In a world where everyone is competing for the same customer, how to do organisations make winning decisions and ensure that their brand is elevated above the competition?
It is surprising how many organisations will march head on into a branding exercise without first understanding who their customers are, what motivates them to buy and why they come to them.
The brands that capture the mind of their customers and elevate themselves above the status of average, building consistent loyalty amongst their customers and are the ones which are winning now and will win in the long-term.
The Ingredients of a Super-Brand
The status of ‘Super-Brand’ is not exclusive to companies like Apple and Google - ‘cool tech’ companies that everyone loves - all companies have the potential to elevate their brand to that status within their market.
During a recent visit to a bank in the Capital, I was surprised to hear a Senior Executive tell me that he could never see his organisation being like Apple or Google. Perhaps he is a realist however, when I heard this, I wondered how his shareholders would have reacted. I firmly believe that every organisation has the potential to have a great brand. So what holds companies like this back?
In my twenty years in this business, the answer is crystal clear to me:
‘A poor understanding of customers, ill-informed decision making, poor internal culture, poor motivation, a lack of creativity, a culture of fear and fear of change, poor leadership and poor governance.’
Organisations must confront the brutal facts. Ask, does my organisation have any of these qualities? If so, is there an appetite for change and what is needed to deliver this?
Take the bank I visited. When asked ‘So who are your customers?’ I was told ‘Everyone is a customer’, when asked ‘What do your customers like?’ I was told ‘Well, they are just like you and me, they like the stuff we like’. Clearly there is a disconnect between the business and their customers in this example. If organisations are to build Brands that win, they must invest in research, constant research to understand who their customers are. This is not a once only exercise, it is a constant process, in which a clear and developing understanding of who customers are is formed. They must build ‘Bullet Proof’ strategies that configure their organisation for success. This is the first step.
Once they have identified who their customers are, the next challenge is speaking to them in a language they understand. To do this, organisations must understand customer lifestyle choices, what motivates the decisions they make, businesses must empower their brands to make their customers lives better.
Be Fearless and Confront the Brutal FactsUnderstand what is working about your Brand and how it communicates. Understand which messages are getting through – these will be reflected in sales figures; experiment, try different things in your advertising keep detailed and accurate records of what is working and what is not.
Now, some would say this is a formulaic path to success and they would be right. So, is this all it takes to be a winner? No it is not.
What makes companies like Apple and Google Super-Brands? Not only do they connect with their customers in a profound way, they are creative within the realm of understanding their customers. Designers are not designing for themselves, they are designing for their customers. A passionate, disciplined creativity abounds in these organisations. The magic of science is transformed into products and services that are loved. This is the genius of Jonathan Ive, Lead Designer at Apple, and his team. This is the genius of the great Steve Jobs – not to follow the herd, but to be hungry for data, information that helps understand trends, opportunities and threats and mix this with amazing creative skills, a culture of exploration, innovation and challenge.
So, can the Bank I visited build a brand that is a great as Apple. There is no doubt it can, but how? The answer is simple conduct detailed, repeat research to understand customers, build an entrepreneurial, disciplined culture and find the next Jonathan Ive. It’s so easy everyone should be doing it!