What is brand? Why do some brands resonate with us? How do we form perceptions about some brands being better than others without having tried the products or services of either? As marketers, we work to achieve brand images that inspire the thoughts, emotions and actions of our target customers. This is no small task.
The BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013 report showcases the most valued brands from diverse categories. There are some common features that illustrate how marketers can build brands that motivate.
Be meaningfully different:
The brand guidance framework developed by Millward Brown states the next generation marketers need to develop meaning, differentiate themselves and create salience to create a successful brand.
The report notes that consumers will stay loyal if they feel they are getting the best. Brands that anticipate and meet consumers' needs before they even begin to realize them appeal the most. They are ahead of competitors and set the pace by foreseeing the changing ecosystem. These brands drive current and future sales. Apple tops the chart as it perfectly represents a "meaningfully different" brand.
Be in sync with what's trending:
One thing that every brand fears the most is the loss of relevance. IBM's "Smarter Planet" reinvention is in sync with today's audience. Coca Cola's "Happiness Campaign" is another example of a brand that has remained relevant. Continued evolution is essential to be in tune with changing aspirations and priorities of consumers.
To be able to effectively modify your value proposition, you could partner with others. For example, in 2012, the Integrated Solutions and National Automotive Team at the Toronto Star had the opportunity to work with Nissan Canada and its agencies (OMD and TBWA) to develop an innovative advertising program. Common themes were developed for content, consistent technology was used for augmented reality and timing was coordinated across newspapers and out-of-home to achieve maximum impact. The award-winning results illustrate how newspapers can integrate both print and digital to deliver maximum returns for advertisers' brand building initiatives.
Value the users and not the products:
To create brand that your consumers look up to, start thinking from their perspective as early as the product planning stage. All your strategies, resources and actions need to be directed toward providing the highest level of satisfaction for customers. Your messaging should center on people who use the products you are selling and never on the items themselves. The consumers are the heroes of the story, not the brand or the products. This way, the brand and users become one.
Be available wherever your consumers are:
Among the biggest stories in this year's BrandZ ranking of the world's top 100 valuable brands is Amazon's gain over Walmart. With a brand value of $45.7 billion, Amazon saw its value grow by 34%. What differentiated Amazon from Walmart and the rest of its competitors was accessibility at every touch point. The multi-channel company spread its reach to all the different ways customers consume media to build a bond between them and the brand.
Stay true to your word:
Building a brand takes a long time and the way your company behaves today contributes to building goodwill now and into the future. Through today's technology, actions are assessed immediately and the word spreads faster than ever. What you stand for as a company is a valuable component of a good reputation. SAP is rated in the BrandZ™ research as being particularly responsible as a company. But be careful of dressing up your offerings without backing them up by performance or you will create mistrust.
Keep a consistent voice in all interactions:
The best brand voices sound and feel like people, not like corporations or mission statements. They give personality to brands and make content easier to believe. Your brand's tone guides and filters what you say and how you say it. If it is at odds with your marketing, you won't be able to make an emotional connection with your customers.
Verizon is what BrandZ classifies as a "king"—a brand that is assertive and in control but wise, desirable and trustworthy.
Be clear to connect better:
Branding needs to be clearly focused to form instant connections with audiences. It is better to concentrate on what you do best than trying to impress everyone. This does not mean limiting opportunities but rather carving out specific niches to differentiate.
One of the finest examples is McDonald's tagline "I'm Lovin' It". The campaign launched in 2003 and is still active in 2013, with the brand at number 4 on BrandZ's Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands. The company doesn't promise any benefits from eating the food other than you love it every time you eat it. It's simple, clear and right on target.
How have you developed your brand strategy? What do you think resonates with your customers?