A brand new world: five steps to branding success

  • Roger Macdonnell
  1. Have a story to tell (and do it consistently well).


I don’t believe there’s any special formula for Kiwi brand success. The brilliant basics – customer relevance and engagement – remain vital whether you’re selling in LA or Levin. However, to be successful a brand needs a story – and Kiwi brands will need to develop their own unique tale to suit their audience. There are plenty of great examples across the wine, beer, food and fashion industries, with many brands focusing on intrinsic New Zealand values or playing up their superior homegrown quality and customer care.


  1. Remember that every good story must be backed by good customer experiences.


Customer experience matters now more than ever. In a world where one person’s experience with a product or service can reach the masses rapidly through online sharing, ‘word of mouth’ can be the kiss of death. Whatever story you’re telling, it needs to be backed by reality.


On the other side of the coin, unprecedented reach also means unprecedented possibilities. For starters, there are more opportunities for consumers to interact with your brand than ever before. Greater levels of personalisation and more granular targeting are available by the month, allowing advertisers to create tailored brand experiences. Most importantly, when those brand experiences hit the mark, the customers they captivate become brand ambassadors in their own right.


  1. Look forward – and adjust your ad spend accordingly.


Every marketing article for the past decade has included a warning about the future of traditional media. I’m going to go one step further and call it – the sun has all but set on the old world. We see it in the decline of TV, as average viewer age increases and ad revenue plummets. We see it in the rise of digital ad spend, which overtook TV ad spend back in 2016 and continues to climb. Arguably, we even saw it in the US election results, with Hilary Clinton’s huge ad budget failing to halt the Trump Twitter juggernaut.


The traditional agency world will give way to a range of problem solvers, creative thinkers, strategists and digital specialists – make sure you’re among them.


  1. Think carefully about your brand’s ‘reason for being’.


In my experience, Millennial consumers are deeply aspirational and expect a lot from big brands. They favour products and services that back a cause or serve an altruistic purpose – in other words, brands that exist for a reason beyond ‘making a profit’.


However, I feel it’s worth having such a brand purpose only if it’s done well. It’s a valid strategy, but the key to success is authenticity: the customer will spot a phoney a mile away. To make it work, you’ll need to choose a purpose that relates to the core product and benefits the wider community, while also providing a commercial advantage. It’s not an easy ask, but it can be a lucrative one (even if profit’s not supposed to be the point). 


  1. Forget about being loved – concentrate on being trusted.


Let’s face it: today brands just aren’t ‘loved’ the way they were in the rose-tinted past. The ability to research online means today’s consumer favours positive Amazon feedback and Facebook reviews far more highly than what brands tell them directly. They’re also more fickle than ever before, happy to switch to a new ‘favourite’ if it’s more suited to their needs than the old.


In my opinion, companies should care less about their brands being 'loved', and more about their brands being trusted by delivering relevance, performance, innovation and quality.


What’s not to love, after all, when you’re offering all that?

Written by Roger Macdonnell