In 1992, two beer enthusiasts started Ballast Point Brewing in the back room of their San Diego home brew store. Fast-forward to 2015: Ballast Point makes craft brew history by being acquired by alcoholic beverage conglomerate Constellation Brands, Inc. for a hefty one billion dollars. Yes, that’s right: one billion dollars. Based on the previous year’s sales, Constellation would be paying 20 times Ballast’s revenue, which sounds ridiculous. Or does it?
Constellation Brands, like many smart marketers, knows a brand is the most important asset you’ll own. It is the reason why a customer will drive three extra blocks on their morning commute and choose Starbucks over Dunkin’ Donuts, or why they’ll spend $100 more of their hard-earned paycheck on a Canon camera, even though a Sony model offers all of the same features.
But not all brands are created equal. There is a vision, a mindfulness, and an underlying force that makes successful brands stand out and connect in a crowded marketplace. At BLVR, we’ve taken many brands to the next level using a few simple brand truths.
1. Great brands are driven by their beliefs.
When Stewart Butterfield founded Slack, a messaging app for teams, his aim wasn’t to create a unicorn start-up. And when Phil Knight began Nike from the back of a car in chilly 1970s Oregon, he didn’t have ambitions to simply make stacks of money. These, and many of the most successful brands of today, were built with a set of beliefs – a core purpose that drove their existence. For Slack, it was to simplify work communication, increase productivity and have some fun while doing it. For Nike, it was to encourage the inner athlete in all of us, celebrate a human spirit that is driven to succeed, and inspire a ‘just do it’ attitude. These central ideologies drive a sense of purpose beyond just making money.
It should come as no surprise that strong beliefs attract consumers who share those values. In fact, for consumers today, what a brand believes is usually more important than the actual product sold. Belief-led brands inspire deeper emotional engagement among customers and more impassioned commitment among employees.
2. Great brands make the customer the hero.
It’s a natural starting point for marketers to think of themselves when developing their brand story. Case in point: “I have a revolutionary product, and it’s going to be great for you,” but there’s one key element that’s missing: your customers. They are your reason for existence and the people you live to serve. Yet so many brands forget that their customers will prioritize their own needs and problems over any other reason you can give them to connect with you.
Take a look at today’s most successful start-ups and you’ll see they put the customer at their heart. Whole Foods launched its 365 Everyday Value® product line after learning customers wanted a unique shopping experience without a premium price tag. Birchbox knew that customers were overwhelmed by the retail world and there had to be a better way to cut through the clutter and find products that really work.
The surest way to shortcut your brand into the minds and, most importantly, hearts of your customers is to build their needs, problems, and insights into the core of your existence.
3. Great brands disrupt the market.
In a world of followers, me-too offerings, and traditional marketing ploys, it’s hard to stand out from the pack. But by challenging the conventions that shape the standard approach to business, disruptors identify new white space that allows them to stand out and redefine the market.
Disruption can be harnessed in many guises. It could be a new business model (think Uber redefining the face of taxi transportation or Warby Parker recreating the eyewear shopping experience for millennials). Disruption could also come in the form of a new communications platform (think Dove challenging the standards of beauty and becoming a champion for the everywoman with its critically acclaimed “Real Beauty” campaign).
Whatever the format, disruption ensures your brand will stand out sooner and build connection quickly.
4. Great brands appeal to the heart.
Simply put, people buy feelings, not things. In fact, researcher Nielsen tells us that 90 percent of decisions are made in the subconscious, emotional part of the brain. Great brands know that to create a deeper connection you need to move beyond functional benefits and get to the root of why people care, the badge of identity they want to wear, and the heartstrings they want pulled.
Take, for example, car megabrand Jeep. This company appeals to people’s sense of adventure, creating a world in which they are a catalyst for discovery and freedom. Now, the reality is that most Jeeps that leave the car lot will never in fact cruise the trails of Machu Picchu. They’ll be used to drive up to the local CVS, but for their drivers, they’ll have an identity that says, “I could be the next Bear Grylls.” The list goes on for brands that appeal to the heart. Saint Archer Brewery connects to surf and skate enthusiasts, Victoria’s Secret appeals to the goddess within, and Canon Rebel appeals to the creative spirit lurking within, just waiting for encouragement to come out. Appeal to the heart, and you’ll be able to win over customers’ minds—and their wallets!