In the wake of shifting consumer demands, technological transformation, and oversaturated markets, it’s become necessary for today’s brands to be more customer-centric than ever. There’s an enormous need out there (still!) to provide consumers with a simple, clear, unique, and fully aligned experience. Those who don’t see this—and refuse to put the force of digital marketing behind their efforts—just won’t succeed anymore.
I’m just not sure many companies really understand how essential this is, especially in that second-tier set of fair-sized, youngish companies that have the capacity but maybe not the experience to execute enlightened strategies. With today’s empowered shoppers increasingly demanding that brands both reflect certain values and yet offer constant accessibility (via iPhone), there needs to be a reassessment about what matters to consumers and what they really want to hear and see. We need to start listening more.
The more it’s about the customer, the better. But many brands end up moving too far in one direction or another, not understanding that the sweet spot is in the middle—a nicely streamlined combination of digital convenience and real actual human touch. Digital tech should be used to nourish and elevate the human experience—not eliminate it.
With that in mind, here are my five proven strategies for properly engaging with the ongoing evolution in brand equity.
Transform Engagement by Melding What’s Online and Off
We can’t abandon the in-store experience for the quick digital sale. What we can and should do, however, is embed the consumer experience in a mutually supportive two-way of real-life experience and digital ease. Uniqlo is a good example of this. They recently initiated a campaign that used digital billboard images containing unique codes that could only be captured and read by taking an in-person photograph. People uploaded the code from their phones to the website to redeem a sample. Once on the site, viewers were guided through a visual story that described the exciting tech behind Uniqlo. Participants then shared their photos on social media and also began a word of mouth campaign. In total, this strategy reached over 4 million people and brought in 35,000 new Uniqlo customers.
Sound both simple—and yet also complicated? Yet that is the sweet spot I was talking about. Marketers need to think through how human beings actually interact with products, ads, iPhones, social media, and each other all at once to be able to predict how consumers will engage with a brand. This requires marketing researchers to get a handle on who people really are, not just how they use their phones.
It’s All About Personalization
Gathering research and examining market segments is all fine and necessary, but the next step in the process is more complicated because it means companies must do something they’re not used to doing: handing power over to consumers. And what’s the best way to do that? Personalize, personalize, personalize! The good news is that using biometrics, facial recognition, phone apps, beacons and more, it’s never been so easy to personalize the experience and let consumers control their own transaction from start to finish.
A fine example of this is Sephora’s cosmetics app, which uses augmented reality and A.I. to let people try on different products, which they find themselves both online or in-store, right on their personal iPhones. The A.I. then offers recommendations and delivers them to the e-commerce store so that they can add to their cart or check out.
Consumers today don’t just want to buy, they want control. And the right answer now is to give it to them.
Telling stories with text will always be necessary, but storytelling is taking a definitive turn in favor of the visual. This includes illustrations, videos, infographics, photographs, maps, and charts. Great visuals increase engagement tenfold. Captivating visual content that can evoke emotion drives consumers to decision-making—and when done correctly that decision will be to buy your product.
Interestingly, according to Getty Images, which publishes annual rends in the visual arts, there are three factors in 2018/2019 that determine the effectiveness of a visual: second renaissance, conceptual realism, and masculinity undone. Read up on the link about what each of those means, but it’s altogether pretty interesting. My take away? Visual storytelling is at such a predominant place in the culture that there are trends and preferences for imagery now just as once there were trends in literature, politics, and film. We would all do well to pay close attention and design our visual stories accordingly.
Pop-Ups and Marketplaces
The shopping mall is dead. This should not be news. What’s happening now is far more interesting, and probably better for the environment and for the community in general.
I’m talking about pop-ups. They’re so popular by this point that some brick-and-mortar stores have only a single location plus a network of dozens or hundreds of small pop-ups that can and do emerge anywhere they may be needed. This approach is low-cost, versatile, and fun. It’s about discovery: people like to find out about a pop up, and they like the idea that it’s temporary. It’s both exclusive and egalitarian. Come one, come all—yet you must be in the know to take advantage.
And then there’s the internal marketplace. Big stores like Macy’s and Target have been renting square footage to individual brands, which showcase their products for weeks or months depending. This creates what they call a “marketplace” within the store itself. The concept is not that much different from the department store, or the Main Street strip of storefronts. It also gives people a reason to come to the store, since not every product will be available at all times.
Done well, transforming brand equity is a win-win that increases revenue and keeps your brand relevant. Remember that success relies on simplicity, clarity, and alignment. You can learn more about how to create a simple story, a clear strategy, and aligned systems in my book, Marketing, Interrupted.