Many start-ups and ventures begin with the same vision: the desire to create a meaningful brand that provides a level of comfort with existing patrons and has the power to attract new customers. For those that are successful, a brand can evolve into a meaningful and noteworthy asset.
Clearly, developing a brand is easier said than done. Briefly look at 2015’s Top 10 brands in the U.S. as compiled by Forbes (May 2015).
- General Electric
For the most part, this list comprises readily identifiable products or experiences that have forged their way into everyday life through a combination of product/service quality, consistency, longevity, brilliant marketing, and the ability to remain near the top of their respective industries. These companies possess products, experiences, and images that a vast majority of people can relate to.
Importantly, there is an attention value that can be assigned to this group because of the role these companies play in consumers’ lives. This is a powerful intangible that can be used whenever a new product or service is launched – people tend to stand up and notice. In general, branding is effective because a company is able to establish and maintain an emotional and logical connection with its customers.
A Dynamic Landscape
Truly iconic brands possess the ability to change, adapt, and evolve over time such that they are able to transcend generations. Consider the list of Top 10 brands again. How many of those brands were recognizable in 1982 (before the millennial generation was born)? All but two of the companies were in existence, and we believe that three or four would have likely been on a Top 10 list back then.
If you study the Top 10 closely, you may realize that valuable brands have the ability to adapt, as well as ebb and flow over time. Take Apple, for example. It was an established brand in the mid-1980s that all but disappeared during the 90s, and then staged an epic resurgence in the 2000s. Many will point to the marketing brilliance and unparalleled vision of its founder, Steve Jobs, as the primary reason for Apple’s corporate and brand revival. While we quickly identify this evolution as the exception, it underscores our point that brands need to adjust and evolve over time in order to remain relevant.
At last count, there were 83.1 million millennials in the U.S. (United States Census Bureau), exceeding Baby Boomers who number around 75.4 million. According to Pew Research Center, millennials recently surpassed gen-Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. As more enter the labor force and their incomes grow over the course of the next 10 to 20 years, we fully expect them to dominate any and all metrics related to purchasing power.
While the dollars associated with millennials is impressive, brand loyalty is relatively transient with this influential group. Consider for a moment that only 1% of millennials trust a brand just because of an advertisement (Forbes, January 2015). Also, a full 33% rely on blogs and peer reviews as the basis for their purchasing decisions. The combination of these factors implies that not only do millennials possess a willingness to try new products more than ever before, but they are greatly influenced by the choices and decisions of their peers.
According to Forbes, 62% of millennials are likely to become loyal customers if a brand engages them on social networks. Further, an incredible 42% are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. This highly engaged and connected demographic is re-writing the rules of marketing, as well as the art and science behind branding. More than ever, companies are required to evolve in order to reach potential customers and extend their brands well beyond traditional media. Multi-channel marketing is rapidly evolving and is an absolute necessity in creating a presence and maximizing mind share with consumers.
Building a Brand
As a start-up or early stage business, you are beginning with what is essentially a blank canvas. Relatively few prospective customers are aware of your product/service solution, and the brand you are trying to create. The opportunity exists to target specific market segments more effectively and to establish an expectation, consistency, and connection that reverberates with customers.
Given the behaviors of millennials we feel there is no better time to create a brand, particularly if you understand how the rules have changed over the past 20 to 30 years. During the pre-Internet and pre-social media era, a brand could be defined simply by its product and its logo. That period has long since passed and the image a company portrays is no longer limited to its product or service offering. It now requires a consistency of advertising, messaging, quality, product/service experience, and reach (in terms of social media and awareness). In short, an effective brand is the sum of many essential components that must work in harmony.
What does your brand say about your business?