Why winning brands win
The future of branding lies at the intersection of authentic leadership, experience design, and building communities.
Beyond a mere logo, your brand is an emotive medium to communicate your worldview and the position your company holds in that world. It’s what you believe in and destined to become. The story you tell and the way you deliver it determines how people align with your vision.
People are interested in connecting with your why and they want to feel that why throughout every touchpoint of their experience with your brand. They want to build a connection with the leadership of the business. If you take our group for example, most of my time goes into producing content, my own content which i share on a daily basis with an online following that grows daily. I am providing real value to our followers and it clearly pays off. People are feeling more and more connected to what we do. Not only what we do as a company in terms of services or products but also our thought leadership, our opinions and our direction on valuable topics.
Winning brands embrace this view by operating at the speed of culture. They are agile and aware of the needs of a globally networked community that demands social consciousness, an innovation mindset, and authentic leadership. I want to emphasise authenticity here. It has to come from the leadership and not out sourced to some first year intern at an agency. The real content needs to come from leadership.
Here are four things that winning brands do differently:
Stand Up for what they believe in
Influential brands have become increasingly more vocal about their beliefs and are taking stands when challenged. Take for example Apple’s conflict with the FBI over privacy. Apple stood up for what it believed was right from a philosophical point of view. Ultimately, their defiant position builds positive brand equity for Apple because it affirms the brand’s core belief in their customer’s right to privacy.
Brands are designers, influencers, and front runners of culture.
In turbulent times, brands must become more radical about supporting their vision of the future. They are no longer simply commercial institutions selling products. Brands are designers, influencers, and front runners of culture.
As technology-driven globalisation continues to connect value creation and consumption across borders, where you spend your money is much more powerful than who you vote for. Winning brands must be more clear about what they believe and what they are fighting for in society.
Focus on the Total Customer Experience
The best brands don’t create products, they create experiences.
Ucook is a great example of a South African food distribution company that create experiences above just delivering food. Yes you get your ingredients for a meal packed in a box ready to start cooking from the get go, but the way it is packaged and designed makes you feel like a professional chef. It inspires you to not only cook the meal and eat it, but to experiment with the way you plate your food for presentation. Naturally if you are happy with you creation the photo gets taken, Instagrammed and next thing Ucook gets exposure to your entire following because of the great experience they created for you.
Understanding the total customer journey is important for identifying the pain points that someone experiences when interacting with your brand. From marketing to sale to fulfilment to support, your brand should express itself consistently throughout your engagement with customers. The best brands don’t create products, they create experiences. Winning brands seamlessly integrate the digital and physical worlds to create an effortless experience that builds trust and confidence in a brand’s promise.
Lead Authentically and Increase Transparency
Social media has forced brands to be more transparent from the inside out. Our relationship with brands and their leaders has become more intimate and requires more authentic storytelling from a personal point of view.
We have four active blogs in our group and I produce weekly content for all four. I share my thoughts on a range of topics and try to be as useful as possible with the goal of making a real impact on the way someone or even a group of people think about business, technology, cloud, security or team collaboration. I use Facebook and Linkedin as my primary outlet.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk leverages Twitter as a medium to communicate thoughts on his work at Tesla and SpaceX, as well as his general musings on the world and the problems it faces. Elon Musk demonstrates how executives can become more authentic thought leaders by sharing regularly about their work, life, and beliefs. I share this exact philosophy.
Conversely, the rise and fall of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick shows how social media can be both a tool of transparency and accountability for leaders. Because brands are observed under a microscope from multiple angles through social media, leaders must be authentically aligned with their brand both in and out of the office or face retribution for failing to uphold their followers’ ideals.
Used in the right way, social media can give a personal face (and heart) to brands that would otherwise be soulless marketing machines. Share behind-the-scenes photos, interviews with your team, upcoming prototypes, and amateur videos. Sharing more about what your brand is doing, what it believes, what it’s working towards, engages consumers more deeply and connects them with the living story of your brand as it evolves day-to-day.
Deliver Ongoing Value to a Community
A relationship is always better than just a sale. Winning brands realise that their products and services need to deliver ongoing value and connect to a larger community of kindred spirits to keep customers engaged in the brand’s long-term vision.
Everything we do in our business is about establishing and maintaining long term relationships. Even if it means you have to get rid of some rotten apple to utilise that energy towards new and fruitful relationships.
Take for example the indoor cycling brand Peloton that created a stationary bike with an integrated touchscreen display and camera that connects to both on-demand and live rides with cycling instructors. At-home riders are connected to live classes along with other riders around the world, providing the same style of peer motivation of an in-person studio ride with the convenience and flexibility of joining a spinning class from anywhere in the world.
Instead of just selling a bike, Peloton has created a subscription platform for delivering live classes on an on-going basis. By integrating community into the design of their product, the brand differentiates itself from other at-home exercise experiences, keeping their user base more engaged and socially motivated to continue using the product. What might have been a simple, one-time purchase of a product transforms into an on-going relationship with a community.
Building a community around your brand is what gives you the depth and the foundation to survive a really tough economical time. When the economy let’s you down, your community is all you have left.
From selling things to inspiring change.
In an earlier era, government, religious, and cultural institutions played a more significant role in providing thought leadership in what to believe. While the power and influence of these traditional institutions have progressively declined over time, the public’s desire to believe in something has not gone away.
As the lines between citizen and consumer continue to blur, the role of branding in our society is changing. Brand thinking is no longer reserved for selling just products — it’s for selling ideas, organising people, and inspiring change. Our relationship towards brands is influencing how products are experienced, how resources are allocated, what social causes are important, and what ideas rise to the top of our culture.
Brands need to have a clear vision of who they are and what they stand for to connect with people in the long run. By building a brand on a foundation of transparency and honesty, leaders can connect people around a common vision of the future. Furthermore, designing customer experiences with a holistic perspective strengthens the relationship between brands and the communities they serve. By combining transparent leadership, design thinking, and community integration, winning brands are redefining the ways we engage and experience our world.
If you are ready to take this seriously in your business come and have coffee or lunch with our team and let’s talk about it. You will be amazed out what a team of young seemingly insignificant team can achieve to create real significance for your brand.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.