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Stand out with unique branding

Using data and analytics to create brands that stand out in digital

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Human-centered UX that drives measurably improved business outcomes

Data-Driven Branding

How can brands differentiate themselves in a global marketplace that expands by 500,000 new users every day? Businesses have an opportunity to leverage immense amounts of widely-available data to create unique and audience-centric brands. Here's how..


Data-Driven Branding

Welcome back to 40 front doors, our weekly digital marketing brand strategy and user experience podcast. Today, we're going to talk about data-driven brands. Brands have evolved beyond simple identity systems and logos and taglines into complex organisms that have repeatable behaviors and personalities and create intimate relationships with each of us. Well, the environment has evolved as well. Now there are so many brands competing for our attention. Minute by minute, that as an organization, as a business, as a brand, any hope you have of standing out and engaging your audience is going to be based upon a truly differentiated approach to reaching that audience.

And that that differentiation has to go beyond how we explain our platform or how we describe our mission. It has to be differentiated data and the type of meaningful data that allows us to connect with the fears, the needs, the wants, and the frustrations of our audience. Google's collecting that data search engines are collecting that data. They're collecting it each and every time someone enters a search query into the search bar. It tells us a little bit about what they're looking for. And when we think about that in terms of fears and needs and wants and desires and frustrations, it creates a very clear and compelling picture for a brand.

If we're not taking advantage of that information, not only are we leaving a competitive door wide open, we're also not really addressing the needs of our audience. We're, we're, we're sort of doing what organizations, what businesses have done for ever, which is, you know, create a product and then shove it down the market and say, this is the answer to the problem you have. When in fact it was the answer that a small group of people came up with for a particular problem, not necessarily the problem that many people are trying to solve. This is where things get really, really interesting. And you don't have to look too far for really great examples of this. Again, you're going to hear me talking a lot about what happens at this sort of gritty entrepreneurial level. And when you look at how brands are being created today, and when you look at the tools that product marketers have in their, in their toolset, you see that there's this shift towards people that are really conducting upfront keyword research to determine which products they should build brands around. This is a truly, you know, like this is a 180 degree turn from how most brand marketing is conducted.

And I think that the enterprise has a lot to learn about what that process looks like.

But businesses have one thing brands, most businesses optimize their brand for competition. And that's generally a race to the bottom. You really don't want to be the best of a category. You want to be the only of its kind that has downstream value for a couple of reasons. When we start talking about differentiation in terms of search volume and the data that really drives so much of your audiences research, whether that's a job seeking audience or whether that's a customer seeking a solution, the more that you have to differentiate based off of a slim set of attributes that are competitive, the more diluted your brand is going to be. As, as we start to look at how we can leverage data, to create that differentiation and look for pockets of opportunity in the market. We, we really learn how to leverage the tools that allow us to define a brand, to be the only of its kind.

That's going to have a huge impact on every piece of product marketing of your experience strategy and your advertising strategy. And most importantly, it's going to help you actually articulate what it is you do because of the reality. If we look at the current state every single day, just by sheer volume of data by new entrance, into any given industry by new people accessing the internet every day is more competitive than the last. And, and let's just go back to the idea of the internet. Why, why is this discussion so focused on the web? Well, because the reality is this is where all brand competition takes place and it's simply just going to become more and more dominant.

There is no aspect of commercial entities that are not rooted in some form of digital. So leaving digital for last is just inexplicable. At this point, we want to begin with digital and allow that, that data and that strategy to then affect everything else downstream. So when we think about that and we come back to this idea that every day is more competitive than the last, we have a real sense of the fact that there is more noise, competitive noise on the internet for any brand in any category with each passing day. So we really have to understand how to use that data so that as each new brand and new person comes online, literally we understand what the competitive landscape looks like.

And we understand what the search intent landscape looks like. I also think a pretty common challenge is that most brands are built vision first, not need first and not the right kind of vision. We'll talk about really effective mission vision value exercises in a few minutes. But when I say vision first, it's, it's coming back to that idea that the founders or executives or product designers, product owners are coming up with a solution that may not have a problem. And the first real opportunity is to learn how to really create a needs driven brand. So we'll talk about the tools that are used there. Then the next most common obstacle or challenge that businesses face is that they skipped defining the mission, the vision and the values in ways that can actually be applied to the brand strategy.

I'm going to show you exactly what you need to do to create a mission, vision, and values driven brand that results in a clear definition of purpose and how to apply that to your business. All of this comes down to decision-making affecting and influencing. Decision-making either customer decision-making or job seeking. Decision-making influencing people to either buy your products or your services, or to join your business. So all of, all of what we've just started to unpack as it relates to the obstacles that that businesses fall short on are tied back to ideas around the value of a brand McKinsey conducted a study, and it revealed that brands with strong reputations generally generate 31% more return to shareholders than the worldwide average. They also found that people's willingness to buy, recommend work for and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company and only 40% by their perception of their products.

Think about that for a minute. There, people are making decisions based on the purpose of an organization and the personality on the relationship, the broad relationship that that brand makes. And that's not just in terms of consumer facing brands. It actually applies to B2B decision-makers as well. And that same study found that B2B decision makers are 10% more likely to consider brands that the general public knows and feels connected to. And the top 10 in that category, they demonstrated a 31% greater growth in revenue than the 10 least connected brands in that category. So that tells us that there is an inherent and unbreakable link between brand purpose, brand value and actual performance metrics.

There are four key steps we have to take to create differentiated data-driven brand. Number one, conduct keyword research, to help us understand where our brand overlaps or stands out. And this applies to startups and the enterprise. We need to understand what is in the mind of our audience. So if we have a new service offering or a new product, the first thing that we want to do is conduct that keyword research to understand how our audience defines it, not how we want to define it to our audience. And then AB test language that we feel will resonate with their needs. We just want to start with their needs and create a brand that creates a solution for that need.

It's a much more efficient approach to creating successful products and services in the market and creating a brand that people trust for a startup. This is an inception activity. This is, this is where every new business should begin with this type of keyword research. And it's pretty, you know, 1 0 1 stuff. When we think about the type of product market fit research that should go on. But what I'm suggesting is that we take that a step higher. We take that to the purpose of the brand. We want to understand what those, again, what those differentiators are and how they can actually shape the brand, because you can't have a differentiated product in an undifferentiated brand.

It has to start with the brand because the brand is the blueprint, the genetics of the organization, and it will influence culture and it will influence customer experience. So we want to make sure that, especially from a startup standpoint, that this blueprint exists, enterprise organizations face a unique set of challenges. Brand transformation is still completely possible, but we see so many examples of large scale enterprise brand transformation that, that sort of ignores the data. It leaves so much of the opportunity to really create a conversation between their audience and their business by leveraging a well-informed data-driven brand. And instead, try to just really put a veneer on an existing brand and then expect that the, that their, that their market offering is going to somehow be transformed.

That's inauthentic. And it's why most brand transformation is really brand identity transformation. And it, and it's not really taking into consideration every opportunity to create a dialogue with the audience. And that dialogue is where the personality and the trust comes from. When w when we were talking earlier about the fact that brands are complex organisms, no, one's going to want to have a discussion a one way discussion you're you, you would either be talked at or talking to a wall. So in order for that kind of dialogue to occur, brands have to start by listening, listen to the data. So that comes back to that first keyword gathering step. Next, we map out all of the direct and indirect competition, direct competition. That's easy enough to understand that's what we can see.

That's the competition we see on the shelves in a store. That's the competition that we see clearly defined in advertisements, indirect competition. That's what's happening within a search engine. That's data competing with data. We need to understand the keywords that we're competing with now, when we think about crowded industries, and there are very few places that don't fall into the crowded industry category. When we think about crowded crowded industry verticals, the indirect competition are the millions, if not billions of keywords that you're competing with, and those competitive keywords are being generated by countless blogs, review sites, customer reviews, white papers research, depending on the complexity or the technicality of the industry.

There can be an enormous amount of pure research that just becomes competitive to the keywords that you're trying to rank for. Now, you could S you could look at this and say, gosh, this really sounds like an extension of digital marketing. And in essence, it is, that's what we're saying. There is no differentiation between digital marketing and digital branding. They are one in the same, and that's why it's so important that your brand isn't locked away in a safe, and this treated like this rare object. It has to be as data-driven as the rest of the organization, or it won't feel like it's part of the conversation.

And that's where you have brands that just kind of are an identity system on top of products and services, and they don't create a relationship. And that should scare anyone that feels like they're in that position. If you're not creating a relationship with your audience through your brand, you're leaving an immense amount of opportunity on the table.

Now that we've conducted keyword research, and we understand where we're either overlapping with competition, or we're standing out now that we have a map of all of the direct and indirect competition in hand, we can begin to define the purpose the brand serves. And the framework that we use is an eight step framework that helps us create the strategic brand division over about 18 months, where we look at establishing the vision of the brand and the impact of the brand, and that the impact is really what the brand will accomplish. If we're successful in our efforts, what will we be able to accomplish? And the vision is, you know, what are our efforts really working towards?

What are, what big problem are we trying to solve? So that vision should be defined by the keyword research and by understanding our direct and indirect competition and what our vision for addressing that emerging need, or that emerging fear that our audience has. And then really understanding the impact of that. And we, and we ask our clients to do that really on six month intervals in terms of this exercise, that, that we think about what that vision and impact is today at six months at 12 months, and at 18 months, then we take the data in hand. We, we look at what those frustrations, those needs, those desires on those fears are based off of what we've learned from keyword research and search intent.

And we start to create language around that. What are the goals? What are the problems? What are the fears and what are the desires now that we understand that from a search intent standpoint, let's start to create a true data-driven persona that we can base the rest of our brand identity and brand strategy upon we, then we then come back to the competitive landscape and we don't necessarily need to reinvent the wheel, but we need to understand what is the true benefit that we provide. This is where we start to look at differentiation. How do we, we create value out of the parts, the competitive landscape that aren't currently served.

And that could be as simple as going beyond what our competition is doing, or a completely new way to solve that problem. We then ask four questions. Does our audience need this? Should our organization do this? Do we have the ability to do this? And can we measure this, those four questions ground, the research that helps us think about what are the practical manifestations of the assumptions that we've made, and the research that we've collected. If we ask questions like, does our audience actually need this? We have to defend it. When we think about that from an internal perspective, and we ask, should we do this? And can we do this?

We really start to plan scenarios for the future. Do we have the governance model? Do we have the people, do we have the, the commitment and the metal to take on this kind of change? And can we measure this? Can we measure any of the investments that we're making and the impact that will have beyond that? You start getting into the, the archetype of the brand. What, what part of the audience's mind will we occupy? And what is the personality? Are we a creator? Are we an outlaw, a magician or a caregiver? And by answering these questions and by prescribing percentages or, or, or slices of the pie, we can start to create a picture of the personality of the brand that we're trying to create. Now, normally these activities, these are not, these are not uncommon activities, but it's the basis that they're built upon.

It's the fact that we've begun with this type of data-driven keyword research to inform each of these activities so that once we get to describing our vision and our mission and our position, we're not basing it off of that insular, inward looking vacuum. We're basing it off of everything that we've heard from the data. And that's when things get really fun. That's where we begin to implement these types of changes. This allows us to just ignore a competition, and I know that that's sort of a loaded term, but ignore the competition. I Amazon's the best example of this. Sure. Everyone competes with Amazon, Amazon competes with itself. It's, that's where that inward lens works.

They're simply focused on innovation on optimization, on delivering your product faster on removing the number of clicks between you and your product on dominating search results. They're the best example of a data-driven brand. Everything they do is a function of digital. So they have one of the best data-driven brands in the world. And I think that their performance in both profit and stock value speaks volumes. If you're Amazon great, if you're not Amazon, re-imagine how you're creating your brand, because this is, this is where we want to be. We want to be so far ahead of the competition that we're not in the same category.

Amazon is the best example of what a data-driven or data first brand looks like. And if you're making the argument for that type of transformation for your business, whether at the startup or the enterprise level, Amazon stock price and growth speak volumes, because everything Amazon has done from day one has been data-driven and data first, their brand is the best example of what's possible. When you build brands around customer need and customer intent, and you don't try to invent a solution to a problem that you've identified, but you're really inventing a solution based off of the problems that your customers or the job seekers or the investors are trying to solve. And that's how Amazon can ignore the competition.

Everyone can try to compete with Amazon, but Amazon doesn't really need to try to compete with anyone else. They simply compete with the needs of the market, the needs of their user, the needs of that next customer. And that in turn creates an environment where they can attract and retain the best talent and create an enormous amount of value as represented by their growth and their stock price. In the coming weeks, we're going to start posting these frameworks and each episode we'll have a worksheet that's associated with the topics of that episode. Again, I just want you to be able walk away with tools that you can bring into your business and help you achieve the kind of growth that we talk about so that you can stand out, be found with the audience that matters most to you, and truly engage them. Thanks for taking the time to listen to this podcast.

I hope you found it valuable. Don't forget to subscribe and join me next week. When we talk about doing more with less and extending the mileage you get out of your marketing budget so that you can create effective digital marketing strategies, put them to work, right.