Growing a meaningful brand is an organization’s ticket to long-term marketing success. Consumers are consistently choosing brands with values that extend beyond their product offerings. Studies show that 71 percent of consumers considering a brand’s trustworthiness and identity to be a significant influence on their purchasing decisions.

However, it’s not easy for marketing teams to agree on the ideal brand identity, and it’s even more challenging to translate brand values into an effective media plan. These challenges are compounded by today’s changing technical and competitive environment. Marketers need to reach an increasingly connected global marketplace with unified, yet differentiated, marketing messages.

If you are a marketer or entrepreneur who wishes to build their brand in the next few years, you should keep four priorities in mind:

  1. Messaging must emphasize brand over product.
  2. Make messages personal by leveraging automation and AI.
  3. Optimize your brand’s content for voice and visual search.
  4. Blur the boundary between marketing and customer service.

By adequately preparing your brand for today’s fragmented and changing marketplace, your brand will enjoy visibility, relevance, and grow your brand equity.

Messaging Must Emphasize Brand Over Product

The feeling of the brand can be as important to promote as the product features and benefits.

Let’s kick this off with a controversial opinion – in today’s competitive environment, a brand’s perception of quality is nearly as important than the quality of the product itself.

Take the brand image of Apple, for example. In general, consumers agree that the latest line of iPhones are top-of-the-line. The phones are equipped with the most advanced processors on the market and command a high price tag as a result.

However, did you know that Apple is facing over sixty class action lawsuits regarding the planned obsolescence of iPhones? These lawsuits claim that through software updates, Apple purposely compromised the usability of their phones over time, encouraging customers to buy the next model.

The legality and morality of this strategy will be debated in court – what’s important is that Apple users continue to believe in the quality of iPhones despite numerous lawsuits claiming the contrary. How has Apple maintained an image of quality in spite of this controversy?

The answer is that Apple’s marketing team are masters at what they do. They’ve expertly crafted an image that makes customers feel like Apple products are of higher quality than a competitor’s offerings.

Apple marketers maintain the brand image using two meaningful ways. Firstly, they always put the user’s experience first when designing interfaces for their products. Secondly, The Apple Store layout draws inspiration from high-end boutique stores to creating enjoyable buying and service experiences. The combination is a robust and well-defined brand that stands out from the competition.

Apple’s brand essence extends to their smartwatches, tablets, laptops, and more, creating a halo effect for their brand image. And this emotional connection based off of consumer feelings is precisely why Apple enjoys consistent year-over-year growth, no matter which controversy comes their way.

Every marketer should look up to how Apple’s successful marketing strategy and understand how integral brand marketing is to the success of their entire range of products. They promote the feelings surrounding their brand more than the features or technical aspects of their products when their competitors do the opposite.

The reality is that today’s consumers don’t just want high quality or low priced products. They want brands that connect to their needs, interests, style, and general worldview – and accomplishing this requires building a strong brand that stands out from the rest and engages customers emotionally.

For example, how Apple’s famous “Think Different” TV spot included no mention of any Apple products, and instead only offered inspiration for the viewer. Or, how Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” didn’t feature a single bottle of beer, but brought a nation of football fans to tears.

Make messages personal by leveraging automation and AI.

Personalization is a requirement for today’s marketers.

According to Gartner, brands are at risk of losing 38 percent of their customers due to inadequate personalization efforts.

Marketers have been tasked with analyzing customer data to reveal preferences, and then use those insights to send personalized and targeted messages.

However, many marketers hit a roadblock when they attempt to analyze this data. Not only do marketers have access to more customer data than ever before, but today’s consumers have attitudes that seem to change on a day-to-day basis.

Marketers need to rely on automation and artificial intelligence to process data to ensure that the information gleaned from their analysis is both accurate and actionable. Automating the data processing will generate real-time insights, and artificial intelligence can identify patterns and highlight insights no human could see.

But don’t worry – this isn’t the end for human marketers. While artificial intelligence can analyze information efficiently and effectively, the outputs of their analysis are devoid of context.

Brand marketers must work in tandem with these programs to put the AI’s analysis into the context of their customers, and then craft a plan of action to reach these consumers best.

While overall branding should remain consistent, messaging can be tailored to target the individual through these personalization tactics. Customers who are shown messages that are personally meaningful to them will be happier and more likely to engage with the brand.

Optimize your brands content for voice and visual search

Analysts at Gartner predict that brands that optimize their websites for visual and voice search will enjoy a 30 percent increase in revenue in the coming years.

Voice search is when people verbally ask search engines, apps, and devices and get back a narrated audio response. For example, when you ask your Amazon Echo: “Alexa, is the mall open right now?”

Visual search is when people use one image to find other images or products that are visually similar. For example, Pinterest has a visual search function that allows people to find other images that are similar to a part of another image. You can use this feature to find a handbag a celebrity is holding, assuming it is on Pinterest.

Some brands are already feeling the positive effects of visual search optimization firsthand. Asos, a UK based fashion and beauty site, integrated visual search capabilities into their app – and today, 58 percent of their orders come through mobile devices.

With visual search being a novel concept, more brands will likely report success with this technology as time goes on. Can your brand be one of them?

Voice search, on the other hand, is currently the fastest growing mobile search type; it will soon become the dominant search method for mobile users. Voice commands can be spoken into smartphones via a virtual assistant, wearable technology like Apple Airpods, and smart speakers such as Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa.

Google Home and Google Home Mini smart speakers
Google Home’s penetration is growing and growing. Soon most homes will have one smart assistant on the ready all the time.

Strong content marketing is key to ensuring that your product is included in voice searches.

Voice search is efficient, almost to a fault. Voice searches give consumers a quick way to issue commands, and it only offers customers a single result as opposed to the crowded search engine result page (SERP) for text searches. The singular response from voice searches give consumers a one-track mind when shopping, meaning that brands without a defined image will likely suffer.

For example, imagine a consumer uses their last laundry detergent pod on a busy day. Since they don’t want to run out of laundry detergent when they need it most, they place an order via a smart speaker.

Amazon Alexa is a customer service agent on the living room table.

Chances are, this request to their smart speaker will be very specific. They’re not going to shout, “Hey Alexa, order high quality, moderately priced laundry detergent pods.” It would be futile – the smart speaker has no idea what they’re asking for. Instead, they’ll say, “Alexa, order a pack of Tide Pods.”

Consumers are going to spend less time evaluating all of their options. Instead, they’re going to immediately divert their purchasing decisions to the brand that owns the most real estate in their mind.

Make sure your brand is at the top of consumer’s minds and optimize your online presence for voice search through content marketing. Initiatives like answering common product questions with simple, discrete answers will provide lasting value in the new voice-search world.

Blur the boundary between marketing and customer service.

There is no difference; there is only customer success.

Brand equity is created when awareness and preference-based marketing messages lead to exceptional customer experiences.

Poor customer experience results in weak customer loyalty, even if marketing is perfect. Conversely, a poorly marketed product will mean there are no customers to service even if the customer service team is on-point.

Brands must actively live their espoused values – requiring marketing and customer experience teams to be on the same page.

For example, think of United Airlines. In 2013, United Airlines announced a slogan – “Fly the Friendly Skies” – that would encapsulate the brand image they hoped to set forward. United wanted to be considered picture of perfect cordiality, customer service, and amicability.

Fast forward to five years later – April 2017. United had overbooked their flight and randomly selected four passengers to leave to make more room for the airline’s staff. One of these passengers was a doctor who refused to leave, claiming he had patients to treat the next day.

Instead of “flying the friendly skies” with United, the doctor was forcibly removed by security officers and sustained a concussion, among other injuries. A video of this event was circulated throughout social media and was met with nothing short of an outrage.

Video summary by Business Insider that includes the video of the awful incident.

What many social media users didn’t understand was that the situation was primarily out of United’s control. Most people don’t appreciate that the staff of the Chicago airport that injured the doctor.

However, according to passengers, the flight staff were curt and impatient as the situation unfolded and quickly threatened to call the police instead of dealing with the passenger in a friendly, personal way. Following the incident, United Airlines promptly released a statement that only stoked the flames of the fire. In the statement, the chairman of United deflected blame to the doctor, calling him “disruptive and belligerent.” Hardly friendly.

United’s industry-standard overbooking policies certainly didn’t put the customer first. When the debacle was said and done, passenger complaints had increased by 70 percent, and 38 percent of consumers claimed they’d spend more money to avoid flying with United Airlines. They hypocrisy lead to a loss of brand equity.

This policy cut against United’s desired brand image, the feeling they were going for with their tag line. The stark contrast between how United wanted to be perceived versus how they ran their business made the news story even juicier. The worst consequence of the overbooking policy is that this man had a traumatic experience.

Moral of the story? Make sure customer experience teams and marketing teams are always on the same page. Otherwise, your brand will be negatively impacted by the whiplash customers feel when their positive expectations are met with an ugly reality.

Conclusion. Be personal and authentic with your brand’s messaging.

Your brand is always essential in the current rapidly-changing marketing environment.

It’s important to build a brand marketing campaign that can build awareness and trust in your brand. In today’s competitive environment, marketers must make special consideration to ensure that their brand’s messaging is well-targeted, emotionally driven, and authentic.

Good campaigns that follow these rules will be exalted and enjoy considerable, long-term success. On the other hand, poorly constructed branding campaigns can harm your brand’s image.

With the right branding initiatives, all of the products and services under your brand’s umbrella will enjoy more sales and increased loyalty, improving your organization’s revenue in the long run. A brand’s values need to be appropriately translated into a long-term marketing strategy consistently — otherwise, your brand will create confused, unsatisfied, and disloyal customers.

Learn more about Dennis Williams II and read more of his insights at Marketing Evolution.