Build Your Brand
Building awareness is job number one. Obviously, your target audience has to know that you are around. Today’s multimedia world makes building awareness less expensive but perhaps more challenging than ever. You don’t have to use traditional broadcast and print media anymore, which can get very expensive. Digital and social media marketing is affordable, even for small companies, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the constant, ubiquitous bombardment of marketing messages over countless digital and social media platforms (and growing). It used to be just television, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines, now we see advertising on all our digital, social or gaming medium of choice.
Get creative with awareness building. Use a mix of advertising as well as other digital/social and non-social/digital tactics (e.g. event participation or sponsorship) to get your name out there. And most importantly, make sure that you have a message that differentiates you and separates you from the pack.
The holy grail of awareness is becoming the category; like Kleenex, Q-Tips, Jell-O, etc. (who calls them facial tissue, cotton swabs or gelatin?) The next best thing is that you become top of mind – your brand is the first to be recalled when a consumer is asked about brands in a specific category. It takes a lot of creativity and hard work to get there, but you can do it.
High Perceived Quality/Value
High perceived quality/value is critical. It is the one aspect of a brand that potentially increases ROI – simply said, you can charge more for products and services if quality perception is high. But you have to make sure it quality is on a dimension that is appreciated by the consumer. Rolex is an example of a brand that carries high perceived quality and I have my own case study to share. It speaks to the importance of consumer appreciation of perceived quality in a particular product benefit.
My grandfather gave me a Rolex Cellini watch as a gift when I was in high school – it was a beautiful timepiece that I lost years later when I was living in the Dominican Republic – but that’s a whole different story. Back to the quality story. I also had a relatively inexpensive quartz watch at the time. The quartz watch was more accurate than the Rolex. So I deduced that Rolex was not so high quality at all – accuracy was the dimension on which I judged quality.
At the time I didn’t know that the Rolex mechanical movement was handmade; that a lot of craftsmanship goes into making the watch; that the watch was solid gold and had the highest-quality parts and, most importantly, quartz watches are almost always more accurate than mechanical watches. I only appreciated the accuracy, so everything else that defines Rolex quality was irrelevant to me at that time. The other issue as you can see, which also affects perceived quality, is that I didn’t have all the information.
It’s also possible to have misconceptions about quality if there are previous poor-quality perceptions of the brand. It is difficult to recover from low perceived quality/value, but not impossible. Two automobile brands come to mind – Audi and Hyundai. Both have bounced back well to overcome negative quality perceptions.
So when you build quality into a product or service you offer, and communicate it, make sure that you can back it up. Also, confirm that it is important to and appreciated by your customers, and ensure that customers have all the information they need to surmise that high quality is an integral part of your brand.
Your image is simply a set of connotations consumers have of your brand. It starts with the product but it goes far beyond product quality, features, attributes, uses and users. Remember that emotional and self expressive benefits are important image components too. Why do you think a luxury brand like Louis Vuitton can splash their logo on many of the products they make and price their goods so expensively?
Think about the brand as the company. What does the company stand for? Is it innovative, concerned about the consumer, trustworthy, etc.? The company is part of the brand.
What the brand would be like as a person is also an important consideration. I use an exercise in focus groups that gets to the heart of this matter. I simply ask participants to draw a picture of and describe the brand in question if he/she were to walk through the door. Male or female? How are they dressed? What is their personality like; friendly, standoffish, etc.? The exercise is extremely revealing.
And don’t forget your mark, brand mark that is. What does your mark say about the brand? What does it do for the brand? The goal is to make it iconic like the golden arches or the Mercedes Benz logo. Make sure your mark supports the brand as it is an integral part of it.
Breeding loyalty is perhaps the most difficult to achieve with so many choices and the supposed disregard of brands by millennials. But it is critical, as repeat business is more profitable than new business. There are several ways to achieve it. First is by having high perceived quality and a compelling brand image – this is the base. Second is to have a close and meaningful relationship with customers. And lastly, there are tactics that can be employed, such as rewards programs or clubs, that may keep customers coming back.
I am loyal to a few brands. One of them is Oakley. I buy only Oakley sunglasses. In my mind, they are an ideal blend of function and fashion, which suits my style. They have high perceived value – they are not the cheapest sunglasses in the world but they are extremely durable and stay in style. As a person I think of Oakley as cool and laid back – not that I am, but this provides self expressive benefits. And lastly, they have a good loyalty program.