Scrolling and clicking, clicking, and scrolling, the mobile economy is surely a boon to retail brands. Strong brands are not defined by sales alone. Strong brands are built on a feeling.
None of this is new or news, yet the media environment and the metrics associated with algorithms of mobile media would appear to favor sales at the expense of brand building.
There is more than one way to build a brand. All brands want to achieve sales. The differences in approach to building a brand often have to do with its origins. If you built your brand out of your garage, then sales are essential to keep building and growing and keeping the lights on. In this scenario, sales are essential to keep funding the operation. If your product or service is good and your sales grow, you’re a success at creating something of value. Why need awareness advertising and brand building efforts? Let’s call this garage scenario brand A.
Let’s consider another scenario, we’ll call it brand B. You’re a well-established entity that has already achieved scale and you have a new idea for a product or service, and you have budget. You can build demand for this brand through an awareness advertising campaign that demonstrates or implies the value of your new idea. This will be the lead driver of sales. In scenario B, you are investing in a feeling, in the aspiration of your idea as an integral part of the life of the consumer. If the advertising is effective and the brand idea is good and the product or service delivers on its promise, you’ll begin to grow your brand and sales too.
How do you measure the effectiveness of one approach over the other? Let’s conduct a thought experiment. If your brand were to disappear, is it easily replaced in the lives of consumers? Would it be missed in a manner that people would find disturbing?
Most brand managers don’t like to answer this question.
If the world wakes up tomorrow and the Apple brand is gone, is there a replacement? Nike? Amazon? Prada?
Functionally you may try to argue there are alternatives. Emotionally, if you’re being honest, your response will be no. This is the signal of a true brand, it’s irreplaceable in hearts and minds.
Why? Brands and branding are not simply about driving sales. It’s about making deep connections with your audience. Connections that head for the heart. It’s these connections that drive more than sales, they drive loyalty above all other choices, they create advocacy among users; spokespeople who recommend your brand. They defend against upstarts, build positive association that protect against the odd mishap and build equity. This equity shows up as brand value that support brand extensions, partnerships, and new offerings in an ever-present response to evolving consumer needs. Most importantly, brand drives market value.
If you can only speak of your brand in terms of sales, chances are pretty good it can easily be replaced in the lives of your customers. You can start with scenario A and build a substantial bottom line but failing to invest in the brand building approach of scenario B leaves your business open to the vagaries of ruthless competition with little more to protect you than price.
Price alone is a race to the bottom.