A brand is an asset to any business. The way consumers perceive a brand, act and feel about it, reflects the brand’s equity. This is one of the intangible assets of a company and often has a major impact on its market value and profitability.
A recognizable and trusted brand can be sold, licensed or leased like other assets. A brand with a positive image can demand a premium over other similar brands’ products in the market. Positive brand equity is often accompanied by customer loyalty where the consumer continues to show a preference for the brand.
A good example of what positive brand equity can do for a company is that of Apple. Despite other brands offering similar features, Apple products continue to be better priced than their competitors and have a loyal customer base. Apple did not achieve this easily. They worked hard and were clever about building up their brand equity that created great value for its product in the minds of the customer.
Focusing on customers’ requirements while designing products is the need for the day. With the changing marketing scenario, the companies now to put the customers’ needs first and embrace the ideas of customer-centricity. While companies, products, and sales are still just as important, the brands cannot be perceived only as driven by profit. They have to adjust their marketing practices to include the consumers too.
Being customer-centric means putting the needs and demands of the customers before everything else in the company. It has been observed that companies that practice customer-centricity are 60% more profitable. A survey discovered that 86% of consumers were willing to pay a higher price for better customer experience.
Keeping the customer in the center of all your marketing and sales activity will help you to not just cash in on your brand equity but also enhance it. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide for how to boost your brand equity effectively with a customer-centric strategy.
Customer-Centric Brand Equity
Being a customer-centric business means understanding your customers, their needs and demands in every aspect of your business. The mantra that you need to follow is to listen, comprehend, and implement. However, the process does not end at implementation, it is a continuous cycle that needs to be repeated to be effective.
This is the age of the enlightened and aware customer who has a plethora of choices, if you do not deliver what they are looking for, they will go elsewhere. The main focus while building customer-centric brand equity is to emphasize authenticity so the customer can trust your brand, become a repeat buyer and finally, an advocate for your brand and its associated products.
This requires a systematic approach and is referred to as the four-step method. The four steps are Brand Salience or Brand Identity, Brand Meaning which includes performance and imagery, Brand Responses and finally, Brand Resonance. Each step needs to be completed before one can move on to the next step. Each of these steps has certain objectives that have to be fulfilled for the successful completion of the stage.
The figure below represents a brand equity pyramid and concisely depicts the entire concept of consumer-based brand equity.
Source: Marketing Science Institute
With each successive step, you not only create a stronger customer base but also enhance your brand’s value. Each stage provides an excellent opportunity to inculcate and include customer-centricity in your business.
If you are wondering how to boost your brand equity effectively with a customer-centric strategy, we will now explain it all. We will discuss each stage and explain how customer-centricity can be included in it.
Brand identity is the base of the pyramid. Achieving brand salience is the foundation on which you build up the subsequent process of your customer-centricity. In this first step, you need to introduce your brand to the customer. Here, the objective is to make the customer aware of your brand, the product that carries the brand name, its logo, color themes, etc. so that they instantly evoke the memory of the brand.
To build up that kind of brand awareness, you need to educate the consumers so they fully understand the products and services associated with your brand. The two things that are key to brand awareness are: how easily consumers can identify and recall your brand and the situations in which your brand comes to the mind of the consumer.
There are two ways you can assure your brand awareness. These are:
- Understanding customer needs – At the core of every successful brand is the need to understand the core customer need and develop products/services that provide a solution to these needs. This means that you need to know the problems that your customers face, then design and develop your products to solve those problems. When you are considering your customer’s needs from the development stage, you are designing a product that is bound to win. Customer needs can be gauged through feedback from customer support and after-sales activities. They can also be derived through surveys, reviews, data collected by your company through various channels, social media, etc.
- Curated content – When developing content for your marketing exercise, have a clear policy for brand positioning. Ensure that you leverage all forms of communication effectively. The content needs to be relevant, provide value and should be engaging. Identify the core values of your brand and its associated products and display them across all platforms. Nike has perfected this art of having a uniform core brand value that they display across all their marketing content. They connect with the customer through emotive responses. They have been extremely successful by giving an emotional appeal to all their branding endeavors which have helped them capture a major share of the footwear market across the globe. Take a look at this Nike video to understand their marketing genius.
Once you have formed that initial connection with the consumer it is easy to transition to the next step. Now that the consumers have started recognizing your brands, its products and have started thinking about it while making purchase decisions, you need to define your brand and what it means. This is achieved through Brand Meaning.
This next step involves decoding your brand for the customer. What your brand means and what it represents. Customer-centric businesses pay a lot of attention to the quality and value the brand provides to its customers. It also means investing in establishing brand image and creating value for brands in customers’ minds while ensuring the compatibility of your products with customer needs and wants. The imagery represents how the customers perceive your brand and deal with the social and psychological aspects of branding.
A brand’s performance is determined by the ability of its products to meet the demands and expectations of the customer. Let us look at how this can be achieved.
- Product development – Your product is what the customers use and thus, it influences the customer’s opinion and experience of your brand. The product you put out in the market must provide a solution to the need and go beyond it to provide additional value. To earn the goodwill of your customer for the brand, your product should be reliable, durable and do the work it promises to do without reproach. Thus, product development is a primary requirement for creating value and giving a meaning to your brand.
- Product Segmentation – Each customer segment has different aspirations and expectations from the product they are buying. Keeping this in mind while developing a product helps in building a positive experience. The styling and design of the product must be optimized for the customer segment. The same goes for the pricing too. It should be within the buying range of the targeted customer segment. Hence, pricing the products competitively, keeping in mind the targeted customers is essential.
- Customer Service – The importance of customer service cannot be overemphasized. Quick and relevant response to your customer’s queries is one of the building blocks of customer-centricity. Prompt action on customer’s queries and problems ensure a positive feeling about it. Personalized and timely service creates a positive image for the brand.
- Personalized customer experience – The ability to be able to address each customer individually is at the core of creating a personalized experience for your customers. This means not just the personalization of communication channels but also designing products and services that target individual customer’s needs. Just by the use of personalization, it was observed that certain marketers could improve their revenue between 5-15%. Use of various communication channels available to personalize your customer experience. Use it throughout the marketing and sales funnel to keep the customer happy.
- Onboarding and Deliverability – Creating an effective customer onboarding and the after-sales program is a must to keep your customers from migrating. The customer needs to be able to use the product that has been purchased to its full potential to be satisfied with it. A proper onboarding process helps the customer to transition into using the product effectively and thus, be happy with the purchase. Similarly, your after-sales support to the customer should be equally prompt and effective. Creating unique onboarding programs and ensuring deliverability of services help strengthen brand performance perception. An excellent example of an effective onboarding program is this video from Canva, the designing software.
It deals with the aesthetics and your brand’s messaging and how it is perceived by the customers. The concept behind brand imagery is to create a recognizable look and feel for your brand that forms instant associations for the customer. It works at a more subtle level and is aimed at meeting a customer’s social and psychological needs. Brand imagery can be created through:
- Personalized communication – Create a set of imagery that can be personalized for the type of customers that interact with the brand. Personalized communication may result in creating a mental image for the customer that helps them identify better with the brand. Creating an idealized brand user based on customer personas helps in forming abstract psychological associations which in turn add to brand equity.
- Targeted Marketing – Targeted marketing is another proven way to improve brand imagery and equity. Use niche and selected marketing channels to fortify the brand image of the company to the target segment.
Once the consumer knows what your brand stands for, the next logical step is to improve their opinion of your brand. How your customers perceive your brand what they think about it has to be positive for your brand equity to improve. The customers judge your products and react to them. They judge the products or services related to your brand for quality, authenticity, how relevant it is to them and how it fulfills a need.
The reactions are based on their interaction with your business. The reactions could be positive or negative. You need to evoke positive feelings like excitement, fun, warmth to build up brand equity. Once the customers are feeling positive towards your brand it is time to take them to the next level. The customer’s response to the brand and its marketing can be categorized into consumer judgments and consumer feelings.
These are mainly personal opinions that customers form after interacting and using the brand. Mainly describes the perception of the brand with respect to credibility, consideration, superiority, and quality in the minds of the consumer.
- Drive engagement on social media – You can influence consumer judgment through social media. Interaction on social media is a one to one personal interaction that can widely influence the customer’s judgment. This allows effective communication and provides scope for improvement.
- Hold podcasts, outreach events – Reach out to your customers through informational and value-added activities. Organize company-sponsored events for discussions and networking, etc. where the customers can learn and interact with the brand.
These are the emotional responses that your brand evokes in your customers. How they feel about themselves and in their relationship with others when interacting with your brand. It helps if consumer feelings are in line with your company values and mission. You can ensure it through:
- Social listening – Social media is a boon for marketers as it allows them to get direct feedback from the customers. Social listening is nothing but keeping a close eye on your social media channels and get feedback on marketing, product, and service and act to act on the feedback. It helps to forge a deeper association with the customers as it creates a good feeling when the brand responds. It also helps in finding new opportunities, keep track of the growth and improve acquisition rate.
The final step to building your customer-based brand equity is to build a greater bond or resonance with your customers. While creating a loyal customer is one of the most difficult tasks that a company faces, brand loyalty reaps rich rewards.
To build a strong relationship with the customer means you have succeeded in touching your customer at a deeper psychological level. Once that bond of loyalty is formed, then you have repeat customers and brand advocates who add value to your brand by talking about you on social media and events. It creates a sense of a community where bonding happens. Brand resonance can be improved through:
- Strong loyalty programs – Rewarding is one of the best ways to ensure loyalty. To ensure retention and make the customer feel valued, create a strong loyalty program where the customer feels valued for their continued association.
- Community – Invest in building a community where customers with similar needs and wants can interact and share their knowledge with each other. Building a community of customers drives loyalty. One stellar example of an effective community of loyal customers is the Harley Davidson’s community called Harley Owners Group. In this community, the Harley enthusiasts share their expertise and experiences with the brand. They discuss what it means to be a Harley owner and have members from across the globe. It showcases the community that is built around shared lifestyles, passions and ethos.
- Influencers and advocates – Finding and rewarding people who have the power to influence other people’s opinions about your brand is an excellent way to build your brand equity. Make sure you reward your influencers and advocates and keep them happy.
Using the above insights, you can now derive the answer to your question on how to boost your brand equity effectively with a customer-centric strategy. You need to remember that at every point of interaction your customer needs to feel happy and satisfied with your brand to improve your brand equity. Hence, your aim should be to provide as much information and help your customers at each stage as possible. Changing the mindset around your brand is not an instant act. It takes concerted effort and time. If you persist with your goal, success will be yours.
About the author:
Koushik Marka is the founder and CEO of an explainer video production company titled Studiotale. With expertise in Vector Illustration, 2D Animation, Motion Graphics, and Digital Marketing, his off-work preferences are playing video games and traveling.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/studiotale
Facebook – https://facebook.com/studiotale
Instagram – https://instagram.com/wearestudiotale
Blog – https://studiotale.com/blog/