7 Steps for Compelling Branding

In 2018, a lot of brands that were once successful are losing in the market big time. Why? Several reason: resting on laurels, using outdated branding techniques that no longer work in 21st century markets, and not being in touch with cultural shifts. One definition of “brand” is “the quintessential qualities for which the consumer believes there is NO substitute”. This means making the consumer feel great about their brand experience. If market share is waning, it’s one of the signs consumers don’t have this feeling. Here’s how to get it and make it stick:


  1. Know WHY the brand exists – Coca-Cola is a great example of this. They exist to put happiness within reach of everyone, every day. Figuring out the brand’s WHY is the essential first step to planning the brand’s strategy.


  1. Know the brand’s audience REALLY WELL – WHO does the brand serve and what is its role in your customer’s life? Your brand must reflect your audience’s values. Unilever’s Dove knows the women it serves – women who believe in authentic versus superficial beauty. No retouching, no super thin models in its messaging – just real women talking to real women about real beauty with Dove as the solution for them.


  1. Know the brand’s niche – Long gone is the era of “mass branding”. The 21st century is all about “niche branding”. Define the brand’s niche and then focus on that relentlessly. Align the niche with the WHY and be super-relevant to the WHO so that the brand gains consumer’s trust.


Mountain Dew, long a staple with gamers, will launch Game Fuel in January 2019. It is “the first drink made by gamers, for gamers”, according to Forbes. With ingredients to improve alertness and accuracy, it has packaging that assists uninterrupted gaming – a resealable tab and a textured no slip grip (like a controller) on the can sides for ease of use.



  1. Know the brand’s benefits, not just its features – How something works is interesting, but how it makes consumers feel is transformative. That’s the difference between brands and mere products. Don’t focus on functionality over emotion. Without this emotional bond, the offering is just one of many. Tylenol knows this power and uses it to great effect. Its tagline is “For what matters most”, reinforcing the idea that feeling good and being engaged in one’s life, not sidelined by pain, is important to consumers.


  1. Know the cultural context – Understanding the forces of change in culture is important to protecting your brand story. Gillette found this out the hard way when it initially discounted Dollar Shave Club as an inexpensive knock-off. DSC’s irreverent jab at Gillette’s super-premium priced razors started to put a huge dent in the razor behemoth’s dominance of the market.


For years, Gillette had been trading up its consumers to ever-higher price points (Sensor, Sensor Excel, Mach3 and then Fusion) and didn’t see the undercurrent of consumer dissatisfaction. Then came the hilarious ads for Dollar Shave Club, and the “amazing and affordable” razors it offered. This cultural blindspot left Gillette vulnerable. 

  1. Find one thing the brand can own – Once all of the previous steps have been taken, the brand’s message can be distilled to its essence – the “one thing” the brand can own in your customer’s mind to keep them coming back. Disruption and dominance are created by owning this “one thing” as evidenced by the following:
    • AirBNB – Belong Anywhere
    • Amazon – Buy Anything Online
    • Disney – Imagination


  1. Stay consistent across consumer touch-points – Last but far from least, one of the most important rules of branding is to be consistent across media channels. A consistent, focused visual presence and copy tone is vital to brand health. As Forbes states: “Brands that are consistently presented are three to four times more likely to experience brand visibility.”


Successful CPG branding means communicating the brand’s “one thing”, being crystal clear on why the brand exists, who it serves, in what niche it lives, and the emotional benefit that it provides. Failing to understand these fundamentals and then broadcasting inconsistent messaging will cost brands market share, as we’ve seen over the past few months and years.

  • Value-Signaling in Packaging Design
  • Why Google Can Constantly Evolve Its Brand
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