I embarked on an unplanned hiatus from writing and in the past 18 months I have been on the wildest rollercoaster ride meandering in the world of E-commerce, Fintech, Digital media and even Music showbiz. Yes, you read right, music showbiz. I’m itchy thumbed because I can’t wait to spew all my experiences and how they can be of value to your business, personal brand and even your work ethic.
In this article, I’ll be sharing how simple things like a “reputation” can make your customer choose your brand out of a horde of competitors. This is almost every business owners dream, and they believe the best way to achieve this is to bombard the customer with advertisements at every touch-point. Unfortunately, customers don’t decide to choose your brand because of the number of ads you plaster in their faces or the number of ways you make reference to how great your brand is. When it comes to decision-making, many factors come into play and the irrational unconscious brain is the final decisive hurdle before the customer parts with their hard earned cash. This is why you will pick Coke on a shelf instead of any other cola drink. And it’s simply because the Coca Cola brand has built a reputation of credibility, accessibility, trust and quality over time. This reputation in brand lingo is termed brand equity.
In my days working in E-commerce, I remember sitting in a go-to-market strategy meeting with my team as we prepared to launch a service targeted at businesses. The main agenda for that meeting was to find suitable offline channels to spend our budget on. Being an e-commerce business, majority of our marketing budget was spent online so we wanted to be sure we were plunking our money in the right place. After flipping through slides upon slides showing chart rankings of radio stations, their target audience and level of listenership, our biggest dilemma fell on choosing between JOY FM and Citi FM; two colossal radio stations with similar clout on the business consumer.
After much deliberation amongst ourselves we decided to spend our budget on Citi FM, simply because everyone in the room recalled and connected them with their annual Citi Business Olympics event. Over the years, Citi FM had built a brand property called the Citi Business Olympics that brought together over fifty Ghanaian companies to network and experience their brand in a healthy competitive atmosphere. With time this brand property has positioned them perfectly as the station your CEO listens to and right there in that room their brand reputation for bringing business executives together earned them the budget.
Long and short of this is, you should build a brand property that sells your brand experience, and over time it will amass enough equity for your business to be selected without even making a pitch.
IF YOU CAN’T BUILD, RENT IT
Creating your own brand property might sound like a big waste of resources and energy especially if it’s not your core business, that’s why there is the option to have a strategic partnership or sponsorship with someone who will do all the groundwork and already has a following of your audience.
A couple of years ago when telecom giants Vodafone made their entry into the Ghana market, I was privileged to be employed there. At the time, the brand wanted to emotionally connect with their consumer and the best way to do this was tap into their passions. From our insights, we discovered that Ghanaians are passionate about soccer, politics, religion and music. Soccer at the time was an area where competitor telcos had registered a solid imprint with Glo sponsoring the Ghana national team and MTN running their MTN soccer academy. Politics and religion was an obvious no-go area for any brand thus leaving music as the obvious choice to tap into. So for Vodafone to leverage on this, they picked the biggest already-existing music property in Ghana at the time to not only slap their big red logo on, but to transform the music experience for Ghanaians and build a reputation as a cool brand. This is how The Vodafone Ghana Music Awards was born. After delivering unrivalled musical experiences to Ghanaians with the VGMA, it wasn’t long before the consumers felt an emotional connection with the brand and brand consideration metrics for Vodafone shot through the roof. This went on to impact subscriber growth as consumers started to choose Vodafone over the others.
Identify a property that connects with your consumer and find a way to partner or sponsor to create a positive brand reputation and increase brand equity. In a recent webinar, GE’s director of global digital strategy described its strategy as “promiscuous! They get in bed with anyone and everyone who connects with their consumer”.
IF YOU CAN’T RENT, SHARE IT
All these references seem like high budget options and not within the startup entrepreneur’s capacity especially if you have a lot of time but no budget at all. However, in this advent of social media and blogging, you can build an empire online by spending little to nothing. The most effective and long-term way to building a solid brand reputation is actually the cheapest. However it needs dedication, time and consistency for your brand to achieve love-mark status. It’s simply by garnering a loyal and organic following through knowledge sharing and thought leadership. This can be achieved through writing blog-posts, using social media or contributing to a print publication.
In 2004, some graduate students of M.I.T realized that one of their mates was running a tiny blog with no budget, and yet was generating more traffic than some large multinational companies that had large budgets. His blog was simply sharing marketing strategy and sales tactics for readers. This baffled them and after deeper analysis, they realized that consumers were tired of being harassed by advertisements, marketers and sales people. Rather they simply wanted to be helped and get solutions to improve their businesses and lives.
From this insight, these M.I.T graduates came together to expand the blog, built a solid team, created a platform and put a budget behind it that will share knowledge, marketing and sales tactics to help businesses achieve their goals in a more personable and empathetic way. They called it Hubspot.com. Today Hubspot.com is a million dollar business offering agencies, businesses and individual clients the world over with business solutions, and it all started with a tiny blog. Thought leadership is always the best way to earn respect and credibility. Start yours today and in a few years you can build a brand reputation that will earn you millions.