How Branding Can Build Better Customer Value
How Branding Can Build Better Customer Value
Businesses, for your own survival, remember this: Customers today have more choices than ever before. Drop into any grocery store and you’ll have to decide between, at minimum, 12 different brands — not bags, but brands — of rice. So to distinguish yourself from all the other metaphorical bags of rice on the shelf, your branding needs to demonstrate a record of reliability. In a word, you have to show that your business builds customer value.
See that equation up there? That’s a rough-and-ready definition of customer value: The benefit of a product minus the cost. You’ve just bought a bag of scrumptious basmati rice for $4. Are you satisfied with it? You are? Then bask in the glow of high customer value. That purchase is one tesserae of the mosaic known as “brand equity,” or the social value of a brand. Calculating brand equity can get tricky, because it’s not based entirely on market capitalization, but also on intangibles like dependability. Once people trust you, they may be willing to pay more for your product if they enjoy the perks of your branding. Some marketers argue that branding benefits customers in at least three ways: making their lives easier, moving or inspiring them, or reinforcing their beliefs and bottom lines. Let’s go over each one.
Ease and Convenience
No matter how glitzy your brand design gets, many successful companies still follow the same customer service principles as Mom and Pop: They solve problems. Need a credit card? Call Visa. Want a bassinet delivered? Log onto Amazon. Gotta write a content article about how branding builds customer value? Open your Macbook Air.
Visa and Amazon and Apple have thrived in part because they provide “convenient customer service,” which is mostly a euphemism for easing people’s apprehensions or fears. Take a more visceral example: A tree branch falls on your roof and a home repair business removes it and patches up the damage before a hailstorm sets in. All that anxiety welling up inside you about replacing rotted wood and soaked furniture goes away, courtesy of this company. Afterwards, you’ll probably call them again — or even buy hammers and wood chippers from them, if they’re selling. Why, you ask? Because you trust their brand.
Inspiration and Identity
Brands don’t just fix problems for us. They also welcome us into the club. Remember the last time you went into the Mac store? You felt like you were entering a spaceship. Your floor was the Cloud. Everything looked like a vision from twenty years in the future. The glowing white layout enticed you — and your pocketbook. At a Mac store, you’re paying for a 27″ monitor with a desktop shot of Catalina Island, yes, but you’re also meshing your identity with the aura of simplicity and sophistication that you’re nimbused in. What’s the customer value of being enticed? Brand agencies will debate this point endlessly, but one could argue that, in Apple’s case, it currently amounts to $241 billion, making Apple a giant among other global tech giants today, with a near-perfect brand value rating of AAA.
Beliefs and Bottom Lines
Consumers have rewarded Apple with billions of their hard- (or otherwise-) earned dollars, in part because Apple enriches them right back. Your Macbook Air will cost you at least $1,000, but the ease with which it lets you work from anywhere or plug into LinkedIn communities will lead you to opportunities that recoup that initial fee in no time. Brands also typically find that they make more when they spend on side-projects that make their business look good. Take this page from Apple’s site: “How Apple Volunteers are Helping Transform Lives.” The more world-weary among us might point out that do-gooder companies give off a whiff of paradox, but this article does a convincing job highlighting how Apple employees help out at food banks or teach coding to high school students. The more Apple gives back, the better people feel about buying from them, especially when their outreach programs reinforce values that those consumers already hold.
A well-thought-out brand isn’t just a shinier logo on a bag of rice. Rather, it’s the culmination of all the research you’ve done on your customers — the surveys they filled out, the comments they left on Yelp!, the Google Analytics you pored over. Listen to what they’re saying. Track their spending patterns and adjust your pricing (if advisable). Segment off the clients you want to attract, then position your brand so that it speaks to them. A company without branding in today’s market has pretty much told their customers that they aren’t interested in providing value for them, which can get costly. After all, your very survival may depend on it.