Real talk. Being a brand in today’s sleek, modern, and oh so digital world is hard. At any given point in the day, customers are plugged into some sort of device, whether it be mobile or stationary. And what are they doing? Consuming of course.
Now, more than ever before, audiences are drowning in content. From ads to blog posts, videos to Instagram updates, brands are shouting. And only those with a clear understanding of who they are and what they have to offer—an identity—are most readily heard.
On a mission
In a marketplace heavy with competition, what makes a standout company nowadays is not necessarily a factor of product and/or service differentiators. A shirt is a shirt is a shirt ten times over. Small tweaks in material, production, and design can certainly impact preference on behalf of a customer but the developing of an allegiance to one shift alone comes from a much deeper place.
A brand must develop a sense of self. It must speak to a mission bigger than the creation of it’s products alone. And this mission, this purpose should then evoke feeling and like-mindedness among the audiences it hopes to attract.
Airbnb isn’t just a website for booking travel accommodations. They’re a community of wanderers seeking to belong anywhere. They’re a group of travelers looking to connect with their destinations in a way that makes the world seem just that much smaller.
Lyft isn’t just a rideshare service. They’re a gathering of individuals seeking to establish connections. They’re people looking to give back to the community in a variety of areas.
Patagonia isn’t just a cozy fleece. They’re outdoor enthusiasts with a passion for fair labor and environmental responsibility. They’re believers in the power of nature to unite us all in something greater than ourselves.
For as disconnected as people may seem to each other when glued to their phones, the need for that human connection remains. And in fact, it may even be heightened. Remaining relevant as a brand requires ‘it’ to become a ‘they’ and embrace a little piece of humanity.
Standing for something
Besides having a clear mission that guides all brand activities—both internally in the company and externally to customers—modern brands have started going a step further in aligning themselves with causes.
Mentioned above, Patagonia provides the perfect example. During any time period but now, playing with politics was considered marketing suicide. Patagonia has been gaining a lot of clout as a brand willing to uphold their mission, regardless of the cost: famously blacking out their website in response to a presidential announcement to shrink the size of protected lands (national parks).
This “retail activism” has recently expanded to include the likes of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart. As a result of the Parkland shooting, where students were calling for common sense gun laws, these two retail giants decided that waiting for legislation wasn’t enough. They took a stand and removed assault-style rifles from their inventory, while also raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 years of age.
In scenarios such as these, big brands are undoubtedly playing with fire by introducing polarizing political stances into their marketing and PR. This begs the question: what is the fallout associated with taking a political stance?
If Dick’s Sporting Goods’ stock price from January to April 2018 is any indication (before and after the Parkland shooting), they don’t have much to worry about. In fact, their stock price has actually gone up.
The lesson here? Appealing more directly to your target audience, regardless of what stance or tactic you take, might actually result in more positive bottom-line impact.
Proactive outreach and the literal brand voice
Long gone are the days when customers would reach out to a brand as a reaction to the good, the bad, and the ugly. With the number of communication channels at consumer fingertips and continuously evolving technology, outreach now teeters on proactive as much as it does reactive.
Artificial intelligence is certainly one of the biggest drivers in the shift of brand and consumer communications. Chatbots do everything from answering the basics of a customer service question to keeping insomnias company when up late at night. Heck, a chatbot could even help diagnose medical symptoms if in a pinch.
Final Thoughts: Why Brands Must Form An Identity to Remain Relevant
Natural language processing is giving brands a literal voice in their engagements with customers. Whether you name that voice ‘Alexa’ or otherwise, the ways in which you put it to work for your brand should help in establishing an identity that’s all your own. An identity consumers want to engage and respond back to. Get inspired by your why and reach out to the creative team at Mabbly for a glimpse at what your brand could be!