Branding is the process of influencing how your customers perceive you. It’s influencing what people say about your company when you’re not in the room and is not something that you can cultivate overnight.
If you get brand building right it can lead to enormous company growth. However, the strategies for strong brand growth aren’t stagnant, they are constantly changing. Customers’ tastes change, technology landscapes are constantly evolving and new products and brands are entering the market at an increasing pace.
We have reached an inflection point in marketing strategy. Up until recently, broadcast television has been an incredibly powerful tool in developing and growing a brand. In fact, it was so powerful that many mediocre products were far outperforming brilliant products due to big marketing budgets being ploughed into advertising.
However, today’s consumers are far wiser to the tactics of advertisers and the impact of advertising isn’t as potent as it once was. This plus the rising media fees and increased media formats makes traditional advertising a less appealing avenue to build a brand.
So then move to digital advertising. We take many of the same principles from broadcast advertising and apply them to modern media. And this does work, very well, but there’s a catch. It’s easy to do – so it’s a crowded space, with little differentiation. When you boil it down to its basics, digital advertising is a tax. By that we mean, it’s a must have if you wish to compete in today’s market, not a point of differentiation.
So what’s the solution? Where do we turn to truly drive brand growth and differentiation? We look beyond traditional tools, and we look wider. We look beyond pre-purchase to the purchase and post-purchase areas of the customer journey.
The purchase, pre purchase and post-purchase phases are all parts of the consumer buying process and represent the different points along the purchasing lifecycle in which your consumers engage with your brand.
Pre-purchase is the part of the purchasing cycle before the consumer decides to buy. They may be aware of the industry and your brand, but have not made a cognitive decision around making a purchase. To influence consumers in this section of the lifecycle we can employ tactics such as advertising, trade shows, events, sponsorships, social media, PR etc. When it comes to the best in the business in this part of the cycle we can look at Tesla (PR) and Nike (multiple touchpoints) as top of the class.
The next section, purchase, is the part of the process where the consumer is actively looking to purchase, at this point they may be engaging with your sales team, are in your stores and making the physical purchase. To influence this area of the lifecycle we can look at improving our distribution, packaging, store design, user reviews, user generated content and financing packages. A key winner in this category is Apple, their packaging and store experience is second to none, driving staggering perceived value for their products.
And lastly we have post-purchase, this is the part of the lifecycle after the purchase has been made. Key tactics in this section include customer service, loyalty programs and market leading warranties. A fantastic example of exemplary tactics in this section is FedEx investing money into packaging tracking technology. Knowing your package is on it’s way and is on time relieves mental stress for customers and therefore delivers fantastic value. These efforts are incredibly important in driving brand loyalty and word of mouth.
In the heyday of broadcast advertising, pre-purchase is where the majority of brands were built. Brands such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble used their superior size and budgets to launch product after product with a strong advertising backing. And it worked. However, in more modern times there has been a shift, away from pre-purchase and into the purchase and post-purchase sections of the consumer journey.
Why is this important? Because the hardest part about brand-building isn’t deciding what to do; it’s deciding what not to do. You have to put the customer at the centre of your thinking and look at the brand holistically, look at the competitors and think “Where is the opportunity? Where with our limited time and budget can we become world class?”. In today’s world those opportunities increasingly exist within the purchase and post purchase areas of the customer lifecycle. In fact, within leading brands, more and more budget is being allocated away from advertising and towards the purchase and post-purchase sections.
In an extreme example, Tesla has grown into one of the world’s most recognisable and successful brands…. without spending a single dollar on advertising. Instead, Tesla chooses creative tactics such as opening stores that mimic luxury fashion brands to broadcasting eccentric launch events. In doing so, Tesla has experienced enormous growth, taking over the automotive industry, and forcing their competitors to follow suit.
Tesla is an extreme example. Advertising can work well but needs to be one part of a broader brand building strategy. You must think more creatively and laterally. Put your customers at the centre of your thinking and ask yourself, what would add the most value? What would make them want to share our product with their friends? How do we add value and improve the customer experience along numerous touch points? How do we earn their attention, time and loyalty?
P.S. If you would like help with your brand strategy, book in your free strategy session with a Tiny Hunter Strategist.