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What makes a meaningful brand?

Adam TillyA brand is a vessel carrying values and beliefs that consumers associate with a product or service, but it doesn’t start out that way. Deliberate steps must be taken to ascribe meaning to a name that otherwise has no meaning, or to elicit an emotion from a seemingly ambiguous combination of colours and shapes.

At its core, a brand’s purpose is to facilitate decision-making. It’s a mental shortcut, if you will, that sparks strategic, purposeful associations. It’s a psychological endeavour to build a brand that target audiences feel is significant enough to drive their purchasing decisions and buy your brand over the competition’s. An intimate, comprehensive and objective understanding of your target audience’s psyche is necessary to identify what is meaningful in the eyes of target audience members, and building this understanding is the first step in developing a meaningful brand.

Various methods, including quantitative research, focus groups and qualitative in-depth interviews, among others, are leveraged to gain insight into the wants, needs and perceptions of target audiences. These methods should be used during the inception of a brand, as well as throughout the brand’s life cycle (which we will touch on later).

In the beginning of a brand’s life, the purpose of this buyer-centric research is to understand your target audience’s perceptions of the market you plan to inhabit. This research also helps you gain a perspective of what’s working well and what’s not working well within the competitive landscape (based on the criteria your audience identifies as important during the study). These insights will help drive the creation of a brand that is differentiated from the competition and attractive to audience members.

With the understanding of your audience’s perceptions and attitudes toward the current market in place, we can begin
to lay the groundwork for building a meaningful and differentiated brand. Having a foundation on which to build is essential to providing your internal stakeholders with a
sense of direction by facilitating
decision-making on all
brand-building activities. This foundation should highlight the key features and characteristics that are compelling to audience members and unique within the competitive set. Next, your foundation should define what those features and characteristics do for your target audience - what problems do they help solve, or how do they help the audience achieve their goals? And finally, how does the brand make the audience feel, and why? Together, these three brand tenets make up your brand’s strategic foundation and will guide the creation of a consistent and meaningful brand.

Critical to the long-term success of a brand is a tracking plan that measures the impact the brand has had on the market, and whether or not it has successfully reinforced or changed the attitudes, beliefs and opinions of target audiences. In essence, measuring customer-based brand equity once the brand has been established in the market. Positive customer-based brand equity occurs when the audience has a high level of familiarity with and awareness of the brand and ascribes favourable and unique associations to it without having to be reminded. If positive customer-based brand equity is achieved, then it can be assumed that a favourable behaviour (ie, purchase or continued use) will occur and a meaningful brand has been created.

To conclude this short summary on what makes a brand meaningful, it’s important to note the old adage: “By trying to be everything to everyone, you run the risk of being nothing to no one.” As brand architects, we should be mindful of this when laying our brand’s foundation. We must think strategically about what opportunities exist in the marketplace and what makes us unique. Your brand should stand for a clear and succinct concept so as to not be confusing or have overlap with a competitor. But, maybe most importantly, the concept that your brand stands for must be believable. After all,
a brand is a vessel carrying the values and beliefs of the customers, and if the customers don’t believe what you’ve told them about your brand, then  it was all for nothing.

Adam Tilly is manager of brand strategy at Addison Whitney, a Syneos Health company.

In association with

Addison Whitney

16th April 2018

From: Marketing

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