After years of treating b2b buyers like emotionless ‘droids, b2b brands are finally getting the hang of customer-centric branding. B2b brands are now considering the needs, desires, pain points and ambitions of their audiences: and using them to build brands that truly speak to the customer.
Here are 4 trade secrets for creating truly customer-centric brands: and (because we love bringing the best of b2c to the b2b arena) some great examples of consumer brands that are doing it beautifully.
Secret No. 1. Build a picture of your customer - and stick to it
Building a crystal-clear picture of your consumer is a fundamental part of creating customer-centric brands. Being rigorous about sticking to it is another. Once you get the hang of this, it not only allows you to create authentic, single-minded brands, but also opens up opportunities in the most unlikely of places. Let’s learn from one of the masters: Richard Branson.
Virgin : building an empire for one
Virgin has extended its brand into a staggeringly wide variety of unrelated products, including radio stations, spas, energy drinks and bingo (no, that’s not a typo). And not a smattering of brand erosion in sight. So how do they do it? The one thing that unites Virgin’s products is low pricing, good quality, and a fun-loving, rebel image that attracts - you guessed it - a particular customer segment. This psychographic similarity in Virgin’s customers makes it possible for the company to create a seamless brand across a product range that would normally make even the most adventurous of brand managers squirm in horror.
Secret No. 2: Know thyself
Of course the second half of building an awesome customer-centred brand is understanding what attributes your product, service or organisation carries, and understanding what they mean to the persona you have identified. Brand archetypes are a neat, powerful way of pinpointing those brand characteristics that can really connect you to your consumers, as well as helping you balance customer and company agendas along the way.
Here’s an example of a b2c brand which has mastered the art of brand archetypes beautifully:
Victoria’s Secret: owning the ‘Lover’ Archetype
With their sumptuous ‘boudoir’ styled stores, pink and black colour scheme, lingerie fashion shows and runway ‘Angels’, there’s no doubt that Victoria’s Secret has claimed the Lover archetype as their own. They’ve successfully identified their customer’s needs and desires, and laid it on for them by the bucketful. And the results are plain to see: more than $4 billion in sales a year, and successful brand extensions into perfume, swimwear and clothing: all sitting neatly under the Lover archetype.
The strength of their brand archetype is neatly summed up in this academic study which states “Victoria’s Secret product represents fun, romance, fantasy, desire and love all in one. As long as they don Victoria’s Secret lingerie, women can be transformed like Cinderella from the ties of domestic life to one of the angels seen on the walkway.”
(Psst! To find out more about Brand Archetypes and how to use them, download our free e-book here.)
Secret No. 3. Know when to divide and when to conquer
Often when we build a b2b brand, we look for commonalities: We identify common needs and desires in our audience and splice them together to create a single, unified brand persona. And then we weave together features and benefits to create ‘umbrella’ brands that lend familiarity and consistency to a set of products, services and experiences.
But sometimes your audience is so polarised that creating two (or more) separate brands is simply the smart way to go.
Let’s look at a beautiful example of customer-centric branding from a world light years away b2b branding: 1970s funk.
Funkadelic and Parliament: dividing and conquering
George Clinton was known as one of the great founders of funk. But he had a problem. He had two completely different buyer personas: the mainstream crowd, who liked their soul old-school, with lots of vocals and brass; and the hipsters, who liked harder-edged funk.
Clinton knew enough about branding to know that the two groups would never mix, and trying to appeal to both would end in disaster. So he came up with a neat branding solution.
The same group of musicians recorded and performed under two different band names: Parliament, whose music was aimed at popular tastes, and Funkadelic, whose music and brand was altogether edgier (check out their crazy album covers here!).
Both bands, of course, were hugely successful. Kudos to a man who worked out 40 years ago that brands should reflect the customers’ identities rather than your own.
Secret No. 4: Keep listening
One of the hallmarks of real customer-centric brands is the way they communicate with their consumers. The best brands provide multiple opportunities to engage with their customer, and show they are listening: some even going so far as to collaborate and co-create solutions together.
Here’s a lovely example - an oldie but a goodie.
Starbucks: making innovation everyone’s business
‘My Starbucks Idea’
MyStarbucksIdea.com was one of Starbucks' first - and most successful - social media campaigns. As the name suggests, it invited customers to suggest improvements to the Starbucks coffee experience. The site was a huge success, with customers posting on average one new idea every hour, ranging from new product suggestions about technology to techniques to improve the coffee itself.
Many people have lauded this story as an example of a great social strategy. And sure, social media was the perfect tool for making it happen. But at its heart this is really this is a tale of a customer-centric brand, and Starbucks’ commitment to listening to their own customers.
In the words of Starbucks themselves: “You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. We're here, and we're ready to make ideas happen.”
Customer-centric brands: making it happen
These examples are inspiring, but they’re not exclusive to b2c: building customer-centric brands is just as easy for b2b.
- First, build a crystal-clear picture of your consumer: understand their needs, desires and frustrations.
- Next, understand what makes your brand different, and use Brand Archetypes to build a powerful personality around your brand.
- Then, think about how you structure your brands: can you create one, unified brand that speaks compellingly to all your customers, or do you need to divide and conquer, like George Clinton?
- Last of all, keep listening: in all the ways that you possibly can.
You’re well on your way to building a great customer-centric brand, and reaping all the rewards (higher price points, brand equity, customer loyalty) that come with it.
Knowing your business' brand archetype is the key to its success. Learn more about brand archetypes by downloading our "Which archetype is your brand?" ebook today.
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