Brand Value Exchange and 10 Action Points

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 4.26.27 PM10 Action Points for Building and Sustaining Valuable Brands: this is the title of a ‘take-aways’ segment from the BrandZ annual survey done for WPP. I found the points to be fully aligned with our philosophy and methodology for building and growing brands (see my last post about lessons in branding brought to life through the new play “War Paint”). Though many of the brands surveyed are consumer, these tips for success transcend all boundaries of organization type and size: for-profit, not-for-profit, public or private, professional services or consumer product, member association or industry coalition. Here they are as stated:

1. Be purposeful
Every brand needs a purpose. Consumers assume brands are in business to make money, of course, but they also expect a well-defined and clearly communicated brand purpose. While that purpose might describe a way in which the brand changes the world, it must certainly describe the way the brand improves the customer’s life.

2. Be authentic
It has never been more important for a brand to be real and to operate in a broad social context. The brand is there for all to see. And consumers today, especially members of the millennial and Gen Z generations, are likely to select brands that align with their beliefs, or at least do not contradict those beliefs.

3. Be in the conversation
Consumers are making their voices heard across categories, expressing health concerns about soft drinks, fast food, and personal care products, and advocating for cleaner energy options. Brands need to be engaged, and to listen in a genuine way to both critics and supporters. Brands need to help shape the conversation in a transparent way. Change is inevitable. But the shape of change is not.

4. Grow the triple bottom line
Pay attention to the financial bottom line, of course, but do not let the social and environmental bottom lines become victims of quarterly reporting pressures. Tell an authentic and forward-looking story about where the brand is now and where it plans to be in the long term.

5. Refine the brand experience
At a time when most products are functionally good enough if not excellent, and every product is just a click away, little is left to differentiate one product from another except the experience of purchasing and using it. Making a brand experience memorable requires both adding embellishments and removing annoyances.

6. Talk to individuals, not generations
Millennials and the Gen Zs know that brands are trying to sell them, and they are less likely to be sold when brands generalize about their entire generation. Narrow the focus. Marketing briefs that talk broadly about the millennial or Gen Z generations need to go back to the planning department.

7. Use data respectfully
Consumers are providing marketers with information about themselves constantly. And while they may be fine with brands knowing that they buy shoes twice a year, they may be less pleased when shoe ads follow them online for six months. From the consumer’s point of view, the preferred transaction with a brand is: You can have my data, but only if you use it intelligently.

8. Simplify the value exchange
To simply pay cash for a product or service is now quaint. Instead, consumers are asked for their data and comments as well as their money. All these forms of currency have skewed the value equation, and consumers end up giving more without receiving additional value.

9. Change the transaction mindset
Develop a sense of partnership with the customer. Help the customer think less about the transaction (What can I buy from you?) and more about the relationship (What can I achieve with you?). Motivate the customer to purchase, but also enable the customer to better understand and appreciate the value exchange.

10. Widen the competitive set
Take off the blinders if they are still on. The best opportunities – and potential competitors – may be waiting outside the product or service category.

Full report

Brand Value Exchange

Number 8: Simplify the Value Exchange, and number 9: Change the Transaction Mindset, seem to work hand in hand from my perspective. Though the concept is not new by any means, it is proving to be one of the sustaining truths of successful marketing, and I see it as the embodiment of a thought leadership approach. One way that I found of explaining it is:

Brands must evolve from a transactional relationship to a dynamic one, where consumers and brands continually exchange value. For example, when a brand obtains data from a consumer, such as an email address, it becomes the responsibility of that brand to reciprocate and provide value in exchange for the data it received – that value must go beyond promoting the next purchase. Likewise consumers share a brand’s content because they find it valuable to themselves and peers. If continual value is provided, it leads to continual sharing, and both the brand and consumer benefit.

I think there is a clearer, simpler way to understand the concept:

Value-Exchange-infographic

One of our long-term clients—Bostrom—has been ahead of the curve on brand value exchange for quite a while now. Their newsletter, Solutions, provides intelligent insight and, well, solutions to issues facing association professionals and volunteers. It is one the most successful examples of value exchange, in part, because of their commitment to consistency and their understanding of the ‘long-game’. Check out the case study.

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