As consumers, we wield increasingly more power over business success or failure. We live in a consumer-powered reality in which the intangibles like values, beliefs, actions, or contribution to the collective weigh into decision-making more than ever before. For brands, this calls for a new approach to organize their business, manage and communicate with customers.
As consumers, we purchase based on more than product benefits or quality. We choose and are loyal to brands that align with our lifestyle, goals and beliefs (political, moral or social) and help us lead the life we envision for ourselves and our communities.
As consumers, we are increasingly wielding our power more deliberately, choosing to invest our spending power with brands that stand for what we stand for. That mindset of “investing in a brand” is very conscious for many target groups, too.
Consumption as self-actualization
As business leaders and professionals, we observe that consumption as a necessity yields to consumption as a means to self-actualization, no matter how big or small a brand’s contribution herein may be. Generally, this is not a new concept: The consumer spends to realize the ideal version she sees for herself. This goes beyond growth of the material and beyond status. Today, it’s about belonging to a tribe of like-minded individuals, wherever they are on the globe, and growth of the immaterial, like skills, character, resilience, intellect etc. Be aware that this is true for most brand-driven businesses, no matter if product, service, software or platform.
But acknowledging that something exists is quite different than yielding its insight to work in your favor. Although self-actualization has been increasingly relevant, many brands have yet to adopt its underlying truths and move away from an organization-wide brand-centered world view. When the entire company, from HR to sales understands that consumers (or employees for that matter) are currently in the driver’s seat, they will develop their brand power.
Consumer power fuels brand power
Consumer power can be turned into brand power if adopted into the brand’s thinking and operating system. Fundamentally, this means three things:
1. The business decision to become a brand-driven instead of sales-driven business needs to be assessed and taken. This does not mean that sales are not important. On the contrary, it acknowledges that the customer, who has developed a highly attuned anti-marketing, brand bt radar, needs more sensitive proof to purchase than just a marketing message. Before we pump-up the brand with our sales instruments, though, let’s remember: A brand is a symbol of values, promises, stories and products. A brand today is about people, the people behind it and the people that buy (into) it. People want to be acknowledged, valued and understood. Brands that turn the people into the hero make the sale more effortless.
2. The brand’s positioning needs to clear, specific, and redirected toward a customer-only focus. This has two benefits: First, it becomes very clear and tangible for employees and brand ambassadors what role the brand, and as extension they themselves, play in the customer’s life and there exists a unified message and feeling of belonging. Second, customers better understand how the brand can help them and can, in turn, become better brand customers and active advocates.
3. All customer-facing interactions must be aligned and synchronized to this. By that I mean that Sales, Marketing, Brand Communications, Corporate Communications (yes, because an employee or stakeholder is also a type of customer) must understand what role the brand has in helping the customer achieve her ideal state or goal. And then they have to talk, exchange ideas, listen and understand how to work as one. Unsurprisingly, this is simultaneously the most difficult and most rewarding work in building long-term success.
One place we are seeing first effects of brand power currently is how the fashion industry is experimenting with Web3 and the Metaverse together with their customers. Various companies are opening themselves up and including consumers and customers into their brand stories, taking a back seat and becoming a guide or enabler to new things. Granted, this is still a very experimental space and far from being ideal. Many hiccups in strategy and alignment across non-virtual spaces still need to occur. But you need to start somewhere, right?
The point is this:
Brand power is about acknowledging and giving the consumer power, and freeing the brand from being the hero (because, let’s face it, that gives us tunnel vision in the first place). Consumers that turn into loyal customers and then influential fans are what gives a brand power to enable, inspire and guide. This opens the business up to new ideas, innovation and collaboration. If we’re learning one thing from Web3, then it’s that collaboration is the next frontier.