What is branding?
When we studied marketing at university, this is what they told us:
Brand Building is generating awareness, establishing and promoting a company using strategies and tactics. In other words brand building is enhancing brand equity using advertising campaigns and promotional strategies. Branding is a crucial aspect of a company because it is the visual voice of the company.
While it’s true, it’s also pretty sad and uninspiring.. right?!
To us, brand building is about meaningful storytelling, working toward a vision, and having a brand purpose that drives you to get up and work on your company every day, even when you won’t get paid for it. It’s about connecting with people that share the same interests as you, and fostering a community by using your brand as a platform to deliver value, not only via your product or service (aka what you sell), but through content, events, and other things that you can come up with. Yes, creating a visual voice for your company is part of it, but in today’s day & age branding has become so much more. Essentially, brand building is about building relationships & being creative.
But why should you care about building a brand?
Brand building is a long-term process. It is not a seasonal marketing effort that you push out in hopes to boost your bottom line before the end of the quarter. It’s slow, and in the beginning it will probably not boost your bottom line all that much. What it will do though, is to help you build relationships with your audience that will pay out in more than just sales; Loyalty, word of mouth, and online + offline engagement. In short – you will foster a community of brand ambassadors that will not just abandon your brand once the next trend comes along. Why? Because you are able to offer them value in other ways than your product or service, connecting with their values and emotions.
Is all that effort, money, and time spent on building a brand worth it? Is branding even going to be relevant in the next 10 years?
Well, let’s visualise a scenario, and just run with it:
Voice is becoming increasingly prevalent. Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are getting better every day, and people are starting to see the convenience benefits that this voice technology has on their lives. At the same time, Amazon has grown into the biggest online retailer in the world, and 5G internet is bound to make a break-through in the near future that will make the internet of things a reality.
Soon, you will be able to screen the contents of your fridge via your phone, program that fridge to order products that have run out, or tell Alexa to get Amazon to send you virtually anything you want. We will be able to exclusively spend our time on things that we believe are of value to us. No more time spent on doing groceries, running errands, or other things we would rather not be doing.
Life will have never been more convenient.
But how will your fridge or Alexa decide which products to buy for you? Most likely this will happen based on data that you have provided, or that your technology has collected via your daily online behaviour.
As a company that sells products or services around a certain lifestyle niche, whether it’s fitness, food, fashion, or anything else for that matter, the importance of creating a brand that generates online engagement has never been higher. Our obsession with convenience will have us delegate the tasks we don’t want to waste our time on, such as shopping, to our tech gadgets, and those gadgets will check our social media channels for data that indicates what our favourite brands are, based on our online engagement.
Those brands who can generate the most engagement via their online channels will win. Just posting about your products and services is not going to cut it anymore.
While this future reality might still be a few years away, the power of brand can already be observed through the longevity of companies that have built their success on adding value to their audience via the brand that they have built.
Here are some well known examples, and why they are winning:
Vice was able to create an online media empire on the back of producing raw, front-line video content about fringe subcultures and topics such as drugs, sex, music, as well as create a unique narrative around international news. Their approach to storytelling has allowed them to build a loyal following of people that fit in the same demographic as those people producing the content. Essentially, it’s news for young people, by young people. They trust the Vice brand to deliver them authentic, reliable information about topics they are interested in, told in a way that merges entertainment, and education.
And this is how vice was able to build such a strong brand, and successful business model. They chose their niche, did what they thought was right in terms of storytelling, and put out a crazy amount of great content. And most of the time it was free. This allowed them to continually grow their reach, and eventually leverage it for profit by introducing ads, licensing existing content, and producing original brand content in collaboration with other companies.
Much like Vice, HYPEBEAST started out as a news outlet, covering everything in the realm of hype-beast culture. Constant coverage and involvement in the global streetwear scene has helped the company build a trusted brand which pretty much everyone who is into streetwear knows and goes to for their daily dose of hype.
Their ability to create a consistent pull-effect to their online channels can be attributed to their brand content and the value it brings their audience. Whether it’s info about the latest sneaker drops, exclusive garments, or the latest iPhone upgrades, their content remains free for their audience. And today, all the hypebeasts love HYPEBEAST. Go figure. Thanks to their loyal audience and their continuous engagement, the company was able to generate ad revenue, launch an e-commerce platform, and set up their own in-house creative agency to work with streetwear brands previously featured on their page.
When we talk about a product company that is killing the brand building game, then RedBull is definitely up there. The energy drink company has two owners. Chaleo Yoovidhya, the man from Thailand who invented and manufactures the product, and Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian businessman who bought the licensing rights, and is responsible for building the RedBull brand we know and love today. RedBull’s ability to tap into, support, and even become part of the extreme sports lifestyle is what made it into such a respected brand. And RedBull is not stopping there. As of recent, the brand is also making efforts to push into the music culture as well.
Through the sponsorship and ownership of extreme sports teams, support initiatives for musicians, music and sports events, RedBull continuously engages their customers on a deeper level: It enables them to tap into and enjoy more of the lifestyle that they love and value, whether it’s extreme sports or music, without aggressively pushing their product on them. Creating culturally relevant brand content and activations has allowed to be respected by people who like their product, but also those who don’t. And this is not an easy thing to achieve.
While these brand success stories might be inspiring, and have hopefully proven to you the power of brand building, they are often not very practical. That’s why we are actively working on a brand building content series that will help you craft the blueprint for your own brand.
The first step in creating this blueprint is defining your purpose. Why does your company exist? To help you figure this out make sure to check out our Practical Guide to Defining your Brand Purpose.