Relevancy: The ultimate brand imperative

Without exception, when a client engages me to help with a brand — whether that is to conceive and launch one, reposition an existing one or simply to strengthen a brand — the focus is on a single outcome: become more distinctive.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, that is not enough. To become successful, or perhaps just more successful, one has to first address a more important idea. Be sure you’re relevant. How many times have you come across a brand in a particular category in which you have an interest, but you don’t really care about what they are offering? As I write this post I’m challenged to think of a good example of what I’m talking about because the irrelevant brands I have encountered have basically been invisible. I may have noticed them in passing, but they didn’t leave an impression on me — definitely not a lasting impression.

Between today and tomorrow, take notice of every brand you encounter. This is not a simple task, since everything and everyone is “branded.” One way to test this is to pick up a magazine about a subject you care about. Quickly flip through the pages and see how the various businesses are presenting themselves.

  • How many are presenting their pitch from a point of view you actually care about? 
  • How many are telling you about the way they do what they do, but in a way that actually resonates with you?
  • Do you feel they’re really talking to you, that they understand you? Or are they just bragging about themselves, how great they are, how they do something no else does? Do you really care?

Being relevant is where one must start in the branding process. And to be relevant to a group of people is to understand them. Think about the brand from the customer’s point of view first, and then you can engage in the fun part: being different.

Finding a distinctive, compelling, differentiating proposition for a relationship with people is fun, but it can be hard. And it becomes harder when you haven’t done your homework, meaning you haven’t come to understand your customer. However, if you do have sufficient clarity as a result of getting to know the target you’re trying to engage you’ll find you have something much more valuable than information about them. You’ll have gained insight into them. You’ll have come to know what makes them tick, what turns them on, what they care about. At that point, the task of finding a unique differentiating idea for engagement is no longer hard. In fact, it is frequently sitting there in front of you waiting for you to take notice. It is the very thing that both your brand and your customers value.

Once you’ve reached this point, the last thing you must do is to make your audience aware of your brand. This sounds like the easy part, but in today’s “splinternet” environment, it’s not so easy. The media channels of yesterday have morphed into what seems to some like a digital monster that is breeding entirely new media categories and consumer touchpoints in the middle of the night. That means presenting your brand to your target customer is no longer static. It is constantly evolving.

I’ve identified three components of a rather simple branding formula: relevance x distinctiveness x exposure. But it is important to realize this is not an additive formula. If any of these is equivalent to a zero, your result will be zero.