Has it ever felt like your marketing efforts seem to be an endless money pit, full of frustration and disappointment?
You’re not alone. As a marketing company, many businesses have come to us with the same problem, and in all honesty, that was our own experience in our efforts to help them.
In our heart of hearts, we genuinely wanted to help our customers grow their businesses but instead, we ended up feeling like imposters.
We did our best to come up with clever marketing tactics, catchy slogans, and eye-catching designs, but our attempts seemed hollow and impotent.
That feeling of discontent is what drove us to try and understand what we were missing. To cut a long story short, the answer was quite simple in its complexity…
… the world had changed, and we needed to as well.
In the digital age, consumers found their voice. The internet gave them the power to decide for themselves and no longer be dictated to by brands through mass marketing.
They wanted brands to listen to what they wanted. Consumers didn’t care about clichéd features, benefits, and sales messages.
And yet, that's how many brands market their products and services to this very day.
Tired of having the wool pulled over their eyes, consumers were looking to align themselves with brands who understood them. Purposeful brands, with substance, authenticity, and empathy.
And so, the way we understood “brand” needed to change. It became clear to us that a brand was not a logo, a product, an experience or any of the other many definitions out there.
A brand is a human relationship an organisation has with its audience.
For this reason, brands need a strategy to connect with their audience and nurture sustainable relationships for business growth.
A brand strategy is a critical foundation that provides the insights, strategies, and systems to express the human connection in our marketing.
Brand purpose is the inner belief of why a business does what it does apart from making money. It makes what the business does meaningful and if lived out authentically, can have a massive positive effect on company culture and camaraderie.
Brand purpose is also about businesses listening to the wants of their audience and aligning the brand’s purpose with their beliefs. This builds trust and ultimately fosters a connection between the two.
More and more, consumers are wanting to align with brands who have a purpose, not just its features, benefits, products, services or even price. That’s why brand purpose is becoming more relevant in modern branding.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”- Simon Sinek
Vodacom’s purpose statement is: “We connect for a better future”. It's easy to understand how their purpose has the power to attract and earn the loyalty of consumers who believe in the capability of technology and connectivity to transform communities for the better. Especially against the backdrop of poverty and social ills that plague South African society.
Another example of shared beliefs between a brand and its audience is Tesla. Their audience is drawn to their cause to do good in the world by manufacturing zero-emissions vehicles on the cutting edge of the clean energy revolution.
Although brand values are first and foremost an internal component of your brand strategy, their consistent reflection in your brand’s external behaviour is of utmost importance to your audience’s perception of your brand.
With people now looking to build relationships with more authentic brands as previously mentioned, consistent behaviour in marketing that’s aligned with your values helps to solidify that authenticity, building trust and loyalty as natural by-products.
What you stand for and the core beliefs underpinned in your values can also build strong emotional connections with your audience through marketing.
Under Armour’s values creatively expressed in their “I will what I want” campaign won over a new target market that previously rejected the brand. According to Droga5, the ad agency in charge of the campaign, it resulted in 1.5 billion impressions and helped lead to a 28% increase in sales for Under Armour.
Since the modern brand is essentially the relationship between a business and its audience, it goes without saying that knowing your brand audience more intimately is high on the priority list.
It’s not enough to know their demographics or LSM (Living Standards Measure). Stepping into their psyche is the key to building human connections and nurturing relationships with them.
What are your customers’ pain points, desires, obsessions, and world views? Understanding these psychological traits are key to taking an empathetic approach in your marketing.
Why? Because it builds trust.
This approach to marketing is statistically backed in digital marketing strategies like Inbound Marketing which at its very heart is based on empathy.
According to Spotio: “When asked which marketing tactic provides higher quality leads for the sales team, 59% of marketers responded inbound, and 16% reported outbound.”
Outbound marketing is very much one-way communication with an audience. While inbound marketing embraces modern human conversations between brands and audiences in the digital age.
In this example, Dove empathises with its audience’s human struggle of low self-esteem. It’s a sign that they have listened to the emotional pains and desires of their audience which in turn inspired their “Real Beauty” campaign to encourage empowerment and self-belief.
Brand positioning is about designing a brand’s offer and image so that it occupies a distinct and memorable place in the mind of your audience.
As an example, try to think of three luxury fashion brands for women. You may think of names like Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, and Valentino. Now think of more affordable fashion brands for women. Here we may come up with brands like Everlane, Pact or Universal Standard.
Whatever brands you thought of in each scenario, they occupy a certain place in your mind for terms like “affordable” or “luxury”.
And that’s what brand positioning is all about.
What brands attempt to do with their positioning strategy, is to influence where their audience positions their brand in their mind through their messaging.
Your brand positioning strategy should be to attempt to influence where your audience positions your brand in their mind through your messaging. It should be a completely unique box altogether. One not owned by your competitors.
If you started your own luxury women's clothing brand you may find it difficult to find traction and stand out from the crowd in an already noisy market. None of the luxury brands mentioned occupy their own box. They’re all fighting over the same slice of the pie.
The goal of positioning is to get your audience to remember your brand for the one thing you want to be known for. As a business, you can do many things for many people, but you want to be known for one thing. Not one product or one service - one idea.
You want to separate yourself from the noise in the market so that you don’t need to shout. All that it would take to stand out from your screaming competitors is simply to say what you do differently.
One of the best examples of a positioning strategy was from a brand that differentiated themselves simply through their messaging.
In 1962, Hertz was by far the biggest car rental company in the US. After losing money to Hertz consistently, AVIS knew that going toe to toe with them was a losing battle.
One day, when a senior manager at Avis asked why anyone rented cars from them in the first place, the response was, “We Try Harder”. This ended up sticking and it resulted in Avis positioning themselves in the following way: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars So we try harder.”
This inspired many campaigns including the “We can’t afford campaign,” which suggested that they could not give anything except exceptional service for risk of losing their customers’ business.
Avis’s positioning strategy helped them steal market share back from Hertz, going from a 3.2 million dollar loss to 1.2 million dollar profit in 1962.
With brands needing to adapt to become more human in the digital age, it’s become imperative that they learn how to communicate to their audience and not at them. There’s a big difference.
They needed to develop human characteristics like attitudes, opinions, language, tone and outlook on the world.
Have you ever met someone for the first time and after a few minutes of conversation it felt like you’d known that person your whole life? That’s because humans are attracted to certain personality traits based on their own personalities.
If I display a characteristic you’re attracted to and vice versa - we’re going to have a connection.
Likewise, people connect or resonate at an emotional level with brands when they experience certain characteristics or behaviours.
But how do we determine which human personality traits we should express in the conversations with our audience?
In modern branding, the framework of the archetypes is commonly used as a system to identify personality traits that will resonate with a brand’s audience.
Archetypes are a collection of 12 core personalities which are the foundation for all human personalities. Each one personifies a specific collection of characteristics that evoke a very specific desire.
Although archetypes have been around for millennia, the term “archetypes” was first coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Yung and later popularised in the branding world by Margaret Mark’s book “The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes”
“Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey a meaning that makes customers relate to a product as if it actually were alive in some way, they have a relationship with it and care about it.”- Margaret Mark
When, as a person or brand we know the desires that someone has and therefore the characteristics they’re attracted to, we’re in a hugely advantageous position to resonate with them.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Hopefully, this article has highlighted how critical it is to begin any marketing exercise with a brand strategy in place, particularly in the digital age.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.