Why brand relevance can be marketing’s Blue Ocean
Relevance is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the world of branding. This is due to the fact that, while most branding professionals spend an enormous amount of time looking outside “their homes”, their brand strategy and activation plans are mostly built from the inside-out.
To put it simply, “the brand comes first”. When this happens, the brand becomes both the alpha and the omega of the process. The logic of the inside-out approach focuses on the value of analyzing past performance while diverting attention away from key questions such as: “Is our brand fit to compete?” and, “is our brand appropriate for this market place?”. An example of this situation can be found in disruptive innovations, when market leaders become so self-centered that they do not recognize when consumers are changing or do not identify new trends and new categories as they emerge. Basically, they have lost their edge.
In the previous example, we saw how the “relevance component” can be occasion and category driven. For example, Sony, Philips and other brands have lost their relevance in the living room, which was, for decades, their kingdom. Their earlier influence has been overshadowed by Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Google. Yet another example could be the following: consumers of whisky, vodka and liqueurs have drastically changed the way and the reasons why they purchase and consume these categories, and yet many brands refused to adapt, which leads to their disappearance from the consumers’ repertoire. Each of these represents examples of the extrinsic dimension of brand relevance, which is largely dependent on the changing landscape.
However, there is also an intrinsic side to brand relevance: when the brand ambition, its values and its positioning resonate in a compelling way with consumers. A brand becomes more relevant when it offers relevant promise and develops it by stretching boundaries and exceeding expectations in a relevant way.
How many premium vodka brands have failed in increasingly luxurious categories? Probably too many to keep count of, and yet most of them have failed because they misunderstood the “premiumization phenomena”. They simply followed the codes dictated by their corporate leadership without trying to generate an ‘a-ha’ moment for consumers. The intrinsic dimension to brand relevance involves using the right words, the right tone of voice, and the right slang. Most of all, it is about producing a compelling message.
How do you maintain your brand relevancy? First and foremost, the quest for brand relevance begins by understanding which trends are happening in a given industry and by ensuring you link them to the degree of obsolescence of your brand. The biggest mistake at this stage is to assume a trend is a fad and bypass further analysis. The second phase involves positioning your brand in a way which generates an ‘a-ha’ effect from both the consumer and customer perspective: getting consumers and customers in the room while doing so is a good start, and it ensures that any proposition is compelling from generation to execution.
Brand relevance can be in marketing’s “Blue Ocean” in the sense that it can help create new and more relevant categories, industries and market places where competition is irrelevant or not existent. On the other end, while Blue Ocean main’s focus in on Value Innovation, brand relevance sparks the ability to develop more premium-based innovation, where consumers are swept off their feet and are, therefore, happy to trade up to a new category.