A brand is not a logo or a tagline. It is not a person or a product. A brand is what an audience thinks and feels about an organisation; the intangible attributes that are its most valuable assets.
It transcends the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of an organisation, and to quote Simon Sinek, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.
Given that the audience is core to determining a brand’s equity, it is crucial for an organisation to have a complete understanding of whom they are talking to. Demographic profiles have long been the way in which brands aim to get an insight into their audience, and while this is good for targeting a customer via media channels, it doesn’t give a thorough idea of why a particular set of people are choosing to engage with a brand. In a global market that’s replete with brand clutter and advertising noise, cut-through and loyalty are critical to a brand’s success and longevity.
People affiliate themselves with brands that reflect their own ideals, so understanding the core values and mindset of an audience can help a brand better align and communicate with the target market. Because a psychographic profile is not specific to age, gender, race, socio-economic class, location or sexual orientation, it allows the brand to look at a wider audience landscape with values and attributes now being shared across demographics.
As the worldwide marketplace continues to expand at a rapid pace, with the existence of a globally connected community, previously established cultural borders are eroding. This has meant that there is a universal mindset within generational groups (with members having shared values) providing brands with a holistic profile of the target audience. A brand experiencing diminishing market share and brand loyalty, that needs to evolve and re-establish authority with their audience, will benefit from a psychographic outline of the target market. By externalising the shared values, with a cohesive visual identity and marketing communications, a brand will drive engagement and devotion.
Influencing forces on generations have been remarkably different, which has impacted the way members of each generation group acts in the world – their behavior, beliefs and values. There is a wealth of information available on the defining characteristics of the world’s four core generation groups (those that have significant spending power, and influence a brand’s bottom line). The generations are classified as Traditionalists (1922 to 1945), Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964), Generation-X (1965 to 1980) and Millennials (1981 to 1994).
The Millennial generation, formally know as Generation-Y, has been identified as the most significant spending class the world has ever seen, a title previously held by the Baby Boomers. Millennials are the most culturally diverse group in history, accepting of diversity and varying beliefs. Labeled ‘digital natives’ they don’t remember a time before the Internet, which has seen the containment associated with country borders disappear. The most ethically conscious cluster, Millennials have grown up experiencing the impact of global warming, environmental disasters and terrorism. Given their social concerns, this generation is more driven to align themselves with brands that are authentic and ethically responsible.
The Millennial generation expects to have a two-way relationship with brands and often make contact or provide feedback using social media channels. Given this, it’s important for brands to have a robust brand strategy and social media plan in order to capture this audience and keep them engaged. Not known for being brand loyalists, continually updating content is key for brands that want to remain relevant to the Millennial audience.
There are a number of brands that have been best-in-class when it comes to presenting their brand values and appealing directly to the mindset of their audience.
Commonwealth Bank Australia (CBA) successfully connected with their audience with the execution of the ‘CAN’ campaign. Pulling on the heartstrings of their audience, CBA communicated the message of reaching one’s goals, a common human desire across demographic lines. The takeaway from this campaign is that CBA helps its customers achieve their lifestyle aspirations, in turn selling the services that offer a solution – financial services, loans, credit cards and everyday accounts. CBA sold products by selling possibility, aligning themselves with their audience’s mindset.
Keeping a local focus, Telstra went through a brand refresh project in 2011. Telstra had recognised a requirement to drive brand relevance in younger generations and a need to make an emotional connection with their audience. This saw them toss aside the blue and orange, which denoted an older white-collar business persona. In place of the core palette, Telstra revealed an identity system that included a spectrum of colours and a contemporary visual language. The evolution added energy and vitality to the (previously) anachronistic brand, making it more accessible and visually relevant to its expanding Millennial and Generation-Z audience.
One of the world’s most formidable and consistent brands, Apple, who rarely put a foot wrong in the representation of the brand, concentrate their above-the-line communications on selling the customer-product relationship. After all, what matters to their loyal audience is how an Apple device improves their lives. In Apple’s communications, the execution rarely involves a list of product attributes or technical jargon, rather the focus is on the personal experiences a product affords its end user, which in turns drive an emotional desire to buy a device, or devices.
It will be interesting to see how the defining values of Generation-Z (the working title for the next generation) impact the evolution of brands and the way in which they communicate. Those brands, which are currently focusing on identifying and communicating the shared values with their audience, will continue to see brand equity improve as a result of customer loyalty.
 Start with Why – Simon Sinek TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioZd3AxmnE