For many businesses, brand isn’t a priority. In some cases, the concept of brand and what it can do is too abstract to be of use. For them a brand is simply something that “is,” reflecting the sum total of their product, their customer experience, and the messaging and visuals that have been put in the marketplace. These businesses often struggle to find connections with an audience, and eventually fade into a sea of lookalike competitors, fighting to show what makes them different from every other similar business in the eyes of the consumer.
Successful business, therefore, realize that the customer experience and perceptions can be tightly controlled and planned in such a way that their brand is seen as a different choice, or even the only correct choice for their customer base. In fact, the customer is where it all starts. In working to understand a customer base and what drives them, and in crafting a selective, finely-tuned experience to excite and engage that customer, a business takes the first steps and goes from being just another industry competitor to being the best choice for a particular type of customer to make.
The best brands understand the value of knowing their customer. There is nothing more valuable to a business’s brand marketing efforts than having a deep understanding of what their customer cares about. What are their hopes and dreams? What are their goals? What frustrates them, and what keeps them from choosing between one company and the competition? This kind of deep-dive mentality, getting to know the core audience and using that knowledge to connect with them on their level is what separates the wannabes from the greatest brands. Only when a business truly knows their audience can they inspire that audience and create the kind of message and content that resonates and motivates them.
To understand the real impact of knowing an audience and building a brand around their values, consider the well-known Ford F-150 brand vs the Chevy Silverado brand. Ford builds its brand on rugged grit, on toughness. Messaging and advertising for the F-150 is focused on strength, hard work, and getting the job done – core values of truck owners. The visual style of the brand presents the messaging in a way that reflects these values. Many F-150 ads also mention fuel economy, towing capacity, and other product specifications, but this is not the focus. Chevy Silverado ads, conversely, position themselves as “the most dependable, longest-lasting trucks on the road,” which speak well of a passive trait, but are more refined in their presentation and speak less of the values that resonate with the core audience. Is it any surprise then, that F-150s outsold Silverados in 2015 by nearly 100,000 units? Great branding isn’t the only reason Ford was successful, but a great brand creates demand and moves the bottom line.
What all of this comes down to is, the core of branding is about knowing an audience better than they know themselves. When a brand knows exactly what their customer cares about and creates messaging that shows they care about those things too, the market rewards them. The biggest failure of a brand is one that tries to position to sell to anyone and everyone. At best this lack of focus creates unpredictable results, and at worst it dilutes the message and fails to connect or resonate with any audience at all. A simple rule of thumb: Ensure the message speaks to someone, or it’s speaking to no one.
When branding, it is the responsibility of the business to communicate the values and the life-changing opportunity their product or service provides. It is their responsibility to show the prospective customer that they truly “get” what it is that their audience cares about most. The simple truth about why branding works is that customers by and large don’t care about the business itself. They care first and foremost about the change and improvement that the business’s offerings will bring to their lives. Only after this need is satisfied or exceeded does the customer form a connection with a brand and what that company stands for. When a business takes careful consideration of this and builds themselves into more than just another similar company as a dozen other competitors, they then build themselves into a successful brand; one worth the time and attention of their customers amid a sea of infinite alternatives.