In this article I will try and convince you that your business or brand will be more successful, and challenge your competitors more, by ensuring that you have a core belief at the centre of everything you do. The most successful brands around us across many categories have succeeded by having a core brand belief drive what they do and how they compete.
The fact is that every brand and company faces a real challenge when competing in today’s fast changing and demanding environment.
Today we all face a number of key challenges, when trying to compete and succeed in business
– You are selling products or services with more or less the same benefits and features as your competitors. One anti-wrinkle cream is pretty much like another one in reality. One toilet cleaner is pretty much like the other one. One marketing consultant is pretty much like another one.
– The fragmentation of media has made it harder and harder to get your message to a broad audience. It takes much more effort and more complex communication skills to reach your target customers.
– Often your trade customer, like the supermarket that stocks your product, is not only putting your product in front of consumers – but are increasingly your biggest competitors. They price more aggressively than your brand. They fast replicate your innovations and product improvements.
So how can you succeed and compete more successfully?
You need to ensure that you are building a long term competitive advantage based on a unique, different but relevant and compelling offer to your consumers. But as benefits and features can be easily replicated, competing only by offering improvements to your products can only play a part of that.
You need your brand and company to offer something more than just a bundle of rational benefits. So what should you be doing to make you different enough to generate value and long term growth in today’s competitive marketplace?”
You need to have more than benefits and features, you need to have a brand that connects with consumers
In a previous posting I spoke about how “Brands are created by Visionaries, and destroyed by Caretakers“ and “If Your Brand or Company Went Out of Business Would Anyone Notice or Care“. Building on the thoughts on there and learning from the ideas in there in this article we will explore how to ensure a more competitive and compelling brand offer.
One key common attribute of Visionaries is that in addition to seeing a gap and opportunity, they also understand that a brand is more than just a collection of benefits and features. They understand that to succeed a brand has to also connect with consumers. A brand needs to have a soul and values that resonate and cause an emotional reaction and connection with customers.
There is a quote I came across once that sums up why it is important for a brand to create and build this emotional reaction and connection with their target consumers.
The quote is “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel”.
I think this is important for all brand owners to remember that consumers can usually find an alternative that is cheaper, faster or better in some tangible way. But when consumers make their final choice they tend to use and chose brands that make them feel something about the brand.
We are not selling to highly rational beings. We are selling to people with emotions and values
Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com (worth checking out for his daily doodles and cartoons about strategy and marketing) explores this more when he says that brands need to understand the way we as PEOPLE think, and remember we are selling to PEOPLE with emotions. We are not selling to highly rational beings.
This is what he says: “We humans want to believe in our own species, and we want people, companies and products in our lives that make it easier to do so. That is human nature. It’s no longer just enough for people to believe that your product does what it says on the label. They want to believe in you and what you do”.
Is this all just goofy marketing theory? Or can it be applied to my business?
I do really believe that every business and brand can use and benefit from this. The starting point is to define what is your Brand Belief or “What your brand believes is”.
I passionately believe that brand owners that adopt a brand belief, something that people can admire and respond to, are more likely to find a way to connect better with consumers.
Having a brand belief drives employees and motivates consumers
By having a brand belief it also very importantly focuses the minds of everyone in the organisation. It helps everyone channel their energy onto that clear belief. It will help generate passion within a company as it gives everyone something to rally behind. It is more likely to ensure you are unique, different and distinctive by encouraging everyone to innovate and identify ways to bring that belief alive in whatever they do. Be it marketing, communication, product design, customer service, production and so on.
I am convinced that to really succeed in building a strong brand you have to have at the centre of everything a core brand belief. The belief is something bigger than the functional product or service area that you are operating in.
Successful companies have a core brand belief
This passion is driven by my study of companies and brands that have succeeded. On the surface they seem to have succeeded by being different in product or service. However, the reason they have been different is because they focus on what they believe in versus trying to constantly react to the competition.
I am, therefore, always on the look out for examples and especially when they come directly from the mouths of the visionaries who created brands.
Some examples from a cross section of categories and businesses that I have observed doing just this:
Apple: We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better
Steve Jobs famously gave a speech to his company not long after rejoining. In this he said:
“For me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.
Our customers want to know “Who is Apple? What is it that we stand for? Where we fit in this world”.
And what we are about isn’t about making boxes for people to get their jobs done – although we do that well. We can do that almost better than anyone else can in some cases. But Apple’s about something more than that. Apple at the core, its core value, is that we that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe”
He used this to inspire all his people. For example, even when he was trying to convince John Scully (Pepsi CEO) to join Apple, he famously said: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come work with me and change the world?”
RoC Skincare: Believes that those with even the most delicate skins should have access to beauty
On a Brand I used to work on called RoC, Dr Lissarague who created the brand in his Paris Pharmacy in 1957, believed that if you challenged the accepted practices and beliefs even of medical professionals, you could give access to beauty to everyone, even those with the most delicate, sensitive and reactive skin. This led him creating the first Sunblock; he created hypoallergenic skincare (and the definition of it) including the first hypoallergenic make-up and many more firsts.
Subway: We believe that the only way to eat is Fresh, made in front of you by real people in a place that you want to visit
Some years ago I was at a conference where Paul Reynich, the European Marketing Director for Subway at that time, was speaking. He spoke about how well the business was doing after some period of turmoil. It was clear that their energized approach and success had come through adopting a brand belief and a vision that flowed out of that.
This is what he said: “Subway believes that the only way to eat is Fresh, when it is made in front of you by real people in a place that you want to visit“. Their vision became: To become the world’s favourite place to eat fresh.
He spoke about how this belief had proven to be a source of inspiration leading to innovation and new programs both at head office and across their many thousands of Franchises. One example he gave was how this has lead to their “philosophy” on product that includes: “Made in front of you. Just the way you like (you chose what goes in). With fresh bread baked in the store”
It was great to see an example from a non grocery business where adopting a brand belief, and then cascading it through product, shopper and communication, showed the importance of companies and brands adopting a brand belief no matter their category.
Ben & Jerry’s Icecream: The purpose of business is to meet a need in the society and, if you do that well, then you end up making a bunch of money
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield created the quirky and distinctive ice-cream brand “Ben & Jerry” (now owned by Unilever). In an interview on BBC Radio “Wake Up to Money” Breakfast show some years ago, this is how they described how they succeed and how to succeed. This is what they had to say about brands and business, and clearly shows why they created something as remarkable as the ice cream they did.
Ben Cohen said: “Do something that you believe in.The purpose of business is not to make money. The purpose of business is to meet a need in the society and, if you do that well, then you end up making a bunch of money. People who go into it with the idea of “well my goal is to make money,” I think a lot of times they don’t really succeed”
Jerry Greenfield added: “I think, in our experience, whenever you start a business you will run into some difficult times and things won’t always be easy. If you are doing something that you really believe in and that you care about, that will get you through those difficult times. If you are doing something just because you think it’s going to make you some money, I think you are more likely to give up”.
Ben Cohen added: “The other thing to understand is that as your business supports the community, the community supports your business. There is a universal spiritual law, which says that as you give you receive. And people kind of believe it in terms of individuals, but what we found is that it also works as a business”
The connection that you form with your customers by doing things they value builds a connection that is incredibly strong and that is what builds amazing consumer loyalty – and it is not about advertising alone!
Dog’s Trust: We believe no healthy dog should ever be destroyed and that every dog should have a chance to lead a happy and healthy life in a loving home
As a big believer in the importance of companies and brands having at their centre a core brand belief that drives them to be distinctive and build a connection with their consumers, and building on the perspectives that Ben & Jerry raised, it struck me that another a good place to look at for inspiration is at charity organisations.
I was at a dog event at Chiswick House in our local neighbourhood and came across The Dog’s Trust. What was interesting to me was that their literature and site all starts with the significant words: “We believe”. Showing they make their belief core to everything they do.
This is what they say: “We believe no healthy dog should ever be destroyed and that every dog should have a chance to lead a happy and healthy life in a loving home“.
They go on in their charter to give their mission, which is: ‘Dogs Trust is working towards the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction.’ And what do they say they are doing about it: “We never destroy a healthy dog these dogs stay in our care until a loving new home can be found for them”.
As marketers as we look at examples of how to define and use brand beliefs, we should look at the visionaries who created what have become major brands that people admire and also charities like these who are really driven by a core belief.
There is no point having a belief if you do not then embrace and live it every day in every way. A belief is more than just a statement it is how you should live and breath through your entire experience.
To succeed as a brand
You need a core brand belief. Your teams need to be inspired and will respond more to something that excites them emotionally. They will innovate and create based on that belief, to ensure a more compelling, unique and differentiated total brand offer that has greater chance of creating an emotional reaction and connection with your consumers
- Like Apple and Steve Jobs did when he keep telling people they were not about making great computers and devices, they were about helping their users to change the world.
- Products and services are hard to differentiate just on benefits and features as they can be replicated so fast, or improved on by the competition. You need to see them as the base line, the must haves. You need to lead with an inspiring vision and belief that employees and consumers will identify with and engage with.
What do you think? Got any more examples of brands and companies with a core brand belief ?