I’ve noticed that people are surprised when some companies dramatically outperform other companies…
when they grow both revenue and brand value…
when they disrupt and then dominate their categories…
and when they sell or go public at phenomenal valuations…
But I’m not surprised.
I’ve studied those companies intensely for years. I’ve learned directly from the top decision makers exactly what they do differently. I’ve made them the focus of my career. And here I will share with you the single most important thing they do…
They define the word “brand” differently.
The great change agents, disruptors, and CMOs who can write their own tickets all have this in common. “Brand” means something very different to Dollar Shave Club, Airbnb, Warby Parker, and Casper than it does to most marketers.
Most marketers – and in fact, most business leaders – still associate “brand” with logos, style guides, naming conventions and brand ads. This is what I call small brand.
Not the big winners. They subscribe to the concept of BIG BRAND.
They understand that the brand, is first and foremost, an experience in the mind of the user. They understand that to manage that brand is their ultimate job; that it is in fact the main purpose of the organization. They understand that to manage that inner experience, they must design and direct all of the external evidence of the brand that the user experiences.
Therefore, these companies think of “brand” as the entire user experience, not just of the product and promotion, but of every touchpoint related to the brand. That’s Big Brand.
Then, in order to organize and change everything about the way the brand is experienced, they think about the brand this way:
• They think about the brand spirit. They get clear about what the spirit of the brand will be. That spirit will transform every touchpoint into a brand experience. For Tesla, it’s visionary, bold and futuristic. For Airbnb, it’s adventurous, social and natively comfortable. For Dollar Shave Club, it’s fun and frank and super-practical.
• They think about the brand meaning. They know that an inspiring idea can organize and change everything for the brand. They know that people want to buy into more than a value proposition; that they want to be part of something meaningful. For Casper, it’s a more rested culture. For Betterment, it’s a world of tech-savvy, smarter investors. For Tesla, it’s a world without smokestacks and rising oceans. For Dollar Shave Club, it’s a club of guys who look great and still have some money in their pockets.
• They think it applies to ALL their communications. Unlike small brand thinkers who often unthinkingly expose more people more often to brand-damaging promotional come-ons that sap the value of the brand, Big Brand thinkers view everything they do as part of the user experience, part of the brand. They generate more sales, more efficiently, by thinking brand response rather than direct response. In brand response, the brand insight makes customer acquisition more efficient while it builds brand value. The better it works, the more the company can afford to do. The more the company can afford to do, the more it sells and the more valuable its brand is. It’s a virtuous cycle. The opposite of the one that kills the small brand goose.
• They design phenomenal fulfillment experiences. Brand experience design is a mindset that pays huge returns. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money! It’s shocking to us that so many companies just deliver in a normal envelope or a cardboard box. It’s crazy that they don’t see their trucks, boxes, crates, envelopes, cards, keys, bags, packaging and even invoices as inspiring brand experiences ready to happen. We are appalled at the enormous waste of owned and tightly targeted media that is underutilized. Casper puts a whole mattress in a box – a story with every delivery! Dollar Shave Club includes Bathroom Notes with every well-designed delivery, mastering their brand domain. Our boxes for Gateway had spots, and you could see them from two blocks away. Our FreshDirect trucks became popular rolling billboards and backdrops for a million selfies. From our logo to every element of delivery packaging, we worked with our brilliant friends at HelloFresh to make every surface and gesture speak the brand. This year, we evolved Weight Watchers’ Starter Kit from a concept to an actual kit, and both recruitments and member results improved dramatically!
• They think about how media creates powerful brand associations. So, in addition to effectively increasing their media budget by 15% or more by insisting on transparent, accountable media, they also use a balanced scorecard for optimizations. This makes both acquisition efficiency and brand association central. It also includes location and purpose to, again, better align to the experience of the user.
• They think about being and doing the brand, not just marketing and promoting it. Because they know that today, everyone is connected to the true word-of-mouth about products and brands, they know that what they do and what they are means more than what they say they do and are.
And yes, they view the people who interact with their marketing as users and friends, rather than “targets” or even “audiences.” They know that today, people are trying to use our marketing and our brand to make meaningful and lasting changes in their own lives. Big Brand thinkers know that’s what we’re here for.
If this concept of Big Brand intrigues you, you may want to check out this roadmap. It’s the same one we use for smaller companies with smaller budgets to build dominant, category-disrupting big brands. It’s the same roadmap we use to help big companies to turn the ship around and succeed in our mobile-and-social-acquisition-driven marketplace.