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The Growing Power of Brands: Shaping Organizations and Consumers

The power of a strong brand plays an increasingly vital role in the resilience and popularity of an organization. Today, consumers look at brands in a holistic way, measuring them in numerous ways from products and services, to work culture, communications and values.

Brand Sentiments

In 2018, Enso, a leading creative agency, hired Quadrant Strategies to survey 6,000 American consumers to give their opinions about brands. Ninety-one percent of respondents believe that living life with a sense of purpose is important to them, up from 80 percent in 2016. Eighty-one percent believe business can be a force for positive social and environmental change, up from 79% in 2016.

Ninety-six percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers feel their own actions (donating, recycling, etc.) can make a positive difference, with half believing they can make a big difference, according to a survey by Futerra, a global sustainability strategy and creative agency. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said they would like brands to help them become more environmentally friendly and ethical day-to-day.

While there is potential to reach these goals, the reality of achieving them falls short of expectations. For instance, in the Futerra study, only 28% say brands make those habits easier to achieve while 43% say they make it harder (29% did not know). According to Enso, only 42% of employees feel that the values of their employer match their own, and just 36% trust business leaders to do what’s right—down from 41% in 2017.

The Enso Study surveyed 4,000 consumers to assess 200 brands for how inspired they are by brands’ missions and the extent to which that inspiration drives their support. Here are the top 10 brands:

1.      St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

2.      Red Cross

3.      Salvation Army

4.      Goodwill

5.      Habitat for Humanity

6.      Doctors Without Borders

7.      Amazon

8.      Boys and Girls Club

9.      Save the Children

10.  Girl Scouts of the USA

Other notable brands were Google (12), Netflix (19), Starbucks (89), NFL (139) and Goldman Sachs (197).

It is important to note that Amazon was the only for-profit brand represented in the Top 10 Brands list. Enso Co-founder Sebastian Buck said Amazon’s presence on the list is due to its convenience as users can have items delivered quickly and affordably with minimal effort, which can be especially helpful for time-constrained individuals. Buck also noted that income reflects a consumer’s opinion of a particular brand. Patagonia, despite having a strong social awareness presence, was ranked 183 out of 200 and was rated higher by individuals who earn more than $100,000 annually compared to those earning less.

A strong brand also provides a shield from market downturns. According to a survey by SmartSense, an internet of things solution provider, since 2007 the top 10 most valuable brands outperformed the S&P 500 by 41%. While it is difficult to determine the exact worth of a brand, a healthy brand is vital to a business’ or club’s health.

Top 10 Businesses

1. Amazon

2. Google

3. National Geographic

4. Johnson & Johnson

5. Dove

6. Netflix

8. Disney

9. FedEx

10. Microsoft


The Value of the Customer Experience

According to a study by Walker, a customer experience consulting firm, the customer experience (CX) may overtake price and product as crucial brand differentiators. CX is defined as the customers’ perception of how a business treats them. In general, customers will spend more on businesses they like. Temkin Group, another CX consulting firm study reveals that customers are willing to pay up to 13% or even 18% for premium services if they receive a great customer experience.

A positive customer experience offers the following benefits:

  • 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience
  • 73% of buyers point to customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions
  • 65% of buyers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising

10 Ways to Boost the Customer Experience

1. Segment customers and tailor the experience to match each group’s needs
Developing personal communications help connect with audiences’ needs.

2. Create an emotional connection

Research from the Journal of Consumer Research has proven that more than 50% of CX is based on emotions that help shape decisions.

3. Get feedback in real time and respond accordingly

Use email, calls and automated tools to learn key information from your patrons to determine which products or services are valuable.

4. Deliver a consistent experience by utilizing multiple channels

Constantly innovate and improve contact points to deliver consistent high-quality CX.

5. Don’t use technology for technology’s sake

Technology should enhance CX, not overshadow it.

6. Avoid high-effort experiences

Connecting with your clientele should require an appropriate level of effort. Prioritize addressing their needs and concerns.

7. Make a long-term commitment to customer delight

Client satisfaction should be ingrained in the organization from top to bottom.

8. Make your brand personal

Use data to deliver a customized, personal CX.

9. Use a quality framework to train your team

Develop a staff training strategy to improve CX based on clientele desires.

10. Measure the ROI

Gather data to understand if your CX strategy is working. Software like Net Promoter Score collects data by asking questions like, “Would you recommend this company to a friend?”

Source: Marketing Insider Group


Brands Branch Out

Retail and corporate brands are expanding into new spaces, supporting a “no rules” style of branding. Although not the focal point of these brands, companies like Capital One now offer food and beverage options in new brick and mortar spaces. Called Capital One Cafés, these locations feature Peet’s Coffee, locally baked pastries, workspaces, ATMs and financial support. They also host fun and educational events such as a free yoga class and classes on online safety and security.

RH, formerly Restoration Hardware, was once a full-fledged home furnishing store, but now offers dining at several of its locations. One of its restaurants generates $5 million in revenue annually. The company has shifted from a “promotional model to a membership model,” said CEO Gary Friedman. The membership model grants members 25 percent off all full-price merchandise and has increased customer loyalty. While many brick and mortar companies have moved to digital stores, RH has doubled down and opened expansive, high-end stores and continues to mail large catalogs. The restaurants are centrally located in the store and fit the vibe of the home furnishing company’s brand by mimicking what it feels to enter a home and being offered food.

Shifting to Lifestyle Brands

In the U.S. and globally, more brands are shifting—in one form or another—to a lifestyle brand. These brands convince customers that by purchasing products and services, they will become the person they want to be, says Steve Harvey, CEO of Fabrik Brands, a creative agency in London. Big name brands such as Nike, once purely a sporting apparel and equipment brand, has shifted into more everyday spaces with casual footwear and clothes and increased socially conscious marketing. The hospitality industry, too, is actively moving toward lifestyle brands. UC Funds, a debt and equity solutions firm has pushed its hotels to offer lifestyle experiences. “A lifestyle branded asset should fulfill an aspiration for guests by offering exclusivity through a unique experience that augments socialization for the traveler,” said Dan Palmier, CEO of UC Funds.

At UC Funds’ One Club Gulf Shores property in Alabama, the resort features pools, spas, massages and other spa services, fitness centers, private cabanas, pickleball courts and other amenities. These offers work hand-in-hand with a high-quality staff, said Palmier. 

Brands like Warby Parker strongly associate their social values with their products. The glasses company’s website makes its mission clear: “to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.” Warby Parker designs its glasses in-house; uses a plant-based material, cellulose acetate, to make the product; and gives a free pair of glasses to someone in need whenever it sells a unit.

Car brands are known to target specific lifestyles with their products. Lincoln hired actor Matthew McConaughey to be the front man of campaign for its luxury brand, showcasing the stylish Oscar-winner musing, playing pool or enjoying other activities that evoke luxury. On the other end of the spectrum, Buick had shifted from a brand associated with older men and reinvented itself as a family-friendly car company. New designs and commercials showcase the car’s ability to comfortably fit the entire family in their SUVs, whether on vacation or back from sports practice.

Brand Tracking

Brand trends have developed that introduce new ways to approach brand management. SIS International Research notes that brand management professionals have adopted tactics to determine brand drivers, ROI in brand equity, positioning and value pricing on top of traditional data sources like customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, market share, etc. The new systems often integrate quantitative tracking data with qualitative environmental and competitive information to inform brand decisions.

Firms have also begun to hire their own C-suite level brand manager. This position is in charge of everything the brand does (and does not) do. Often confused with marketing or advertising, a chief brand officer (CBO) is responsible for shaping the organization’s story both inside and outside of it. The CBO also plays a role in hiring and HR, customer service, as well as designing marketing principles and priorities that represent the brand.

Organizations and Consumers
Brands continue to evolve to meet consumer desires and expectations. As a consequence, brands have expanded their efforts to reach consumers in their everyday lives, blurring the lines between products and services and lifestyle choices.


Club Trends Spring 2019