We’re all consumers of brands and whether we’re buying business or consumer goods and services, we still make decisions based on the same triggers, experiences and perceptions, regardless of whether we are buying for home or business.
Christmas is a very revealing time of year for consumer brands, providing an instant barometer for customer loyalty. People tend to base their buying decisions on:
- brand experience
- emotional attachment to a brand
- similarity and familiarity to their lives
- how they want to be perceived by the people they are buying for
In short, the ‘gift’ test is: do you feel good enough about a product to buy it for someone else?
The same rules apply to business. Although business-to-business brands don’t necessarily have the luxury of Christmas for a sales spike, the lessons of consumer brands can still be learned from. What connections do your customers have with your brand and what makes them loyal?
All too often businesses are too afraid to spend money in order to make money and branding is done ‘on the cheap’; that isn’t to say it can’t be done cost effectively. The focus tends to be on the visual components and not the actual brand or strategy behind it. I hate to point this out, but you can tell. Consumers of your products or services can also tell, so it may be time for a re-think.
To create an income-generating brand, you need to create something that is unique, that delivers true competitive advantage for your business based on a good solid strategy, and clever and effective implementation. Branding isn’t just about memorable logos and design, it’s about the experience you offer at every touch-point of your business.
Think beyond the old-school methodologies of ‘business-to-business’ and ‘business-to-consumer’ communications to working on a more holistic, up-to-date personal level – we call this ‘business-to-people’.To do this you have to forget about ‘what’s gone before’ and challenge ‘process’. Don’t focus on the channel or what everyone else is doing – focus on the needs of your business, staff and customers.
Create and develop a set of messages that mean something, that come from a honed and representative brand proposition and real point of differentiation. Brands are built on personality, stories and truths; you might need help in capturing this for your business, and it is achievable, effective and needn’t break the bank.
Business marketing should no longer be vertical. Branding draws on experiences from all parts of our lives. The success and expansion of social media is proof that it’s ALL about people. The result of effective social media is that it gets people talking and sharing – a very powerful medium that highlights the importance of getting things right in the ‘real world’. One thing you should also be very clear about is that social media hasn’t replaced anything. If you haven’t got the brand right, or your other marcomms channels working effectively, it’s just another medium to get wrong.
Effective branding is about engaging people across all channels, it’s about balancing expectations with experiences, and not least of all with your staff. It’s about developing loyalty and an emotional connection, stories with truth and something for the person to engage with, and it is definitely not just at Christmas.