We can’t wait for the impact of brand to be fully measurable. There’s a new generation of ad tech businesses coming to market that promise to do just that, and it will be game-changing. Brand has always been a core part of how businesses grow, but how much and how well they do it has been dependent on the person leading those businesses, and that person’s experience and perspective on its relative importance. Eventually, all those ‘hard to quantify’ or even ‘intangible’ benefits of a brand will be tracked and measured, and everyone will invest in being a brand-led business. Until then, it’s the smart, savvy, and, in many cases, start-up businesses that are capitalising on the opportunity to differentiate and grow through brand building. Here’s how they’re doing it.
A successful modern brand is built on three core principles: customer-centricity, art and science, and purpose. Let’s break those down.
Customer-centricity is easy to understand as a concept, but hard to do consistently at scale. You know it when you see it – a brand and business that is truly customer-centric. You know it because the brand speaks to you and the product works for you. It’s almost as if it’s been designed with you in mind – and that’s of course because it has. On the inside of customer-centric companies you see people constantly looking for ways to connect with and add value to their customers and potential customers. You hear people constantly asking what their customers want, putting themselves in their customers’ shoes, and using their customers to guide their decisions. On the outside, you see things like Community.Monzo (https://community.monzo.com/), or the WealthSimple Magazine (https://www.wealthsimple.com/en-ca/magazine/), both of which are examples of customer-centric approaches to building equity, trust, and advocacy in the brand. Every company says they are customer-centric, but few actually do it well. The devil is in the details of who’s actually living and breathing it as a first principle day-to-day.
Good marketing can be great art or great science. It can be a brilliant creative idea or an awesome use of data or technology. Great marketing is both great art and great science. Traditional marketing has its roots in art – think about the cliche ‘Don Draper’ creative type, thinking (and drinking) for weeks to finally have an ‘Aha’ moment for a picture perfect TV commercial. (I kid you not, a lot of advertising even in 2021 still happens that way…). Modern marketing has its roots in science – both because modern marketers tend to have more experience with data and technology, but also because the companies they work for (usually start-ups/scale-ups) tend to be more data and tech-led. Most fintechs don’t have a marketer in the founding team and don’t hire a CMO until after their Series A. Marketing in the early days is very product and data-led, which is a great foundation to grow from. But whether your personal balance or that of your company skews more towards art or science, figure out how to bring a balance of both to your go-to-market strategy and tactics.
Purpose is a word that’s being thrown around a lot in the marketing industry right now. It seems like every brand has their vision of how they’re changing the world. It’s easy to get cynical as a consumer, but it’s because of us consumers that brands are doing this! We vote with our time and money. And over the last few years, we’ve been ‘voting’ for brands that have a clear purpose that goes beyond just making money. We want to buy a product or service that does what we need AND stands for something we care about. It’s not that silly when you think about it this way…what’s silly is the brands that don’t do it well. Successful, effective brand purposes are the ones that reflect who a company truly is, not what they want people to think they could be. As challengers fragment the business landscape by developing niche products for niche audiences, many of those niche brands are successfully, effectively purpose-led. Check out Daylight over in the US or Tridos in the Netherlands. https://joindaylight.com/, https://www.triodos.com/
Companies grow (or don’t) for many reasons. Market conditions, product quality, strategy and execution, leadership and team, etc. But increasingly, for the savvy, discerning modern customer with more and more options of where and how to spend their money, brand is a key differentiator for growth. Companies that invest in and build their brand by being customer-centric, balancing art & science, and leading with purpose are and will continue to see outsized returns on the mind and market share they’re able to gain.