What is Brand Marketing and why is it relevant to your business (no matter what industry you’re in)?
“We sell feelings, status, and connection, not tasks or stuff.”
Brand Marketing is about understanding what you’re selling and why.
As mammals, once our primary needs are satisfied we are content. After an abundant meal, we can lay quietly without any urges or longing; between quests to meet our bare necessities, there is not much going on in our minds.
As human beings, however, it is a whole different story. We are looking for much more than survival. And as a business owner, no matter how essential you think your product service is: it is not. Not to mere sustenance, at least. Especially considering that everything we need to survive is already available in nature, for free.
But the reason why we don’t live like wild animals in the woods is that we have other kinds of needs on which our survival is not dependent, and yet, are just as essential. Those are called existential needs and they are typical of the human race, no matter what cultural background.
I’m talking about connection, companionship, love and support.
In such a complex society, rich in opportunities and filled with unique individuals, the ways to achieve those existential needs have become in turn quite complex. We are walking about in big cities, as we would in the woods, hunting for status, emotions, appreciation, and fulfilment. Most of all, looking to be served.
Because individualism is so developed and each person’s story is so influential in the development of personality and desires, we are looking to satisfy these internal urges in very different ways. Some, for instance, could be buying Ralph Lauren clothing. For others, going to the gym.
And because we are all here to serve each other, eventually, it is important to recognise that our businesses don’t only ‘sell a product”, but serve the specific purpose of fulfilling somebody’s personal needs.
The tool we can use to connect our business purpose with our audience (meaning the people that are touched by what we do) is storytelling. Storytelling, since the beginning of time, has been human’s favourite means to connect with others and experience self-discovery. From ancient myths to Netflix, nothing is more influential than a story. Especially when it overlaps with our own story.
Of course, not every story will necessarily resonate with every person. And that is why trying to reach out to everybody indistinctly – as if we were all a “mass” of anonymous buyers with no worth other than our purchases – is an ineffective, unemphatic, old-school approach.
Often, you read that to be successful as an entrepreneur you need to solve your audience’s problems. Which is correct. However, this is a very pragmatic perspective that while helpful, tells only “half of the story” (pun intended). I am not saying that people don’t have practical and straightforward problems. We all do! And if you are selling car tyres, you’re probably thinking: “what the heck of an existential need am I fulfilling? As if people need tyres to feel fulfilled in life… they just want to drive to places!”. This is logically correct, but the emotional side is missed: people need and want to go to places, safely, and without hassles such as a low-quality tyre that breaks in the middle of nowhere.
Think about it this way: why would somebody buy tyres from you rather than somebody else?
Just for proximity? Perhaps.
But relying on being “close” to somebody in need of new tyres is not a good strategy.
Also, without a brand’s story, you are playing the dangerous game of “the lowest price”. A game that, I assure you, you’ll lose.
However, if you add something as simple as brand storytelling to it, you’ll find it is a game-changing approach. For instance, what about those characters who are very practical and want to have everything organised to feel safe? What about people that always worry in life about unexpected, unfortunate events (such as popping a tyre) and try to prevent everything? Do you have a “why” that makes those people feel like you are in business just for them? Can you tell a story that creates a spark of connection – or if you prefer another word for it, “identification”?
Brand Marketing is a business field that works on this: finding the storytelling behind the identification, and therefore the connection, between an audience and a particular company or individual. It assures that every touchpoint of the business rigorously meets that brand’s promise made within the story.
Because storytelling is the difference between a random sale and an established brand culture that brings in highly motivated followers of your work, you cannot afford to fake or pretend. You must keep that brand promise.
In exchange, you’ll obtain solidity and predictability in your business operations. Not to mention peace of mind and purpose.
What is brand marketing?
Brands are used to build equity for your company, whereas these other things are just symbols, often used to promote products on their own without any deeper meaning behind them beyond what we perceive at first glance.
A brand is what sets your business apart from the competition. A brand is what sets the value of your product (and the price). The brand Panadol is an example of brand equity. It means that people know and trust this particular product over the other generic brands for pain relief.
A logo is supposed to be an impactful, distinctive and memorable mark of the brand – but a logo is not the brand. The brand has a reputation. And in this sense, there are as many brands as individual perceptions.
Companies without a brand story often have a logo and some degree of marketing practices in place, but not a strategy behind it. And without a strategy, there is no long-term scoping. But let me ask you this: how are you going to survive in the increasingly complex and competitive business landscape without a marketing strategy that is founded on a brand that matters?
Brand marketing is an approach that leverages empathy to discover what customers want to buy and why. Which is not your service and products themselves, but the way it makes them feel. Without clarity in these regards, it is likely your marketing efforts will fall short.
In short, a brand that doesn’t connect with its audience’s motives simply has no power and can’t be seen.
Now more than ever, companies need to invest in the human factor: the relationship with customers and the internal company culture.
Ultimately, brand marketing is an approach focused on building brand equity around a true story and a true promise that makes that brand relevant in the first place.
The Role of Story-Telling
But how do you tell a story that moves?
Let’s be clear: brand marketing is not about making up things. On the contrary, it is about discovering what is true about your company’s purpose and that serves people with a particular problem, interest, or need. Trying to build a brand for everyone is a lost battle. Not to mention that comes across as selfish (think about it: treating people as they are the same, with no inner ambition and desires other than spending money on your company); when we’ve established that brand marketing comes from an empathic gaze instead.
A business thrives only if it has a helpful purpose. And because you cannot possibly serve everyone, your purpose should only serve the protagonists of your story. And no, the main character of your brand story is not your company or your product: the protagonists are those who you are helping to reach an outcome.
You can call it niche if that makes more sense to you, but your brand story starts with your protagonists’ desire to reach that outcome – not just the practical, but the emotional one too.
How will your company help them to fulfil this desire and become who they want to become? That’s the story.
Don’t confuse storytelling with blabbering about yourself. A story is not saying your company is trustworthy. That’s a statement in front of which somebody should have, what: faith? No. A story is showing how you can gain their trust, demonstrating consistent quality and reliability.
This is not abstract stuff. Clarity in your offer is very tangible. People out there are very busy looking for something, while constantly distracted by intrusive selling messages. Having an honest message that helps people know right away whether you share a connection or not, makes them save time – as well as you. Nothing worse than attracting the wrong customers that don’t value what you do and are contacting you for the wrong reason. It is also frustrating for those who come across your brand, and after misunderstanding your position, feel like they had a bad experience.
In short, you don’t have the time and means to build a brand for everyone. You need to choose your audience with sharp intention. And then create an offer that is genuinely just for them. This is the way to build brand equity: because your audience will only find what they need from your company, not the competitors.
What are the benefits of building brand equity?
Brand equity is the measure of consumers’ perceptions of the brand. Strong brand equity has to do with how well consumers know the brand, their preference for it over others, their level of connection with the brand, and their level of loyalty to it.
A strong brand is built on trust and customer loyalty. It’s what allows companies to charge a premium for their products and services and continue to grow year after year – in the same industries where other businesses struggle. Strong branding opens doors for companies to innovate and expand their businesses because of the support of a loyal base of consumers.
In today’s marketplace, with so many companies competing for attention, it’s becoming harder and harder to make a genuine connection with consumers. People are becoming increasingly sceptical. That is why making a sale is much more difficult and time-consuming than it was 20 years ago.
However, brand marketing allows companies to tell their unique stories and shift perception by giving customers a genuine narrative that resonates with them on an intimate level.
Of course, people don’t necessarily believe what you say when they don’t know you yet. But they certainly believe what other people say (that’s where your brand reputation and popularity come in handy). But most of all, people believe what they tell themselves. For instance, if your messaging resonates with what they are experiencing, that’s where the spark of interest start.
Companies exercising long-sighted brand marketing achieve strong brand equity. And therefore they have that competitive advantage to better attract new customers and retain the loyalty of existing ones. Brand equity is ultimately the key to building a successful business that can stand the test of time.
Brand marketing has therefore the creation of strong brand equity as its top goal.
However, one important condition comes with it: your brand story must be genuine. Genuine doesn’t mean “private”, as in exposing the companies behind the curtains. It means you are genuinely committed to the promise you made. If you try to fool people, you can rest assured they will talk about it. And once your reputation is gone down the toilet, no marketing tactic will save your organisation from drowning.
Brand Marketing Summary
The most successful businesses are those that understand their customers on a deeper level. To create a brand that resonates with its chosen audience, businesses need to go beyond demographics and surface-level data. Instead, they need to understand the hopes, dreams, and desires that drive their customers’ behaviour.
Brand marketing is a long-sighted approach that works on building brand equity. Strong brand equity sets your company outside competition and justifies your premium price. 20 years ago you only needed to open your doors to make sales – now, everything has changed and it is still changing. People are increasingly sceptical. Trust is what it takes to establish a long-lasting relationship. Trust is built around a promise.
To reinforce the brand promise, companies need to develop a brand communication (or brand story) that communicates messages of trustworthiness and quality to both internal and external audiences.
A brand story is a cohesive narrative that comes from empathy and knowledge of your chosen audience and conveys the facts and feelings that are created by your brand.
Unlike traditional marketing, which focuses only on short-term solutions, brand marketing pivots its efforts around the brand story as a whole – across all contexts, platforms and touchpoints of a company: from media buying to advertising, from customer services to visual design and copywriting.
You may wonder: “yes, this is all very nice but how does it work practically?”
Expert brand marketers, such as Adcraft, will thoroughly analyse your positioning in the competitive landscape and whether your brand is communicating its unique angle.
Then, we’d go through specific brand metrics such as email opening rates, click-through rate, cost-per-action, impressions, social media engagement rate, website traffic, bounce rate, customer value vs customer acquisition cost, SEO performance, revenue, blog traffic, leads volume, conversion and more to establish where there are inefficiencies.
Ultimately, brand marketers would work on your brand identity and messaging to improve all the above metrics, in the view of a consistent branding narrative that builds that trust and equity you need to keep improving those same metrics. It’s a wonderful growth circle that starts with empathy towards your audience.
To give you an example, if your ad placement’s choice is contradicting your brand narrative, your audience perceives it, subconsciously or not, as an alarm bell for incoherence and untrustworthiness.
So, yes, even the choice of the placements and times to run an ad, should be taken with your specific audience in mind. There is no way around it: brand marketing is the way to go for a long-term, successful strategy.
Brand marketing is the most contemporary and effective approach for any business looking to establish a long-term presence in the market. If you feel like you need support in the creation of your brand marketing strategy, we, at Adcraft, are always happy to take on a project – no matter how challenging or how complex.
Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss where you’re at with your branding and positioning in the market.