A brand loses its appeal if it does not keep up with changes in the world around us.
- On one end, consumers are now more aware of their purchasing decisions. Social Media has empowered consumers, and they feel the power behind their spending. They do not to listen passively to brands any longer, they can and will talk back
- On the other end, the blurrification of category boundaries, and the convergence of non-adjacent industries, are all re-shaping the meaning of category. Both Amazon and Apple produce and distribute movies and TV series, activities that belong to galaxies far away from their traditional core business.
Both points are typical examples in which competition must shift from preference-based to relevance-based, as predicted by David Aaker.
What is Brand Relevance?
Brand relevance is a brand’s ability to connect with consumers based on their needs and wants. Brands relevant to customers can provide solutions to consumer problems and meet customer expectations. A brand should be able to communicate what makes them unique and different from other brands, and it can do so by focusing on continuous incremental improvements, which do not change the consumer needs-states, or by looking at consumers’ needs and trying to address the relevant issues.
The brand relevance of a product or service is the degree to which it satisfies the emerging needs and wants of its target audience. It’s about how well your business meets the specific needs of your customers and how effectively you communicate that process.
When three conditions are present, relevance for a brand takes place.
- A product or service subcategory — defined by one or more attributes, applications, user group, or other distinguishing characteristics—exists or emerges.
- A perceived need or desire exists among a particular customer segment for the category.
- The brand is considered to be material for the product category or subcategory.
According to Prophet’s Brand Relevance Index, there are four components of Brand Relevance, and those are the characteristics that separate brand relevance leaders from the rest:
- Customer-obsessed: focused on customers’ and consumers’ needs, first and foremost.
- Ruthlessly Pragmatic: both in terms of being physically available and with a customer journey that solves problems rather than creates them.
- Distinctively Inspired: never tired of challenging the status quo and breaking barriers.
- Persuasively Innovative: innovation-driven, never passing an opportunity to innovate further.
Brand Relevance Competition vs. Brand Preference Competition
Brand preference competitions involve choosing which brand you prefer over others. You can win by having better quality than your competitor, having more features, and having lower prices. All of which proves not effective, more so, in a VUCA world. Brand preference strategies involve making products more appealing to consumers. In other words, those strategies include making incremental changes to an existing product line. Customers do not switch brands unless there is a product improvement over their current brand. New offerings are rarely successful because of competition from other offerings. Brand preference strategies rarely move markets. It is usually a recipe for, if you will, retaining existing market positions and, if you will, price and margin erosion.
Brand relevance competition is about creating products that are so attractive to customers that no one else offers anything similar. The focus shifts to standing out from the competition. It would help if you created something that makes your customers want to buy it. The result is almost a Blue Ocean, in which there is no competition at all for an extended time or one in which the competition is reduced or weakened, the ticket to ongoing financial success.
Brand relevance competition is different from brand preference competition because it involves choosing a category or subcategory instead of a brand. Doing an outstanding job in the relevance-based competition requires two aspects:
1. Managing the category/subcategory in a visible and appealing way
2. Focusing on the brand’s relevance in the category/subcategory by highlighting the credibility
A Brand Relevance strategy involves creating an innovative product or service that redefines its category or subcategory. It’s a game-changer that re-shapes the business.
Despite this, it will still significantly enhance it either through adding a new “must-haves” or improving one of its characteristics that are so significant that customers will then reject any option without it, even if they had previously accepted it.
Making Brand Relevance Happen
There is no easy recipe for building brand relevance, but adhering to the following steps, brings your brand in the right direction:
1. Do not talk to your customers. Listen to what your customers have to say
Most brands are unable to talk to customers for two reasons. First and foremost, for fear of listening to anything but their voice. Second for fearing listening to an idea or a problem they do not expect. So many marketing advisories will yell to their clients, “Talk to your customers,” whereas the most critical part is to listen to them. Listen to their needs, hurdles, and complaints, and list all of those as top priorities for your work.
2. Relevant brands excel at building experiences pre, during and post-purchase
They understand how to build meaningful relationships with their consumers. They know how to connect with people emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. They also know how to make their customers feel like they belong.
3. “Keep moving.”
Many brands fear innovation because they fear being not successful. They should fear more the lack of innovation. Relevant brands lead the way, and they do so by innovating, sometimes successfully and sometimes failing miserably.
In the era of blurred categories and industry convergence, both consumer and B2B brands should focus on their brand relevance by abandoning a preference-based competition, and concentrating on their real customer needs, seamless experiences, and relentless Transformational innovation (not incremental innovations), by making their competitors irrelevant.