September 29, 2022
What Do Brand Believers Value?
In our case study on How Cult Brands Hinge on Buyers’ Beliefs, we established modern shoppers are willing to become brand loyalists and all the value you can capitalize on by inspiring brand culture for your business. What are the things that are of most value to your customers when they are evaluating your brand?
While fully understanding and developing your unique brand value position requires some specialized research and consultation, there are a few current areas that a large number of your valued customers are considering when they choose brands to support. These can be organized into two tiers that need to be discussed. The first tier is what we call the “foundational” values that every successful brand has in common. Luckily, our survey of end users and our client survey were in near perfect alignment with these three pillars.
At Creative Energy, we consider these three traits the “cost of entry” to build a compelling brand culture position. We don’t consider these as things that create brand culture as much as we believe that if you’re not successfully delivering on these expectations, then you probably shouldn’t bother trying to build a brand culture around your business. You have to get this right.
This is business 101 stuff, but that doesn’t mean they are less important.
Product quality (or service quality if that is what better relates to your business) is the first step to having anything to say in the marketplace at all. You can’t create a great brand position and promise on the back of a product you don’t believe in within your own organization. How can you expect to inspire customers to have a belief system regarding your brand if you don’t first prove your own beliefs?
Customer service falls out of product quality. If you have a product you believe in, then you are going to want to stand behind that product. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when you fall short of customer expectations. There will always be times when customer expectations may be unrealistic, or when internal disruptions directly affect your ability to perform at the level you have set. The point is always in how you respond at the customer level. Having a core brand position that is established upon your own internal mission, vision, and values gives you a playbook on how to handle these situations and allow you to interact with unhappy customers from a healthy position. Not having a clear brand identity may put you in a situation wherein unhappy, or even toxic, customers can push you to compromise on things that erode your brand promise or position. A healthy customer service system has to be based on realistic and relatable performance expectations. Think of some of the largest and most successful brands in the world. In many cases, it is the things they won’t compromise on that sets them apart from their competitors, not the things they will compromise on in order to placate some customers.
Then there is the price. There are so many points of consideration that impact the end price of a product or service. As we’ve established earlier, price is much more sustainable with engaged brand loyalists than it is in the open market. That doesn’t, however, mean that your brand believers are willing to pay unreasonable prices without a clear and transparent understanding of where and how the difference in price is impacting your brand culture, society, or the world as
a whole. You can’t build brand loyalty around a premium price for a product just because you want to make more money. Your price needs to come from a place of common understanding of how you spend your money as a company on product quality, customer service, and—in many cases just as importantly—the areas we call “structural” values within your company.
If the three traits we’ve discussed above are “foundational” in the way you might build a building, then these next set of values are all the important things that you will build on that foundation for your brand. These are the things that will give your brand culture form, function, and expression.
In the research survey, we asked participants to share the things that are most important to them when they engage a brand on a cultural level. In the graphic to the left, you can see what those values are, and also how we discovered some substantial discrepancies between the views of shoppers and the views of our own clients.
Real brand loyalty is tied to internal and external corporate behavior. These are the areas that were most important to shoppers in our survey.
SHOPPERS WANT TO VERY CLEARLY SEE THE TIE BETWEEN YOUR PRODUCT AND CUSTOMER SERVICE QUALITY POSITION BACK TO A FULLY REALIZED CORPORATE STRUCTURE.
If the foundational traits we discussed earlier are the areas that all successful businesses have to start with, then these are the traits that customers have said offer the most effective and dynamic opportunity to differentiate your brand culture from the marketplace.
The first thing you might notice in the graphic is that workplace quality ranked highest for shoppers and lowest for our clients. These are very successful brands that have had years of effective brand development with Creative Energy. However, there is still a need to regularly evaluate areas of opportunity to grow and respond to buyer expectations. Internal corporate culture has never been more relevant or scrutinized by consumers than it has been in the past few years. People are much less willing to turn a blind eye to a company’s internal corporate behavior even if they make quality products and offer amazing customer support. It is so much easier now to do research on a company and learn firsthand from their past and existing employees what kind of culture they’ve adopted internally.
IF YOU WANT TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE BRAND CULTURE WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE, YOU NEED TO CONSIDER HOW YOUR INTERNAL POLICIES AND PRACTICES WOULD BE RECEIVED IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION.
This could include areas like workplace safety controls, hiring practices, advancement opportunities, continuing education programs, and a vast host of other areas wherein you exemplify your brand promise and position within your own organization.
Empathy is the main contributing factor to building a solid workplace culture that will assure your customers and resonate with brand loyalists. The more human your internal policies are perceived by those that you want to build brand equity with, the easier it will be to build a relationship. Again, it’s incredibly important to start with a solid understanding of your company’s core values and vision so you know what areas you can compromise and what areas you will defend. There will be times when people may want to create pressure on your company to conform to a viewpoint that may not align with your company’s position. Having a well-established and articulated set of values that are sewn throughout all your marketing, advertising, public relations, internal, and partner communications will give you a much better position from which to defend your company positions.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS ARE ALSO OF HIGH IMPORTANCE TO LOYAL CUSTOMERS.
From manufacturing to packaging, engaged shoppers want assurances that the brands they support share their value in creating more sustainable business practices to improve our environmental footprint. Many companies struggle to understand how to interlace an environmental message within their brand messaging. With so many brands for the last few decades pushing their environmental initiatives to the forefront just to be met with scrutiny and accusations of inaccuracy in these practices, it can be intimidating to build a position that is realistic, sustainable, and compelling to their followers.
The new standards have moved from recycling or efficiency practices to a measure of the overall carbon footprint of a company. The goal is to at least be carbon neutral (having no net increase in carbon dioxide emissions released to the atmosphere) or even attain a negative-carbon footprint (having processes that net a position where less carbon dioxide is released to what is taken in). This can be a costly change in the traditional manufacturing process for most companies. However, remember that we’ve already established that engaged brand believers are willing to pay a higher price for products and services that align with their own convictions—in effect subsidizing some of the investment being made by their brands.
This may not be viable for your company, but it’s important to work with your advertising and marketing agency to craft a story that includes an environmental position. Whether it
is sourcing raw materials from more sustainable sources, improving energy efficiency at your facilities, improving packaging to create less waste in landfills, partnering and supporting third-party environmental organizations, or all of the above, it’s no longer an option on whether or not you will be environmentally responsible in your business practices if you want to create effective brand belief.
Innovation is an area that is probably no more surprising to you than it has been to our own clients. Continual improvement in product offerings, customer service, and manufacturing
processes are core to healthy growth and success. For customers, however, innovation takes on some new aspects that must be considered by companies that want to create a positive impact on the buying experience. If your innovations revolve around internal efficiencies to improve profitability, it can be difficult to inspire brand belief from customers. They want to support companies that value innovation through the lens of the end-user. For example, if you create a new mobile app that offers your company a more efficient way to communicate—and sell more products to customers—without offering practical value to the user in a way that aligns with your brand position, then it will likely not perform as well as you like.
A truly innovative company will demonstrate that all its improvement decisions are based largely on improving the lives of its customers and the world as a whole. Starting with a clear understanding of your customer’s pain points and limitations is the best way to assure that your investments in innovation can be leveraged into a strong brand message.
One quickly growing area of corporate cultural evolution is in regard to social advocacy. This is not a new concept, but it is becoming increasingly important to consumers as they make brand loyalty decisions. Social advocacy includes aspects of workplace culture and environmental advocacy, but it takes a much more holistic approach that is directly integrated into brand position and brand promise. Having a well-developed social advocacy position for your brands is where your messaging and marketing become much more human. The social environment is always evolving and can be fairly capricious in response to cultural changes.
SOCIAL ADVOCACY CAN BE BOILED DOWN TO FINDING AND THEN COMMUNICATING YOUR CORE BELIEFS AND VALUES AS A COMPANY AS THEY PERTAIN TO THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
In the modern marketplace, it is becoming harder for corporations to grow and gain support while refusing to express their social position on important topics that directly affect their consumers. Through the social upheaval of 2020, it became abundantly clear that silence and separation from the core social discourse that was happening were viewed by many consumers as culpable offenses. Many activists and social equality advocacy groups targeted large corporations demanding them to share their position on current issues. Many of these companies either remained silent—and were assumed guilty of impropriety—or crafted vague messaging that was seen as pandering or opportunistic. The best way to keep your brand from being painted into this corner is to have the discussion now with your brand experts and establish a real position that is empathetic, proactive, and sincere. Creating a response that you have to live with while under fire is not a tenable position for a healthy brand. You can see from our client responses that this is an area that many progressive brands are spending a great deal of time and resources to get right. We are working hard to help companies create a brand position that they can proudly invite their loyal customers to embrace and engage.
All of these things that our shoppers shared they value a loyal brand for are big issues that can be intimidating to understand and execute effectively. The core point is to realize that all of these areas are based on an honest and open human experience. Modern consumers have access to a wealth of information about the products and services they support, and their expectations are that these companies value the same things they value. Again, empathy is going to be the greatest tool a brand employs in earning the support and loyalty of their customers. If you’re ready to develop a plan to deepen your relationship with potential brand loyalists and recognize the need to partner with an agency that can help you create a brand position that is sincere, unique, and sustainable, then we’re ready to talk. Let’s build a brand loyalist relationship that will be the envy of your competitors.