How do you build a successful brand? Building a brand and creating a sustainable business go hand in hand. Successful brands differentiate your business, connect with your intended audience and drive loyalty. Ask a group of industry leaders or marketing experts and you’ll likely receive a wide variety answers.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon
“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks
“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.” Scott Talgo, Brand Strategist
They are all right to some extent. To live your brand promise every day is hard work and an on-going effort. It takes strategic thinking, relentless focus and a shared commitment among your team.
Build Your Brand Strategy
In my 20+ years of marketing I’ve been fortunate to support some amazing consumer brands including Starbucks Coffee, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Expedia Travel, Tree Top Inc. and now, A Place for Mom. Here are “5 Rules to Live By” when building out your brand strategy:
Clarify your business opportunity based on how your product or service meets an open market need. In other words, what is the “open water” for your brand? Where can you own a segment within your category that competition cannot touch?
You might think Starbucks built their brand around the goal of “serving the best cup of coffee on the planet.” The reality is Starbucks’ vision goes much deeper. The company defines its mission as “inspiring and nurturing the human spirit.” This focus on human connection allows Starbucks to own a position in the market that competitors have a very hard time beating. This aspirational promise allows Starbucks to go way beyond premium coffee and align their internal team to go after something much bigger, a world class customer experience.
When you think about creating a brand for your Senior Living Community how are you thinking about “open water?” How are you differentiating your brand through the products and services you are offering? How is this connecting with the lifestyle needs of your prospective customers?
Connecting is all about tapping into the lives of your target consumers. Many brands get stuck talking about consumer demographics versus focusing on consumer insights. Certainly, knowing your target demographic is important, but it doesn’t get at the heart of the issue. Successful brands build out their marketing strategy by deeply understanding key consumer insights and then connecting these insights directly with their brand promise.
One highly publicized example is Dove. By talking to customers, Dove learned that women are turned off by beauty product ads that consistently feature models that “do not look like 95% of us.” These insights led Dove to understand that to appeal to women, their ads needed to feature compelling women that looked like them. As an outcome, Dove created the “Real Women” campaign. This iconic campaign has helped reposition the Dove brand as a brand for today’s woman (regardless of the age) and one that is supported and beloved by women around the world. Dove’s efforts have been eye-opening for many and profitable for Dove. The company generated double digit growth the years following the campaign launch.
What does this mean for a brand in the Senior Living space? Consider how you can tap into consumer insights relevant to your category and then define how your brand, product and service will solve an issue. Are seniors afraid to move because they won’t enjoy the same quality of life? Are they fearful of losing connections with friends and family? How about their loss of independence?
3. Create Your Promise
Now that you’ve done the hard work of identifying your opportunity and understanding key consumer insights, it’s time to define your consumer promise. This is a critical step and will serve as the “one thing” you stand for in the eyes of your target customer and the perceived value you provide. Why one thing? Consumers are bombarded everyday with thousands of messages. Brands that are not clear and focused quickly get lost. Here are two popular brands that built robust businesses out of simple Consumer Promises:
For anyone who’s traveled lately, you know that flying is not the experience consumers used to enjoy. Smaller seats, baggage fees, poor food and packed flights all make for a challenging customer experience. Virgin Airlines gives consumers another option with a very simple promise: “A breath of fresh airline.” They’ve used this simple statement to guide their thinking around a better customer experience from mood lighting, touch screen in-flight entertainment, clean bathrooms and comfortable waiting areas. In short, they’ve changed the game in a very positive way.
Over the last few years Lulemon has consistently ranked as one of the top of retail sales per square foot brands in the country (an envious place to be). Their business is about selling yoga-related apparel, but their brand promise goes well beyond the product and states they stand for “enlightening, creating community and enriching people’s lives.” They’ve created a retail experience completely connected to their target audience (active, young thinking women who understand the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle). You can see how this really comes to life in their company’s manifesto.
4. Be Authentic
Your brand promise should be a part of everything you do. It should serve as a blueprint for your organization, team and shareholders. It should define what you do as an organization and more importantly, what you don’t, won’t or shouldn’t do. Just like Starbucks, Virgin Airlines and Lululemon, your brand strategy needs to be deeply integrated throughout your company’s operations and customer experiences.
5. Be Consistent and Live It Every Day
Many brand leaders get tired of their positioning or strategy before their consumers do. Once you’ve found your winning formula, your challenge is to keep it going and stay fresh. How? You must keep your brand promise front and center in your conversations, every day. Challenge yourself and your team to keep creating, innovating and living your brand promise. If you don’t, you’ll confuse both your customers and your employees.
Applying the 5 Rules: A Working Example
So how do you put the five rules into action? Let’s create a fictitious Independent Living Community brand that we’ll call Oasis Homes. This example shows how the five rules come together.
Connect: When creating the independent senior living concept, Oasis Homes, the leadership team realized that their target audience (Boomers) didn’t believe there was a community that matched their needs for the “independence and creativity” that they have so enjoyed in their retirement years.
Clarify: The opportunity was to create a community built around the new lifestyle choices Boomers were actively engaging in. The group identified their target as seniors who:
- Exercise: Love to exercise, but can no longer run and/or continue high impact activity
- Lifestyle: Enjoy gourmet tastes and interests
- Social Connections: Maintain connections to arts, entertainment and sports
- Learning: Love to stay connected and up to speed on current issues
Brand Promise: Oasis Homes – Gain your independence, creative spirit and freedom with Oasis Senior Living.
Authenticity and Consistency: The following are some examples of how Oasis Homes could come to life and live their brand promise:
- Marketing / Tagline: “Live, Discover, Enjoy”
- The Oasis Lifestyle:
- Boomercise: Yoga Classes, Masters Team, Ballrobics
- The Gourmet in You: Gourmet kitchen and event center allows residents to host dinners and wine tasting with friends
- An on-staff sommelier to help with weekly wine selections and tastings
- Celebrity Chef Night
- Family Night: A monthly family event around the Joys of Life
- Art Series: Rotating local artists and family events
- Lectures: Local business leaders
- Arts and Events Calendar: Built into monthly residence fee, residents choose from attending a play, lecture, music or sporting event each week
- Cooking Classes
Building a winning brand is hard work. Doing it right is also rewarding and profitable. I hope these tips have been useful. Have fun and stay focused.