My intention with this article is to give a sense of why so many people (and businesses) are looking to "build a brand" and link that to what I see is the "essence" of today's marketing.
Hopefully, this changes the way you look at marketing, whether as a consumer, to examine your relationship with the brands you consume; or as an entrepreneur, to examine your marketing objectives.
- The term marketing refers to a combination of tools and strategies used in combination to achieve some business objectives, these tools have changed over the years shaping the idea of what we see as marketing.
- Though the tools and practices may change, the objective remains, that is, to be the consumer’s choice.
- Many marketing practices have been popularized over the centuries, some are the result of changes in society while others leverage technological development.
- Being the choice of the consumer once is not enough, modern marketing requires developing a deeper relationship with the consumers so that they choose us every time.
- Brands who exhibiting a personality and values people can relate with, get to build trust and worth more by what they promise to their consumers.
The concept of marketing is quite broad.
Although some people maintain the impression that marketing refers only to advertising for the sake of having sales, in reality, the term marketing is an umbrella that covers a variety of tools, theories, and practices (including advertising).
The tools and techniques used in marketing tend to change and evolve, as result, the way we look at marketing had also changed, both for its study and practice.
It seems that marketing has been with us since the beginning of commerce thousands of years ago, and its evolution has followed major changes in culture and technology.
Just think about how technology has changed the way people interact with each other. In the last years, many have turned to the internet for most of their needs and activities.
It’s like the Internet has become the biggest market ever, and naturally, that has made digital marketing the defacto face of marketing in practice, though there's still plenty beneath the surface.
Yes, marketing is necessary. But why?
I said before that some people have a narrow conception of marketing, and that’s understandable since ads are mostly designed to be noticeable.
But if saying "you should buy my product" was enough for the customer to make a purchase decision, the same ancient practices from the past would still work, and the concept of marketing would’ve never developed.
The problem with this perception is that it’s too superficial and doesn’t consider the complex interactions and decisions involved in the process of marketing and sales.
It is important to consider the root cause of why we are doing something and always keep in mind those goals, so even if the tools change, the desired result won't.
So why do we do marketing?
From the moment that consumers had an alternative to our product, there’s a necessity to prove to them our offer is worth more and they should choose us.
This demand for differentiation becomes more important as the competition grows, with many similar offerings in the market a small treat of feature can make the difference between passing completely unnoticed or becoming the most popular choice.
Therefore, we could say that marketing is something that has been done since the beginning of competition in commerce for the sake of differentiation.
To have a chance of being the consumer choice, first, we need to have a place in their minds, there we compete with other brands that are being considered as well by the consumer, and that’s when branding makes the difference.
Marketing achieves this through a process of communicating and delivering.
Communication enables a brand to know what the consumer wants and lets the consumers know what offers exist that can satisfy their needs or desires.
When the consumer tries a product, the brand has a chance to prove its worth by delivering the expected result to the consumer.
This definition doesn’t cover the whole essence of marketing, but at least, it focuses on what’s important, not a sale or a product, but a person who has to make a decision.
The Marketing Process
For a brand to be the consumer's choice, it has to give them something they want and something the alternatives can't.
The value of a product for the consumer is the result of the satisfaction they received based on how much it cost them and the expectations they had at the moment of purchase.
When a product not only delivers on the expectations but surpasses it, then, the consumer feels delighted and is more likely to consume that product again.
Delighting a customer means delivering value that far exceeds their expectations.
The first steps of the marketing process focus on getting a proposal that can provide this superior value.
It starts by choosing a market segment, the more specific the segment the easier to identify what it wants.
With a good understanding of the market, you can design a value proposition (product or service) that fits the needs and desires of people, and that they are willing to pay to alleviate.
The last part of the process involves profitability and that involves the business model.
Soon, businesses realized that acquiring a new customer can be very expensive, and therefore, it's important to retain customers and gain loyalty by creating a close relationship with them.
The marketing process is about creating strategies that provide superior value and produce a close relationship with the consumer.
In the long term, this kind of relationship generates a higher return for businesses:
- customers tend to buy more frequently and in greater quantity,
- they also become more likely to refer the brand, helping to expand the customer base.
Marketing at people, not demographics
There's an important concept that helps understand why branding is more important now than ever, and that is psychography.
Psychography is the study of human behavior according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria.
Marketing in practice requires interaction with the consumers, but not too far ago, those interactions were pretty much one-sided.
Marketing campaigns had to be done based on population (demographics) in hopes of reaching the largest-possible audience sharing the same interests.
Now, we're living in the internet era, and physical limits are no longer a real barrier to communication.
Thanks to advertising giants such as Google, and later Facebook, it became possible to measure (with ease) people's interactions with the content of a campaign.
There are many ways to measure a "response" from the audience at a piece of content: through clicks, reactions, watch time, shares, and endless other metrics.
So, now we know the reaction of the audience, making the process a two-way interaction with feedback in realtime.
All this data (and the models generated from it) has allowed us to understand better people's behavior.
Resulting in the trend of personalized content, not based on demographics, but on individuals who share similar likes and ideas.
Therefore, instead of shooting aimlessly at a group, we can target specific individuals (niches), knowing the sort of content they're more likely to consume.
What do we call a Brand?
It is a gut feeling generated in consumers towards a piece of content (logo, product, service, name, melody, color, etc.) related to an individual or organization.
In other words, it is a RESULT.
The impression that remains on the consumer's mind after some experience with the product, service, or company.
It's something that the consumer develops; therefore, its interpretation depends on the consumer, and each person can have a different one.
Branding is in everything, from the people to the product, the website, the packaging, and even the physical stores.
It is like a reputation, and as such, we cannot control it, but we can influence it to keep it close to the desired point.
You cannot control the process, but you can influence it. - Marty Neumeier. The Brand Gap.
Why is branding so important
A problem most new brands and entrepreneurs have to face today is a flooded market with many offers similar in quality and features.
People now have too many options and too little time; there's no chance to objectively assess each and make numbers, so most purchasing decisions tend to base on trust.
In his book Then Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier introduces us to trust as:
Trust = Reliability + Delight
Delight is about meeting consumer expectations with our offer and going further delivering value.
Where a single product can delight the consumer, the base of reliability is consistency. The brand has to deliver predictable results on all its offerings.
Companies are making promises to their audience all the time, with their products and the expectations they form on people.
Not only that, but a brand also creates expectations with everything it says, like its values, its mission statement, and with every piece of content it puts out.
These kinds of expectations can be powerful when they connect directly with people's feels and beliefs. That's because they can relate and feel like part of something.
When a brand promise captures a person's attention, and then brand delivers, trust can begin to develop.
"Branding is like a reputation" if your brand does well, your brand will improve over time. Conversely, if your brand doesn't deliver on its promises, it can build a bad reputation if not remedied soon.
The value of a brand comes from a promise that creates expectations in its audience.
Why do some choose a brand over another?
It is not a secret that Apple devices (computers, tablets, or smartphones) tend to be more expensive than most brands on the market.
This price difference even has a name, the Apple tax; an extra you must pay to be part of the Apple ecosystem.
This is the value of a brand, what people are willing to pay for a promise
What does Apple promise?
A unique experience with a premium product; that uses quality components, high technology, and security, has a sleek design, and a whole ecosystem with exclusive apps designed by people who think like me.
These are just some ideas that came to my mind (the Apple branding in my head); you may have your own.
These promises are what make us think it's worth it every time, and there's no other brand that gives me the same.
That last sentence conveys the idea of a charismatic brand, the next step beyond trust.
A charismatic brand is any product, service, or organization for which people believe there is no substitute.
What makes a charismatic brand different?
Neumeier noted that there's a big gap in the strategy of companies that separates the strategic thinkers from creative thinkers.
One side sees the analytical, logical, linear, numerical, and verbal.
The other side is concerned with the intuitive, emotional, spatial, visual, and physical.
When both parties work together, they can create a charismatic brand.
A great example of a charismatic brand is Coca-Cola.
Coco-Cola does not (only) sell carbonated water in its ads; it also offers good times, the joy of sharing and relaxing with friends, and other feelings so deep and abstract as love or Christmas.
The analytical side can create an attractive value proposition through product, price, and other aspects of the marketing mix that are in control of the brand.
That's how traditional marketing strategies (targeting demographics) have long worked.
Now, with a psychographic approach, brands make more personal promises that appeal to the feels and emotions of the people.
Brands today need both: a corporate strategy that works and an appealing human side.
The purpose of marketing is to be noticed, to attract, and to be preferred by the consumer.
It is natural as time passes that there will be more and more options in the market for the consumers to choose from; that's why businesses need marketing.
Marketing campaigns used to be loosely targeted at populations hoping to capture the largest group of people in a demographic. Now technology enables us to reach many specific groups with a more personalized approach.
Data has told us that psychography works, which explains why brands are looking to create relationships with the consumer on a personal level, with strategies that target specific beliefs and behaviors.
Charismatic brands can achieve such success because they know how to combine the strategies of the company with the creative and emotional side of a brand.
It is not enough to get the consumer into buying your products; you have to delight with results that exceed their expectations.
Having the consumers' trust gives any brand an advantage over the competition, but getting there is not easy work, and once obtained, that trust has to be cherished and treated with respect.