By Avukile Mabombo
The business world is awash with words that are charged with energy but perhaps lacking in substance. In theory, every brand manager would love to be heading up an authentic, truthful, courageous, respected, youthful, brave, bold brand, but what value do these words have, and do they translate to tangible benefits that contribute to the bottom line? I believe they can, only the context with which they’re used defines the value.
For example, Protea Hotels by Marriott was recently named SA’s “coolest hotel group”, as voted for by the country’s young people. To me, that means people are identifying with the brand, and they’re happy to be associated with it, even aspiring to be associated with it. The business value of being “cool”, then, is that it can translate to retaining and gaining customers.
The challenge is to maintain this association and brand reputation. That’s where some other buzzwords creep in – providing authentic messaging, being daring and brave in marketing, and not compromising on quality. Authentic messaging is that which speaks the language of your consumers, it performs the role of sharing your narrative, and that’s not just for good news stories, authenticity when addressing challenges is necessary, too. More than just being about your words, it must reflect in your actions.
Being cool also means evolving – your market isn’t static, it’s changing, rolling with trends and fresh product offerings. It used to be that “tried-and-trusted” was the way to go, perhaps in certain contexts that’s still true, such as the legal or medical sectors, but in a market where speaking the language of your consumers is essential, “tried-and-trusted” as a descriptor can start to wear thinner than your gran’s linoleum.
But don’t try too hard
The thing with being cool, is that it’s a much better descriptor when it comes from your market, rather than you. You can come across as the opposite of cool if you’re trying to be that. You don’t tell your market that you’re authentic: they tell you. What are your consumers saying about you?
Getting to that level where your consumers are driving the narrative takes exceptional care. You need to listen to what they’re saying, first of all, and then respond proactively. All touch points across your business must reflect the same levels of excellence.
There’s a saying that you can’t be all things to all people, but for a brand trying to reach a mass audience, that’s exactly what you’re trying to do. In advertising school, they tell you to find the middle ground and create a kind of everyman as your audience: Mrs. Brown from Benoni, or Refilwe from Rosebank. In the digital age, you’re far better suited to finding this audience via data. Every bit of data you have, when paired with the right metrics and insights, places your consumer in your hands. Instead of having to guess who your audience is, you can now get a single view of your customer, enabling you to drive personalised campaigns to individuals.
That’s pretty cool.
Be careful of words you call yourself, live up to your customers’ expectations (and exceed them) and stay one step ahead.
Avukile is Group Marketing Manager, Protea Hotels by Marriott.