How to keep your customer at the heart of your evolving brand

Keep your audience at the heart of what you do

Even the most successful businesses know that they cannot take the good times for granted. Remaining static for too long can see a company knocked from the top spot as they fail to reinvent themselves.

How can a business stay true to its core values and be relevant at the same time? The key to remaining in prime position is to keep your customer’s needs as the number one goal and work out how to adapt to meet them as they change.

Your brand identity is going to play a huge role in helping you stay ahead of the curve. Sail Creative have already touched on how your brand is more than just a logo; it’s about how you make your customer’s feel and how their experience of your company develops trustworthiness and value.

In our ever-changing digital society, how can you build a brand that’s both based on solid foundations and flexible enough to adapt in our fast-paced world? Aligning yourself to your customer and focusing on responding to their needs is a strong place to start.

Why should a brand adapt to change?

Technology has changed, and will continue to change, the way we live. Our ever-increasing digital society has an impact on the way we lead our lives, make purchasing decisions and consume information.

A successful company in its prime can smash all of its rivals, but if it fails to change then it can quickly become obsolete. Let’s use an example of a couple of brands that failed to pivot to highlight why innovation is so important:

1. Blockbuster

Many of us will remember when movies were rented from a store and had to be returned the next day. At the time, nobody challenged the process because that was the way it was.

However, this inconvenient model of video rental was not sustainable and Blockbuster failed to adapt their business when new competition came onto the scene. When Netflix emerged and offered a postal delivery service that later developed into online streaming of movies, Blockbuster failed to budge until it was too late.

2. Kodak

Despite holding the majority share in photographic film sales in the 1970s and being responsible for the invention of much of what is used today in digital photography, Kodak was slow to see the explosive growth of that same technology. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and moved into the corporate digital imaging market.

Examples of brands that listened to their audience

There are many examples of how brands, including massive companies, have reacted to changes and remained central in their customer’s world. For example:

1. Western Union

Founded in 1851, Western Union began as a message delivery service carried out by bicycle to the front doors of America. When telegraph technology made the telegram possible, the company merged with its competitors to be able to offer this service. When long-distance telephone communication put an end to telegrams, Western Union adapted again by focusing on money transfer and today it is one of the world’s largest money transfer businesses.

2. Lego

Despite being around since 1932 and a much-loved toy company, Lego was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2004. The growth of video games and the internet was damaging sales. The company re-inspired creative play by lowering many of its price points, engaging with its audience via different mediums such as email and released the Lego movies. The movies were crucial for revamping Lego’s image from boys with building blocks to a more widely appealing range of characters.

We highlighted several other examples of successful brands in our article on the vital role colour plays in your branding.

How do you know it’s time for your brand to change?

Successful companies remain so because they are always looking at what’s next. They are not afraid to take risks and pivot in order to meet the needs of their ever evolving customers and marketplace.

If you’re struggling to decide whether a change is necessary, here are some pointers to help you review where you stand:

1. Your customer’s needs have changed

Your customers may love you today, but what about tomorrow? Are you listening to the feedback that you are given by your consumers: what do they buy and why, what do they like and dislike about your company, how do they interact with you. If they chose not to purchase from you, why? What could you have done differently to convince them to buy?

2. Your competition has improved

Who are the key players in your industry and what are they doing? There’s no way to avoid competition in your industry, but what businesses must do is work hard to set themselves apart from the rest.

3. You sound the same as everyone else

Looking around at your nearest three competitors, can you establish what sets you apart? Review the website or marketing materials in your market. If it’s all starting to sound the same then how will your customer differentiate between you? Why should they pick you out from the crowded marketplace? It’s time to reiterate your USP.

4. Your market has changed

Even though you have a great product, no one will buy it if the market moves and you are left behind. It’s difficult to keep your eye on what everyone else is doing when running a business, but it’s important to be mindful of the direction your industry is taking. Who are the innovators? What are your customers asking for?

5. You are afraid to change

So many businesses fail because they are afraid to take risks. However, their inaction only further compounds the issue that they are no longer in touch with what their customers want. There is no perfect time to make big changes, but can you afford not to tweak your business?

Companies must recognise that their brand is a living thing that requires constant care. How can you develop a brand that is receptive to the changes of your customer or industry? We discussed ways you can recognise when it’s time to refresh your brand in our blog on overcoming branding problems.

How to create a customer-focused brand

Brand identity is something that does not happen overnight. It can be a slow process as a result of several strategies that are used to strengthen your company, and grow brand awareness day by day.

However, to get you started on the right track and develop a brand with longevity that will be adaptable to change, here are a few points worth considering:

1. Stand for something

Today, people don’t just by something because it is the right price. As people’s awareness of local and global issues rise, they choose to purchase from ethical companies that have a focus on sustainability, raise awareness for a social cause or push boundaries.

Positive, ethical marketing should not be a knee-jerk reaction to smooth over some bad press. Take the time to think about how your business, its products, services and people, makes the world a better place and focus on promoting that message to the right audience.

2. Be social online

As more and more people join in with conversations online, social media marketing has become a crucial element in any company’s strategy for consumer engagement. There are many platforms where you can interact with your target audience, allowing the personality and values behind your brand to shine.

3. Empower your customers

With so many ways that customers can talk about your business, ‘word of mouth’ marketing is at its most powerful. Champion your customers and make sure they are part of the messages you put out there. Give them easy opportunities to share your content and shout about your business online.

Customer service is more essential than ever before. Delivering a great service is not simply enough these days. Consider creating brand ambassadors and reward customers for their loyalty with privilege points, referral schemes and personalised marketing.

Thinking about what your customers want

To put customers at heart of their thinking, businesses need to understand the outcomes their customers are trying to achieve. Not just how customer’s might get more value from the business, but what their goal is.

To do this, you will have to ask questions about the outcome customers are looking for, which can bring fresh insights into how to help them achieve it. Here are a few suggestions to kick off conversations:

  1. What interested you in our product/service?
  2. What is your current goal? (e.g. to lose 14 lbs by summer, buy an economic family-friendly car)
  3. What is the biggest barrier preventing you from meeting your goal?
  4. What do you need to help you reach your goal?
  5. How can we better serve your needs?

Each question you ask can be expanded upon by follow-up questions to get more specific information from your customer.

The evolution of your brand

As the saying goes, the one thing you can rely on in life is change. The challenge for businesses is to listen to their customer’s needs whilst adapting to inevitable environmental, technological and social changes.

Are you just starting out in business or feel like your brand identity is in need of a bit of a refresh? One of the key elements of creating a brand today is recognising that the future will not look the same. While you might not be able to prepare for every eventuality, you can make sure the brand you build today adheres to the basic principles in business by prioritising your customer in all that you do.

If you have any questions about the branding process, building a brand identity or re-engaging with your customer, get in touch to see how Sail Creative can help.

Want more like this? Sign up to receive more conversations around branding and design in Sail’s monthly newsletter.

Receive updates