, your purpose for going into business will determine what you hold dear, and direct the choices you make. The British won’t choose to be less conservative soon. Why? The British always want to have a sense of control and self-dependence. It is what drove ‘Brexit’ discourse; it was the trait that led to the conquest of colonies in the 1800s; it is the reason why London is a finance hub for the rest of the world. For every Briton, this won’t change easily. It has the same implication for organizations and individuals who, inevitably, would have to make choices regarding products, communication, recruitment, partnership, promotion, extension and more.
- Be Sensitive To Target – At a time of intense uprising against imperial colonialists the British decided to adapt their strategies for colonizing its colonies. Winston Churchill, a former Prime Minster of Britain, said colonialism of the future would not be about taking over territories, but more colonizing the mind. He was right. Britain pulled out of India, Africa and many of its former colonies though not without violence. Today, Britain is still colonizing the world – you speak English, you wear ties, you drink tea in a hot sun etc. The British knew that was the appropriate approach for its future market. Organizations, in building and adapting values must have this sort of mentality. They must be sensitive to their target market. When organizational value or product value fails to align with market value there will be a disconnection.
- Build Relevant Values That Resonate With Target & In Tandem With Defined Purpose – London (city) and The Premiership (soccer) are two great British products that resonate with the global market. This is no happenstance. It is a result of strategic planning. London is multiracial and hardly is there a race that is not comfortable living there. Since the talk of ‘Brexit’ began, isn’t it amazing that most of European Union’s agencies and businesses headquartered in London haven’t found a suitable city in Europe to consider for profitable relocation? Frankfurt and Paris didn’t even come close. The same goes for The Premiership. The league built on speed to differentiate it from the likes of the dull but skillful Primera Liga (soccer, Spanish product). The league is like a vitamin to arouse action; more like taking a pill to stay active. Check the packed viewing houses when a game is on. Presently, its TV revenue from broadcasting is higher than any other league in the world.
- Leverage Your Value – No branding work can make any meaningful impact without communication and relationship. Whatever value you have built, always seek a way to create contact for consumers to feel the impact of that value. That is the reason behind the concept of products’ ‘Experience Center’. As well, brands will have to be media-active to win enough shares of mind and voice. It comes via events, advertising and many experiential activities and participation in trade shows. No one does Public Relations better than the British. You want to know why the BBC is more popular than the VOA. That is the reason. Britain pushes itself forward although in subtle ways.