August 10, 2020
Customer-led, product-led, sales-led.
Or customer-centric, product-centric, and sales-centric.
These are the latest buzzwords when it comes to business strategy. Jeff Bezos used one of them in his statement to Congress:
“I founded Amazon 26 years ago with the long-term mission of making it Earth’s most customer-centric company.”
What do they mean?
That the business takes a customer-first approach when it’s customer-led or customer-centric.
Similarly, sales become a priority when you’re sales-led, and the product becomes the heart of all decisions when you’re product-led.
Another such growth strategy is brand-led.
It means the identity of the brand and its vision dictate your growth. You align all your business decisions with your brand strategy.
At every stage.
A perfect example of a brand-led company is Nike. Everything they do works towards building a strong, compelling narrative around the brand.
Why do you need to be a brand-led business? Because it creates movements that lead to higher market authority and therefore greater outreach.
Creating a brand-first company takes time, investment, and effort. With that in mind here are some strategies that help you become brand-led.
9 Rules to Becoming Brand-Led
Each rule we give you should be part of your brand strategy. Together, they make your business brand-led. So, as you read through them, keep your brand lens on.
Don’t be better, be unique.
Most brands begin with the vision of “we want to be better than X.”
That X is generally another company offering similar products. When you fall into the “better trap”, you fail to differentiate your business.
To be successful and brand-led, you’ve got to be unique. Don’t be better, be different than others.
Build a unique tone. Say something contrary to popular belief like Nike did with Colin Kaepernick.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Don’t be loud, be resonant.
We live in a noisy market. For a brand to capture attention, they have two choices:
- Be loud through a massive marketing budget.
- Be resonant by putting the right message in front of the right customer.
Chances are you don’t have enough funds to be loud. 99% of companies don’t. So, start building a brand identity that’s very specific and resonates with your audience.
That’s how you win hearts.
Don’t lead with the product, lead with a story.
Everyone has heard the phrase build a narrative so many times that it has almost become a cliché.
It is not.
For a brand-led company, a company that enjoys a greater outreach, stories are crucial.
Even when you are talking about a simple product, create an emotional angle. Take a cue from WhatsApp’s #ItsBetweenYou campaign.
Focus on the customer.
How does it help the customer? That’s the golden rule for positioning products. You talk about the benefits, not just its features.
The age-old practice still stands true.
To be brand-led, you take this practice and build upon it. You don’t just talk about benefits, but advantages that focus on the customer.
From your website to your packaging, every area should put the spotlight on your users and never the company.
Read between the lines.
The maker of Amazon says:
“…customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy…”
Jeff captures the essence of people aptly. What your audience says and what they truly mean are two different things. Most times.
To be brand-led, you need to read between the lines. Look for the subtext, and that will lead you to triggers, which you can utilize to create a resonating brand vision.
Compel decisions, hard ones.
Because a customer rarely knows that they want something better, you need to push them to make hard decisions.
Focus on your core consumers and then force them to take a forward leap. One such example is Tesla. With every pre-order, the company compels its users to walk into the future, even when most of them are not entirely ready for it.
Create your own language.
Brand-led companies have their own language – a language that creates a private moment between you and customers who understand it.
That language could be visual like the one Milk Makeup has. The beauty brand uses white and transparent packaging, unlike most other cosmetic brands that stick to black.
By being unique and specific, Milk created their own language. The language resonates with people who ‘get it’, and these people turn into loyal customers.
Of course, the language need not be visual. It could be literal like in Atlassian’s case.
Take risks with your vision.
Brand-led companies have a future vision. Every step they take now is to realize that vision. And for that, you need to take risks.
When you take bold steps, you earn authority, a cornerstone of becoming brand-led, and that increases your outreach.
Be empathic to your customer.
In your zeal to take bold steps, don’t forget to be emphatic with your customers. Your brand should make the user feel good as if it helps them achieve the best version of themselves.
The feeling you should evoke is relief, not guilt, reward, and not fear. Positive emotions give you long-term results and help you be more empathetic.
And once you start empathizing, you have a greater outreach.
Test Your Brand-Led Strategy
The simplest way to test growth strategy is to question: “Is the opposite of our strategy also a strategy?”
When the opposite of your brand strategy makes no sense, then all your competitors will follow the same path as you. That means you’ll be indistinguishable from others.
And we all know where that leads – lower outreach and lesser customers.
So, after you use these rules to become brand-led, test your strategy. Follow it only if the opposite is also a strategy!