Brand Strategy

Clean-up Your Brand’s Act

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Kailey Bender

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You know that one cool item that just came out and you saw the awesome commercial so you bought it? And then it sat underneath your bathroom sink for a year until you threw it out? Yeah, don’t be that brand. Turns out, if no one has a reason to use you, they won’t invent one on their own. You have to give them a reason –a really good reason –otherwise people won’t be opening their wallets for your brand anytime soon.

Maximize Relevance and Resonance

After you’re convinced that you’ve got a great idea and you’ve built your brand, you release it out into the world with some buzz behind it—but remember: building awareness isn’t enough anymore. More and more research is telling us you need to maximize your relevance and resonance. Brands now need to dig deeper, listen closer, and find more ways to stay in touch with the people who ultimately will define your brand, says Mike Araruz, a Senior Strategist at Undercurrent, a digital strategy firm.

That’s where the resonance comes from—creating a bright world of superior products, a place where the customer wants to stay. How your products and services enhance your customer’s quality of life is relevance. How is your new world valuable and enticing when we have so many worlds to choose from?

Sexy Soap

One of the best examples I’ve seen for creating a brand that is both relevant and has resonance is the company method. As described in their 2011 book The Method Method, friends Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry began developing their own line of natural cleaning products in 2001. Method began with soap and evolved into window cleaner, laundry detergent, body wash and more.

But soap isn’t sexy. It’s not a shiny new piece of technology or something delicious to eat. It’s been around forever, it’s boring and there are plenty of soaps for sale at every store you enter. Why make yet another soap in a world where plenty of soaps are already getting the job done? Because the two entrepreneurs saw a need for a safer cleaning formula with a pretty design in today’s eco-friendly and design-heavy world. Keep in mind, cultural relevance is achieved when the audience recognizes what you’ve created is something that reflects their culture.

Eric and Adam’s consumers recognized that they were going green in every aspect of their lives –from reusable shopping bags and hybrid cars to organic foods –but they still did not have an effective way to clean their homes without harmful environmental effects. Method’s taglines— “for the love of green and clean” and “people against dirty”—combined with recycled plastic bottles filled with a non-toxic product delighted eco-conscious consumers. (Plus, to prove the earth-friendliness of their product, Eric once drank the soap during a sales presentation. How cool is that?) When your soap is safe and has the same design thought put into it as an iPad, you’ve hit the nail on the head of your audience’s green culture.

Something to Talk About

Marketers say relevance is the easiest hurdle to clear –much tougher is achieving cultural resonance. Culture resonance is where your audience uses what you’ve created to talk to each other about something meaningful that they’ve been observing in their culture. Since consumers have been discussing green products for years, the conversation about the environment and what humans are doing to it had already been started. But impressively, method inserted themselves into the crowded conversation and took it a step further.

Method users began making their own online environments (like super fan Nathan Aaron who started and pitching in with community clean-up events. Their website has become the go-to place for questions about cleaning chemicals and sustainability. The product inspired their consumers to question their cleaning products as well as the world around them: if method can make ultra-concentrated detergent with a less wasteful jug, why can’t the giants like Tide and All do that? Why do we need all these chemicals in our cleaning products? Why do the directions say we should rinse our kitchen counters after cleaning them? And why are everyone else’s soap bottles so ugly?

The hard work paid off. As described by Inc. Magazine, in just 11 years, method has become a $100 million company with more than 150 product SKUs and 100 employees. Not bad for two roommates selling soap out of the trunk of their car.

The Holy Grail

But really, how does a brand become relevant and achieve the holy grail of resonance? Truthfully, I don’t have steps for you to follow. But here’s my best shot at a wise answer: It is intention and commitment that breathes relevance into brands. When we intertwine individual focus with purpose, functionality and benefits, we inspire the necessary resonance that prolongs the lifespan of that brand.

Ian Rowden, the CMO of Virgin Group, gave this advice to developers of brands at Brandworks University 2012: Have a very simple and clear brand purpose, stick to it like glue and if you get that right, so much of everything else you do will fall into place. “One thing to remember: we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and have fun along the way,” said Rowden.

In other words, get to work and work hard. Stand for something, change things, and have a really really fun time doing it. I’m willing to bet, if you do all of that, you won’t be the useless product that lurks forgotten in the shadows under the bathroom sink.

Kailey Bender

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