The skill of brand-building has long been a highly valued asset within the consumer marketplace. The connection between a strong brand identity, customer loyalty, and improved profitability make it especially attractive in an environment as hectic as the one we are facing. As it happens, a strong brand identity attracts a loyal customer-base and with a strong following comes a steady growth in profitability and brand value.
Frank Patrick Delgadillo – an expert at brand building – joins us to offer his credible insights on how to strategically build a business from the ground up. Frank is a decorated entrepreneur, brand builder, creative director, and product/fashion designer. According to Frank: “The question today in marketing is no longer just how to build quota, how and where to identify potential customers, but what to do so that they remain, become ambassadors of our brand, and can achieve better benefits in the medium term. Nowadays, the emphasis is more on being economically sustainable than on following the trail left by the flares of transitory quota increases.”
To get out of the whirlwind of inflation in the generation of differential elements that complicate the product and deteriorate margins, to get out of the opaque wall of an oversaturated offer of purely functional sales promises, brand building has become an effective tool. This is not only a name that identifies the product or service, but it synthesizes and represents the values with which an effective relationship with the client or consumer can be generated.
The brand not only answers what the product does for me, what functions it performs, and what differential attributes it has when it comes to solving a need for tangible order but also answers the question of what the brand says about me and my choice of lifestyle. This generation of insights is at the key of market mobilization.
The customer wants to be reminded of his place in society and often emotionally, products should strengthen this notion, and within a passionately strong brand identity people find solace in the BRAND, as well as the products.
Structure and meaning
“Traditional models of brand building, such as that followed by a good part of the agencies, place emphasis on identifying the functional, expressive, and core values of the brand,” – as highlighted by Frank. Through creative-communications, successful brands generate the structure on which to build a connection with the client; that is, they try to establish the pillars on which to establish a stable relationship with him.
However, for the brand to achieve its objective of generating profitability through loyalty, it needs to go further: it must not only have a structure (continent), but it must also have meanings (content). If the marks have value, it is because “they can be weighed”, and the weight is a matter of volume and mass: the marks must be dense. Giving brand density means giving it texture and temperature. It is what Pepsi is doing through the Pepsi Refresh Project or Harley-Davidson with its Posse Ride (etc.)
The co-creation of the brand between the client and the product generates an interaction that increases the temperature of the relationship, achieving greater warmth. Socialization processes –and here, social networks have come to our aid– make it easier for brands to be incorporated into vital practices and to be significant elements in the relationship between people and groups, transcending the mere commercial relationship.
Similarly, the generation of experiences around the brand make it “appear in motion,” in use: it is not about selling products, but about selling ideated moments. We do not sell a trip to the Dominican Republic, a cola, and a cigar separately, for example, but the satisfaction of enjoying the moment of contemplating a sunset looking at the Caribbean Sea with a soft drink in hand and enjoying a good pure (for those who smoke).
This way of generating meanings by activating the experiences of use and consumption allows the brand to be incorporated into a narrative that facilitates the discovery of who versus what. The products are endowed with personality in an artificial way, but it can never sound artificial. The who is the brand makes it to better connect with the customer.
Establishing the Connection
Frank argues that brand building processes require matching two strategies simultaneously. On the one hand, the generation of a structure that gives them volume. The product, its functional characteristics, and the rational values with which it is associated play a fundamental role here. The product in its functional dimension is a necessary condition for the brand to exist, but it is not a sufficient condition.
On the other, the processes of socialization, generation of experiences, and the incorporation of the narrative into the endowment of meanings, the mobilization of feelings and emotions, must be activated. These are sufficient, but not necessary, conditions in the existence of a brand. Thus, the necessary and sufficient condition for the brand (the “if and only if” of the brand) arises from the combination of the functional elements enriched by the emotional ones.
The connection established between the brand and loyalty is justified because it challenges the customer as a person and not only in his role as a buyer. There is a process of humanization of the sale that activates the symbolic elements that give it greater density, a texture of greater warmth in the relationship. The connection between loyalty and profitability comes from the activation of income increase factors (higher average ticket, more sales per cross-sale, more movement of the assortment, less elasticity to the price, etc.), with those of cost reduction (capturing clients and portfolio optimization thanks to the standardization processes for greater and better knowledge of customer demands).
Loyalty is the client’s free adherence to the company’s offer. Its effect is permanence over time. Thanks to this, profitability drivers are activated. The temptation is to simplify the process and confuse the cause with the effects, putting into practice practices that are closer to customer retention than true loyalty, which, to be effective, needs to be free.
The seduction that we try to induce has its foundations in the generation of meanings through the incorporation of narrative components. Telling a story reveals meaning without making the mistakes of simplifying a mere definition. Balzac said that chronology – the mere accumulation of data – is the history of fools.
As our clients are never fools, they need to be captivated by incorporating the product into a story (storytelling) that gives its full meaning. And this is a task not only for advertising but also for corporate communication, the management of social networks, and the vast and rich set of below-the-line actions that we have at our disposal.
The logic is clear: a brand is truly narrative when the brand story is told. When stories about the brand are communicated (advertising), when the brand is incorporated into a story (product placement) and then share the story with the client (co-creation through social networks). Hold your company accountable for brand building, and you will see customer and client engagement grow.