Starting a business is risky. You may have heard the oft-cited statistic that more than 90% of new businesses fail. Even famous brands such as Polaroid and Borders ultimately went extinct. What happened?
It wasn’t just their inability to innovate. Companies must place their core value and reputation first. That’s the foundation of a strong brand that will survive even if the market (inevitably) changes.
How can you make your brand one of these resilient winners? Let’s explore the key steps toward building a brand that lasts. But first, the basics…
Why Do You Need Branding?
The number-one mistake entrepreneurs make is believing that line from Field of Dreams: “If you built it, they will come.” Sadly, that’s a myth. No matter how wonderful your product or service is, you won’t make money if you don’t:
(A) put your business where your target audience will see it, and
(B) present it in a way that resonates with that target audience.
Simple promotion isn’t enough. Today’s consumers are both highly skeptical and inundated with promotional content. To truly make your brand stand out, you must speak directly to their problems and interests. Remember: your brand is essentially your reputation. You want to be relevant and memorable to your ideal customers, rather than just another business trying to get their money.
So, how you can make your brand strong, impactful, and long-lasting?
Tell a Good Story
Have you noticed that brands are increasingly relying on fun stories instead of overt sales pitches? For example, each year’s Super Bowl ads are highly creative and story-driven. Some barely mention the brand’s name! You may be wondering why a company would spend millions of dollars for a 30-second commercial that doesn’t even push sales.
Well, because stories create buzz. We humans adore stories. Long before the written word or the wheel, we were telling stories around the campfire. Stories unite us and define us. If there’s one thing that will get us talking, it’s a story.
That applies to brands, too. Consider some of the world’s most impactful brands. Apple isn’t a personal electronics company, it’s an opportunity to “think different.” Nike isn’t an athletic wear company, it’s a motivation to “just do it.” Your brand has something of value to offer your customer. If you want to stand out even in a poor economy or crowded market, your story must be something that entices them on a deep level.
Bake Resilience into Your Brand
Your brand must be more than your offering. We’ve all seen the collapse of companies that seemed like sure-fire winners: MySpace, Napster, Orbitz. And even well-established brands such as Kodak and Blockbuster ultimately went the way of the door. These failures were partly due to market misfit and lack of innovation, but they also came down to a branding fail.
For example, Blockbuster’s primary appeal was its convenience. Once Netflix started offering mail-in DVDs, that value faded. Ironically, Netflix actually approached Blockbuster with an offer to sell, but Blockbuster declined. Today, Netflix’s DVD program is secondary to its streaming plans. Had Blockbuster branded itself as a curator of hard-to-find movies, it could persist alongside Netflix or even be a sister company.
The lesson? Make your brand resilient to inevitable economic change and shifting consumer preferences. That’s why companies such as Amazon have been able to adapt: their core value was not merely their service but also their fun vibes of exploration and happiness.
Let Your People Shine
Today’s consumers don’t want faceless brands. They crave connection and inspiration. As most companies stick to cookie-cutter promotions and generic imagery, it’s easy to stand out if you prioritize your company’s humanity. Who makes your company tick? What do they share with your target audience?
Give customers a peek behind the scenes. Place your brand’s values front and center. Story-based marketing and clear brand affirmations help your audience connect with your company. You need not be a small artisan company to make your customers feel like you’re providing them with well-crafted, heartfelt products and services. Just look at Starbucks. Their marketing and overall brand revolve around people’s passion for their drinks, food, and the entire café experience.
The best and most memorable brands are those that resonate with their target audience. Often, that means going beyond simple promotion and generic business descriptions. Instead, place your value, people, and story front and center. Create an experience that will last even if the market changes. Amazon is the world’s #1 e-commerce brand not because they were selling books online. They didn’t even need to stop doing that. Instead, they sold their brand promise rather than the products.
If you want your brand to last, you can make it resilient by making it meaningful, impactful, and compelling for your target audience. Anything else is just for show!