A brand is the most important asset a business can have.
It is the only true, long term differentiator of a company, and without doubt it helps businesses change and grow. But although business owners know this is true, most are still neglecting the one thing that makes a successful brand: people.
Brands start and finish with people. They begin on the inside, with humans, and are ultimately delivered on the outside, to humans. People are the pillars of a company that breathe life into businesses.
Brands are not a tangible product – they are a human construct brought together by opinions, perspectives and experiences. These experiences are made up of interactions with the product, a company’s culture, its impact on the wider environment, and how it communicates.
Each of these factors makes up a brand. And every touchpoint for a consumer or employee matters. It is only when these experiences are fully aligned with clear values and purpose that a brand can live to its full potential.
People form opinions of companies in the same way that they form opinions of other people: it is an informed, emotional choice as to whether they like and trust you. Your company needs to have clear values and a meaningful purpose to allow people to make these decisions.
This is even more crucial when aiming to get millennials engaged with your brand. Some might be tired of hearing about millennials’ needs, and the fact that they are more concerned with a business’ ethos and vision than their parents were. But this is the generation that companies must aspire to.
This unique generation has found its voice and is not scared to use it. Look at the recent General Election, for example. Theresa May thought she was safe, but the millennials roared and swayed the result. They weren’t prepared to stand for something they didn’t believe in.
Millennials want purpose, clarity and authenticity, and these are the qualities that must be instilled into a brand’s ethos if you want this and future generations to consider buying into your products. Millennials are the people that will champion your brand’s purpose – if you give them one.
Being purposeful doesn’t necessarily mean giving one product away for every one you sell, or donating a large amount of money to charity. It simply means being clear on what you stand for, whether it’s your employees, your customers, your passion for your product or your company culture.
Brands with a strong sense of purpose draw people in – they align people inside the organisation, while driving momentum outside of it. It doesn’t matter what the purpose is, it just matters that it’s clear and supported in everything you do.
While a purpose is important for communicating to people outside your business, it is also crucial to engage those inside it. Brands are business strategies brought to life, and ultimately it is employees – the people – who will ensure that a company’s values are externalised.
Employers should see their staff as the number one priority. Look at companies like Google and Airbnb. They have innovated and broken the stuffy corporate rules of working 9-5 at a desk. They looked into what would keep their talent happy, interested, and motivated, and have reaped the benefits tenfold.
Encouraging your workforce to innovate is also key to keeping up with competitors. And to do this well, the team must have the resources to learn and grow in an environment without fear of failure. Having collective fear of failure within an organisation makes it extremely difficult to innovate and focus on your brand purpose in accordance with your customers’ needs.
While innovation is crucial, it doesn’t necessarily put you ahead in the market – it just may keep you level.
You will always have a competitor offering the same product as you, so it is only your brand that can put you in front. Building a brand that ultimately starts with humans and ends with humans is paramount to any company’s success. It will be the only thing that protects you when your competitor is two steps ahead.