In business, brand is always top of mind and for me, even more so after yesterday’s Wine Tourism Conference with the theme Brands, Brand Building and Brand Distinction. We often say that brands are dynamic and have to adapt and even redefine or rebuild according to market and consumer trends, but it seems there is even more about brands that we have to consider.
Although I couldn’t attend the seminar myself, feedback from my colleagues and the detailed Twitter feed from the conference, gave me enough to think about. I was particularly disappointed that I missed the presentation by Pepe Marais of Joe Public. The way that company hits the nail on the head, time after time, has made me a fan. In one remark, Marais compared business to people and asked if, like a human being, business could be a business being? I think we can ask the same about brands. If a brand is alive, dynamic and adaptable, perhaps it is a brand being? And perhaps then, the way we think about and go about brands can learn from how human beings introduce themselves, interact with others and motivate behaviour.
- Exit the Ego
Ego is the enemy of successful interpersonal relationships. Ego isn’t all bad. It is important that one understand their inner worth to be independent and confident. But although focusing on the self and your own needs might have you flourish in the short term, it will not do you good in the long run. No man or brand is an island. Relationships with others and their opinions about you matter. The generosity that comes from giving, rather than focusing on your own needs, is an irresistible quality in both human and brand beings.
- Be Nice
Does being nice have a place in business? When you watch Succession, do you see the Roy family being nice? The world would be a better place if we could fit in more niceness and kindness, but perhaps there’s some differentiation between business and brand. For me, brand is the persona. It is not the price negotiation, the supply chain discussion or the budget meeting. The brand’s focus should be less on being a success and more on the success it can help its customers achieve. How does the brand change your life? What does the brand do for you? How does your brand choice make your life better? These are questions asked by a brand that cares – a nice brand. And while being nice sounds like a small thing, it makes a big difference to brand experience.
- Be Flexible
This seems so obvious, but adapting to market and consumer demand is not only required from cooldrink brands adding more sugar-free options or wine brands offering a low and no category. Peter McAtamney shared an interesting look at how the traditional model of luxury evolved. The contemporary luxury brand, even if it has heritage and an established reputation, has to adapt its approach. It might only be subtle, but there is a definite shift from being me-focused to being consumer-focused. Rather than concentrating on heritage and legacy, showcase craftsmanship. While the craft might be closely associated with the heritage, it shifts the focus to the customer. Craftmanship is why the brand is important to the customer, heritage has an inward focus. While exclusivity might have been a positive sentiment especially when it comes to luxury brands, the modern idea is much more about inclusivity. These ideas are challenging, especially if you are a traditional luxury brand, but it is worth applying your mind.
Whether we are confident enough to listen to our gut or not, having a gutfeel about something or someone comes from experience and should be valued. You want consumers to have a positive gutfeel of your brand. It is so much more than the logo and what you say about yourself. It is about what you do, how you do it and what is being said about you. The age-old concept of word of mouth creates a gutfeel for your brand.
“There’s nothing more distinctive than your brand story”, says Katlego Ditlhokwe. Telling your story is the best way of introducing yourself and in Africa, we know all about storytelling. Long before books were written and stories documented on film, African families shared their history, beliefs, culture and heritage through storytelling. While telling your own story might introduce yourself, it is the stories that others share about you that determine your reputation.
- The Bottom Line
Like the subtle differences between the traditional and contemporary approach of luxury brands, there is also a move from being profit-driven to a purpose beyond the product. The world is upside down in more ways than one and often, your profitability is the measure of whether or not you are staying afloat in the turmoil. And while your accountant might have sleepless nights, your brand has to be about more than the bottom line. Brands have to be about authentic and meaningful business. Brands have to understand what their purpose is and how that can make a difference for their consumers. According to Pepe Marais: “People don’t buy what you are selling, they buy what you believe in.”
One often debates the real value of a brand, but when you see your brand as a being and recognise that very similar to human beings, a brand needs heart, authenticity and purpose, we might be getting closer to marketing success.