Welcome to the final installment of our four-part series on consumer brand relationships. This segment covers the essential things you should consider when marketing your brand, including consumer behavior, choice architecture, network effects, and strategic inflection points. Earlier editions of this blog series include Brand Loyalty, Brand Disloyalty, Brand Habits and Emotional Brand Loyalty, and Mapping the Consumer Brand Journey.
What does your brand need to consider in order to remain relevant in the marketplace? Regardless of your size or industry, there are essential steps that every brand must consider, practice, and act upon routinely. And you need to be poised to act upon an opportunity that presents itself or miss out altogether. Being first to market, or launching with a discounted price, might capture your consumers’ attention and garner sales initially. However, sustaining that momentum until it becomes a dominant cumulative advantage requires that your brand mindfully design for your consumers’ behaviors and habits.
Facebook: the epitome of a brand integrating with consumer behavior
Every new feature or format Facebook introduces is done incrementally, with a very conscious effort to make the user experience uniform, especially in the evolution to mobile platforms. This includes the appropriation of popular and familiar features from other social platforms. They’ve occasionally endured the protests of millions when introducing new features, and yet, their users stay. 1.15 billion of them log on addictively through their mobile devices each day. Facebook is the ultimate case of successfully developing a cumulative competitive advantage.
Design for human behavior—and that might not be logical. Consider the role of choice architecture.
‘Choice Architecture’ is a way of serving up options and choices that deliberately steer a consumer towards a particular option. For example, if consumers view a range of presented options as fairly equal, they’ll most often opt for the option presented as the selected default, vs. taking active steps or effort to intentionally choose another option.
Additionally, customers are more likely to select options they view as most beneficial to them in the short-term present, even if it has a less positive impact on the future outcome for them. If an option you’re promoting has a good long-term benefit for your consumer, emphasize for them the positive outcome of making that choice.
Name that brand in one note.
Neuroscientist Moshe Bar says, “When we look at something, the brain asks, ‘what is this?’ But really it’s asking ‘what is this like?” We’re constantly matching the sensory information we’re receiving with the database of our previous experiences and knowledge. “This rapid prediction process is the mental equivalent of the old game show Name That Tune. The more you’ve heard the song, the fewer notes it takes to recognize it. The less energy required to recognize something, the better. The goal of the marketer is to get the consumer to buy that brand in just one note.”
This can also be referred to as “perceptual priming”, the learned cues our brains use to determine if we’re looking at something familiar or new. Comfortable, reinforced buying decisions will beat new alternatives that require research and/or new behavior habits.
We’re living in a new world order.
Consumers now engage with brands in a participatory way. With the advent of the internet, followed by the lifestyle adoption of mobile devices, people not only engage with each other differently, they engage differently with their brands. For them, it’s personal, in both directions. It’s important that you listen—and act on—the insights and feedback you receive.
There’s value in network effects. Let’s share.
Information and technology have shifted corporate power from the traditional model of ‘buy this’ consumerism to a model of shared access to assets. The value is in the collaborative network of shared information, assets, and the consumer base. Think of the online consumer reviews you might consider when making a purchase. “…the more customers a company has, the more valuable it is to each additional customer. In such cases being an early mover can result in a formidable advantage.”
When physical goes digital.
Companies can find their competitive strengths compromised by someone who’s digitized their physical business or service. “Apple and Google didn’t necessarily intend to disrupt point-and-shoot cameras, stand-alone GPS devices, TV advertising, or the Weather Channel, but they did so nonetheless.”
Walmart’s promise of an “Everyday Low Price” is under assault by Amazon, who’s aggressively engaging in a price war with the retail giant over many consumer packaged goods brands, the mainstay of Walmart’s business. In response, Walmart is rumored to have set a goal to offer the lowest price on 80 percent of its sales. Good for consumers, not so much for suppliers.
AirBnb was cited by Forbes as one of the most innovative and disruptive brands of the year in 2015. A master of content marketing and storytelling, AirBnb uses print tactics, economic impact studies, social media, consumer footage and emotive stories to solidify their brand relationship with consumers, neighborhoods, and city governments.
Strategic inflection points. The game changers.
‘Strategic inflection points’ refers to pivotal times when a business landscape radically changes and presents new opportunities. These times are not always readily apparent. New technologies may weaken traditional barriers, allowing new business models to take hold quickly.
Consider these four key launches in the span of four years:
2004 Facebook, launched by college students.
2005 YouTube, started by three PayPal employees.
2006 Amazon Web Services launched. A game changer.
2007 the iPhone and Android operating systems were commercially released. A life changer.
The unprecedented level of access and assets now available to everyone means that anyone with an idea and some programming knowledge can take on a global giant. And sometimes they can upend that giant very quickly, and with limited financing.
Case Study Inspiration: Dollar Shave Club
Starting in 2003, razors became the most shoplifted item in the world. It’s a high demand item, and small enough for thieves to steal easily. Stores took the logical step of locking them up. Here’s what wasn’t on anyone’s radar: a newly formed opportunity. Consumer buying behavior and habits were disrupted. And into the void stepped DollarShaveClub.com. The inflection point. Dollar Shave’s brand promise was simple: quality razors for a low price, delivered to your door automatically. Could it be any simpler? They launched a funny and entertaining YouTube video. They promoted themselves through social media, reaching 20 million people in a matter of weeks, at a minimal cost. And they developed a legion of enthusiastic brand ambassadors in the process.
Fast forward to 2016. Unilever, ready to take on Gillette, bought Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion dollars. Cash. Dollar Shave Club was then poised to promote other men’s hair care and bath products to their loyal fan base.
The following items are the ten key points to routinely consider when launching, promoting, or sustaining your brand. We live in a world where every company, large or small, must make ongoing efforts to keep their brand relevant and relatable for their customer base. The key essential points every brand player needs to keep in mind at all times.
10 Key Brand Essential Takeaways
- Make your brand the obvious and easy choice.
- Make your brand the unconscious choice.
- Build an emotional connection with your consumers.
- Deliver on your brand’s promise.
- Reward consumer loyalty.
- Review the brand journey—the Consumer Experience (CX)—of your brand regularly.
- Monitor consumer engagement across platforms
- Leverage the data collected.
- Acknowledge and respond to what all your stakeholders are telling you.
- Constantly assess the competitive landscape.
Over to You
Do any innovative brands or brand initiatives come to mind? We’d love to hear about any recent marketing initiative that caught your attention and made an impression. How did it land on your personal radar?