New Year’s Resolutions: How to build a brand in 2020

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Did you know that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail? Most of them dissolve by February.

Why is that? There are many reasons that psychologists and researchers are citing, anything from lack of clarity, setting expectations too high, to the strength of the word “resolution” itself. I believe that the perceived complexity of the goal is the culprit.

So instead of talking about the vague magic that surrounds branding, I’d like to offer you 10 specific steps to building a better, stronger, and more genuine brand.

What is a brand anyway?

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stores and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Seth Godin

There are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, and 95% fail. But you are different, aren’t you? You’re better, you have a high-quality product or service that can really help people, one that can make a real difference in people’s lives. Unfortunately, the word is not getting out there. You’re not reaching the people who need to hear about you. There are so many people out there who would love what you can do for them.

The problem is, there are just too many high-quality products, that adhere to the same high-quality standards, are perfect in terms of functionality and are doing exactly the same thing. No one is paying attention because let’s be honest, no one needs another pair of sneakers, another lotion, another beard oil or another car. Once products become interchangeable, they become commodities and your only option is to be cheaper and cheaper, until the inevitable end.

In it’s core branding is the understanding of your target audience, their aspirations, hopes, and dreams and how you want them to feel about you and then working consistently and passionately to create a consistent and sustainable emotional connection with your audience over time. If you’re able to create and sustain emotional resonance, then your products enjoy the opportunity to go beyond mere commodities and transform into a true brand.

Why is branding so important?

Branding creates loyal customers by not only helping you gain new customers that recognize and choose your products over the competition but also turn your existing customers into loyal raving fans. Branding also leads to decreased price sensitivity and in turn into higher market share and improved profits.  This is because they’ve keyed into a core component of running a top-notch brand: customers get a consistent, positive emotional experience every time they interact with the company.

10 strategies for building a brand in 2020

1. Build an authentic business

In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which an individual’s actions are congruent with their beliefs and desires, despite external pressures. In branding, authenticity is the degree to witch a brand provides a consistent experience in terms of quality, values and honest business practices.

According to a research by Mintel, ethics have become increasingly important to a company’s reputation at a time when public opinion can go viral in an instant. 56% of US consumers stop buying from companies they believe are unethical. 35% of consumers stop buying from brands they perceive as unethical even if there is no substitute available and 27% will stop purchasing even if they think the competitor offers lower quality.

Even the little things count, like fake scarcity tactics like those apps showing a preprogrammed number of people “looking at your product”, fake “ends in” counters, “sustainable” brands that use plastic bags for shipping, you know the drill.

2. Give up on excessive promotional pricing

You probably think that because consumers feel strongly about prices it means that they’re looking for the cheapest price. After all, every research is telling you that price is the #1 factor that affects conversion rates and revenue. However, numerous studies in neuroscience have shown that it’s the perception of price that matters, not the price itself.

According to the Wharton School of Business Baker Retailing Center, promotions may benefit price-conscious consumers. But the practice is unhealthy for retailers, for who competing on price with deeper discounts is creating a race to the bottom, shrinking profit margins, and diminished brand value, while making the path back to growth more difficult. “Once you discount you get into this spiral because your margins get slimmer, and then you also have to sell so much more to make up for the lost margin on the price. It’s sort of this vicious cycle that you get into.”

Want to learn more on how discounts destroy your brand value?

3. Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

Let’s face it, almost all products will do what they’re supposed to do and any product you’ll choose will probably satisfy your needs. And because there are so many products to chose from with so little real functionality difference, focusing on your product attributes will lead your potential customers to analysis paralysis and to avoid making any decision and simply stick to what they know.

So how can you help consumers chose you product over another? Stop focusing on functionality and attributes. In his book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, Professor Gerald Zaltman has proven that 95% of all decisions are made subconsciously based on emotions and intangible goals that we’re trying to achieve. Successful brands become the tools with which consumers bring these feelings into their lives. Luxury brands allow us to experience self-worth, acceptance, and status. Mobile phones help us connect to friends and family. Outdoor brands inspire us by offering adventure and connection to nature. Green brands help us preserve the planet. And many other brands can help us with goals related to love, relationships, and sexual desires.   

4. Are you addicted to Digital First?

If you’re focused primarily on performance advertising are you really growing?

It is true that all brands need people to buy them and need sales activation to remind consumers and to prompt them to buy now, however sales are strongly boosted by brand building, according to Binet & Field’s research and is the main the main driver of long-term growth. Branding involves the creation of memory structures that prime consumer to want to choose your brand and that simply cannot happen at the first touchpoint of a conversion campaign focused on return on ad spend. Without branding, growth will be weaker, activation will be weaker, pricing power will not improve and profitability growth will be severely reduced.

Even the biggest brands, such as Adidas, with seemingly unlimited brand power starting to realize their over focus on ROI and performance advertising at the expense of branding has hurt both the brand value and their button line. In the last 4 years, Adidas invested 77% of its global marketing budget in performance advertising and only 23% in branding, based on the trending belief among digital advertisers that digital performance ads are the one that drive digital sales. However, the sports brand’s global media director, Simon Peel, found out that, in fact it was brand activity driving 65% of sales across wholesale, retail and ecommerce.

Binet & Field’s research recommends investing at least 60% of your budget in brand building activities and only up to 40% in performance activation.

5. Your brand is not for everyone and it’s OK

You cannot make everybody happy, after all, you’re not a Nutella jar.

One of the first questions I ask every new prospect is who is their target audience? And more often than not they explain that the product is for everyone or for men/women 21-45 years old. But when you market to everyone, you’ll effectively reach no one because such a broad definition creates a watered-down definition of your brand that no one really cares. Your brand turns into a commodity. Do you really believe that when someone buys a car or a pair of shoes, they don’t care whether it’s a Mercedes/Toyota car or Nike/Target sneakers?

When you develop your target audience you should ask yourself about your customer’s unique situation, what the need and want, and why. What they’re missing in their lives, what’s important to them, what they believe in.  Once you grow and are a known and respected brand, you can expand to appeal to more and more buyers and segments. But, the way to get there is not to try to appeal to everyone.  Instead, identify a segment of customers where you can be more specific about the needs and wants, the 100 people that adore your brand, instead of 10,000 that think it’s OK as long as it’s on sale. You ultimate goal here is to allow the minimum viable audience to self-identify that you understand them.

6. Give up the devotion to your brand book

We think our logo, color palette and font selection define our brand. We mistakenly believe that the visual aesthetics that we’ve carefully constructed to represent us are what sets us apart in the marketplace. And while that’s certainly one piece of the puzzle, your brand’s visual identity is hardly the largest or even the most important piece.  Visual markers like logos to identify brands only matter for commodity items in fast moving consumer markets where consumers must recognize your products to buy them. However, in our digital world, 80% of buying decisions are made after experiencing your brand online through website or apps, search engine results, reviews, discussions, groups, messaging, and more. So the story you tell and how well you understand your customers stories, wants, pains, and desires is much more important.

7. Give up on things that don’t support you brand

Successful brands know that if you want to accomplish your goals and build a strong brand is not just about the things you do, it’s also about the things that you don’t do. When you define your brand message, you will simply have to say no to certain retailers, platforms, behaviors, and influencers that don’t support your brand. Such as saying goodbye to certain influencers and collaborations.  

Brands are looking for a better, more personal way, to connect with their target audiences and turn to influencers who earned the authentic trust of their communities as opinion leaders. However, not every community is the right fit for your brand and many influencers are closer to fakefluencers than authority figures.

Are you still paying fakefluencers who can’t even sell a t-shirt to their audience? You should probably start investing in prioritizing real influencers who can introduce your brand to new customers without departing from the brand’s core values.

8. Give up on trying to be everywhere

Do you really need to be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, TikTok, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, Medium? Do you really have to have a video channel, a blog, a podcast, a cooking channel, and also have an affiliate program, and a subscription box? The simple truth is no, and it’s actually quite the opposite.

In 2020, the social platforms are endless and allow you to reach anyone you want but the abundance can easily turn into a double-edged sword. When you’re spreading your brand message everywhere, to very difference audiences, with very different behaviors, in very different moods, and have very different interest, your brand message is diluted.

Brand dilution occurs when a brand story travels from your marketing team, where it was created, through your social media team, through word of mouth of social media to your audience and loses its original meaning and impact. InnerView recently partnered with FocusVision to conduct a study on brand dilution and its effects. That study found that brand dilution was a problem for 59% of businesses with financial costs are estimated to exceed $10 million every year. 

9. Magic bullets don’t exist

Overnight success is a myth. If you anything about real success, you know that small continual improvements will compound over time to create a fundamental change. That is why you should plan for the future, but focus on the focus on improving just 1% every day.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James clear tells the story of the British cycling team that went from 110 years of mediocrity to dominating the road and track cycling events at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in mere 5 years by committing to aggregation of marginal gains. Simply put, their new coach started looking for tiny improvements in everything they did. He decided to brake down everything that goes into riding a bike and improve it by 1% to get a significant increase when you put them all together. They redesigned the bike seats to make them more comfortable, rubbed alcohol on the tires for a better grip. They asked riders to wear electrically heated shorts to maintain ideal muscle temperature while riding and used biofeedback sensors to monitor how each athlete responded to a particular workout. The team tested various fabrics in a wind tunnel and had their outdoor riders switch to indoor racing suits, which proved to be lighter and more aerodynamic. They tested different types of massage gels to see which one led to the fastest muscle recovery. They hired a surgeon to teach each rider the best way to wash their hands to reduce the chances of catching a cold. They determined the type of pillow and mattress that led to the best night’s sleep for each rider.

10. Give up the short-term sale mindset

Successful brands set long-term strategic brand goals, and they know that achieving the goals is the result of short-term tactics that they apply every day. These goals is not simply what you do they should be the essence of all your business behavior.

Rather the goal is to focus on long-term growth over short-term profits while maintaining consistent branding and quality.

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Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links on this page may be affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products, tools, services and learning resources I’ve personally used myself or with my clients and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. 

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