If you are an entrepreneur, small business owner or marketer today, with respect to branding, you probably are thinking that you can’t really observe an “online only” company. Well, maybe you can. When our marketing agency landed the Amazon account, we were experienced marketers and branding experts. But do you know what we had not done? Brand an online, digital only company where most customers would never meet a company employee. So how did we figure out the strategy and rationale for marketing and branding a new startup called Amazon?
When we started on the initial branding and marketing for Amazon, we initially had no clue about what Amazon’s brand promise should be, how that promise should come alive and how we could make the customers feel something powerful for an online only brand. So, we spent time trying to understand who would care initially about a “book” brand. Through careful research, we identified early adopters, only about 1.3 million people in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco who were high income, traveled frequently on business and were thought leaders when it came to purchasing, consuming and recommending written content, especially books.
Next we focused on the creation of the Amazon brand identity and how they would keep their brand promise of delivering (and delighting you) exactly what you ordered, on time and correctly. In order to do that, we had to create a brand “persona” as if the brand were a human and to identify those “traits” that would positively impact the customer mindset. That led us to ask the question, “Well, who delights us?” For us it was boutique hotel concierges. So, we went and observed them more closely. Here is what we learned in about 60 days of observation and interaction:
– How they greeted and welcomed people.
– That they remembered them.
– That they knew what returning guests wanted.
– That they would get things for guests.
– They would make recommendations.
Out of this brand persona research, we gave Jeff Bezos not only the core visual elements of the Amazon brand and marketing but also the brand attributes (e.g. one-click login, reviews, recommendations, etc.) that you still see today. Later, we “observed” how a customer moved through the website through path analysis and made additional recommendations. Does all this branding have an impact on customer loyalty and revenue? Apparently, it does. The Prophet Brand Relevance Index for 2018 reveals that the revenue growth of the most relevant brands has outperformed the S&P 500 average by 28% over the last decade. And Amazon was rated number one in “Makes my life easier.”
While you might be a startup, a small business or an agency helping companies do their marketing, you can ensure that the branding lines up with the marketing and the customer promise. Here are some insights for building a digital brand:
Know your marketplace and key trends. There is no excuse for not knowing the marketplace, the niche you want to occupy and the key trends in the marketplace.
Know the early adopter customer. Honestly, in the early days of any company, everyone is not your customer. Know the first 1,000.
Identify key attributes of the brand persona. It’s not that hard to create a persona that is representative of a company, their promise and perhaps mission. It’s somehow easier to build a company brand when you treat them like a a person.
Design identity and user interface to match brand persona. You cannot have an aggressive, modern brand with 70’s design. What the user sees and experiences should match the brand promise.
Relentlessly listen and improve the customer experience. Most of us want to avoid customers because they might yell at us. Take the opposite approach and you will be rewarded with insights.
Look forward to bring innovation to your customer. Don’t do something that’s cool to you if it does not provide a solid benefit to the customer. Look slightly over the horizon and design a solution for an upcoming need.
Some companies and their respective brands are being built today entirely in a digital world. Uber, Stripe, AirBnb, SnapChat, etc. How long they thrive and survive is based on how powerful their brands become or stay relevant. What’s key in their growth and survival is that they really understand and create an emotional feeling with their target customers and deliver on their brand promise. If they don’t build a strong brand, they will become a commodity which can be easily replaced by a competitor.