Opinion: Relentlessly Relevant Brands are centered around a strategic purpose

Atul Raja of Wadhwani Foundation talks about the strategic purpose of increasing brand relevance and sheds light on how it reduces tactical marketing costs, over time.

A plethora of brand launches happen every year. Brands come and go. However, only a select group stands the test of time and reaps the benefits of enduring customer preference. So, what makes these brands relevant with a strong customer connect? What makes them special and aspirational? Though there is no ‘one size fits all’ formula; still the reasons are not far to seek.  

Next-level Strategies for Next-level Brand Relevance

Next-level Customer Centricity: It’s all about working tirelessly to entrench the brand in consumer lifestyles. If the customer reaction is generally, “I can’t imagine another brand”, “Caters to my needs”, “Makes me happy”, and “Connects with me emotionally”, then the brand is in great space. Brussels Airlines is a great example of endearing the brand to the hearts of its customers. There are few commercial sequels that touch us the same way as their original (Mr. Smith, it’s a Boy), and Brussels Airlines did this in an iconic way fifteen years later with the same actors (Mr. Smith Jr, Happy Birthday!)

Next-level Customer Reach: It’s all about doing whatever it takes to be there for the customers. If the customer reaction is generally, “Is available everywhere”, “Makes my life convenient”, “Delivers a standard experience”, and “It is dependable”, then the brand is in assured space. Project Shakti, with 1.4 lakh women micro-entrepreneurs (Shakti ‘ammas’) across 18 states, covers half the villages in rural India and is a great example of penetrating deep into far-flung markets and creating livelihoods at the same time.

Next-level innovation: It’s all about constantly shape-shifting to stay ahead of technological changes and consumer trends. If the customer reaction is generally, “Pushes the status quo”, “Engages with me in new and creative ways”, and “Has better products, services, and experiences than competitors”, then the brand has created a strong foundation. Hilton unveiled the ability to unlock hotel rooms via smart-phone and created the ‘Connected Room’, which remembers a guest’s preferences like favourite TV channels, room temperature and light settings and makes automatic adjustments each time they check in.

Next-level Inspiration: It’s all about a talismanic, aspirational quality that dovetails with consumers’ dreams. If the customer reaction is generally, “Makes me feel inspired”, “Has a purpose I believe in”, “I trust”, and “Is modern and in-touch”, then the brand has created top-notch equity. ‘Co-Create IKEA’ is a digital platform encouraging customers and fans to develop new products. If a suggestion for furniture or product design is successful, IKEA may license the technology or agree to invest in future products.

Next-level Partnerships: It’s all about leveraging the partner’s reach and customer base, boosting visibility amongst new target audiences. If the customer reaction is generally, “Oh, I never knew this brand has so many features”, “Never came across this brand – looks interesting”, and “Worth a try”, then the brand has created new customers and new markets.

When Ola partnered with OnePlus, it made complete sense because both brands target the upwardly mobile consumer in urban India. Ola Customers were exposed to OnePlus’ latest smartphone, OnePlus X, on-demand through the Ola app. Twenty-two thousand people interacted with OnePlus, and around a thousand phones were sold as a result of this partnership.

Next-level Bonding: It’s all about listening and understanding what matters to customers. It’s not just about how they think; it’s also about how they feel. If the customer reaction is generally, “I feel important”, “I enjoy the personalized touch”, and “The experience is wonderful”, then the brand is creating memorable experiences through hyper-personalization.

Netflix is a great example of creating and distributing content that speaks to customers at every touchpoint in the brand journey and continually tracks data with a strong recommendation engine to customize the customer experience.

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Enhancing brand relevance lowers customer acquisition costs and increases the lifetime value of customers.

A new added dimension is the reach and omnipresence of digital mediums. According to consumer research at Accenture, companies are losing $1 trillion in annual revenues to their competitors in the US market alone because they are not consistently relevant enough.

Brands need to be living entities, constantly evolving, adapting to customer needs and building symbiotic ties.

This article is authored by Atul Raja, Exec. VP – Global Marketing, Wadhwani Foundation.

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