In this opinion piece, Veronika Birnkammer (pictured below), marketing director at Fluent Commerce for Australia and New Zealand, provides some tips on how marketers can help build a brand that offers more than just products and services.
Google knows everything, doesn’t it? But what does Google actually do and how does it make money? These are some of the questions I field regularly from non-tech savvy friends and family.
It’s not just the older generations who might lose track of who does what and who sells what in today’s business landscape. It seems that everyone is in everyone else’s pockets. For instance, Apple is no longer just a computer and phone brand, but is expanding into cars. Amazon is not an online bookstore – it is selling virtually anything you can think of, streaming TV content and providing a variety of business solutions as well. Banks are investing heavily in software and digital services. The list of businesses choosing to bust out of their corner of the business world is endless.
The sectors that once defined business are increasingly weaving together and blurring the lines. This inevitably leads to confusion for customers, making it even more important for brand marketers to be able to differentiate and succinctly explain what the vision and value of their business is.
Bruce Barton, a 1920s advertising and marketing pioneer, said that the role of advertising was to help corporations find their soul. By the 1940s, the search for the ‘true meaning of brands’ and the ‘brand essence’ was well under way, and the focus on products and their attributes was gone. With industries merging and flowing into each other, there is a new urgency behind this desire to build a brand that transcends product and services. Here are some thoughts on where to direct your focus to achieve this:
Focus on emotion and experience
Brand marketers, regardless of sector, need to focus on the emotion and experience around a brand, rather than a certain product or product category, so that when this expands or changes, it doesn’t have the same confusing, disruptive impact on customers. Find what the vision of your brand is beyond your product offering and stick to it. Commit to this so your range of products and services can remain fluid.
Limited options for better brand experiences
In the retail sector, we’re seeing an increasing trend towards reducing choice, offering the customer less options to avoid overwhelming the with choices and aid quick decision-making. Big department stores and small boutique providers are both culling endless options. If you invest in knowing your customer well, you can provide a unique experience that appeals to their preferences. There is value in providing a curated, limited range. This trend also extends to the food sector. The days of customers being thrilled to read through 10-page menus are well and truly over. Customers appreciate a higher quality, limited selection. It might seem counter-intuitive, but by limiting choice, you’re saving your customer time and increasing the value of your brand experience.
Demonstrate a social conscience
Having a social conscience means taking actions to genuinely benefit the environment and community. To become an integral part of the way people live their lives (which includes the shopping choices they make), it is important to focus on a brand vision that transcends the goal of revenue. Customers are increasingly supporting eco-friendly, sustainable brands that show a commitment to giving, not just taking. Internally, staff who share your vision will be more engaged in making an impact in the business and subsequently improving customer experiences.
Don’t be afraid to pivot
Often the idea of pivoting can be exaggerated. You might not need to abandon your core business, but you may benefit from spinning the brand off in a new direction. It could be a decision to specialise more, to really target your offering to meet customer demand. To stand out from the crowd, sometimes you need to do things differently to what you’ve always done.
Invest in content marketing
Finding your content niche can help you stand out on social platforms and reach your target market with useful information they value. Invest time in answering the questions that your customer service team handle regularly and make your content easy to read, interact with and share. Focus on helping, educating and differentiating your brand as a thought leader. A good example of this is athletic apparel brand Lorna Jane, which has almost 1.5 million followers on Instagram, over 1.8 million video views on YouTube, and regularly publishes original content both online and in print that educates and builds the brand’s community on topics that relate to fitness, nutrition and its products.
For brand marketers, you know when you’re succeeding when customers and key audiences begin to know who you are, rather than what do you do. With modern technology, its easier than ever to cultivate unique customer experiences beyond the products on offer and bring your brand to life.