You are who people say you are, and the same is true for brands. As Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon was quoted to say: “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Marketing departments can attempt to steer the conversation one way or another, depending on what image they wish for the brand to project, but the real world, bottom-line truth for companies is that their customers are creating the brand for them, based on how they interact with the company’s products.
Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. - Highlight to share -
Companies have two choices, then: adapt, or die stubborn. A marketing department that is out of touch with the reality of its brand leads to laughable adverts, which wax too poetic about what they’re trying to sell. These brands have no value to their customers. Any value they did have has been wrestled from the hands of the customers by the company, smashed into a new shape the company liked better, and returned to customer as something with no value to anyone. On the other hand, a marketing department that identifies the true zeitgeist of its brand and seize on it can cash in.
Take American athletic apparel company Under Armour. Founded in 1996 and long the also-ran underdog to giant competitors Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, Under Armour’s initial marketing scheme was to brand the company as a “bad boy,” the trouble maker wreaking havoc upon the sportswear establishment. They printed slang on their t-shirts, used new fabrics no one had seen, and showed an irreverent edge that resonated with many young customers.
Brands become famous through the connection they have with their customers. - Highlight to share -
As both their customers and their market share have grown up, Under Armour’s image has changed – but that wasn’t because of something the company did, but because customers expected something different of the brand. As increased revenue led to increased marketing budgets which led to expanded exposure, irreverent was no longer cool. Those same customers now have kids of their own.
They expected Under Armour to refine what customers loved about its essence into something they could share with their own little ones. Under Armour took this feedback from social media and elsewhere, and re-branded as a wholesome, patriotic, give-it-everything-you’ve-got apparel company. Profits have never been higher, and customer loyalty has been passed on to a new generation.
So what can brands learn from Under Armour?
It demonstrates the importance of valuing listening above talking. Brands become famous through the connection they have with their customers. That’s a connection that doesn’t happen in a boardroom or a creative agency – it happens every day, in those little interactions that add up to equal brand perception.
Do you know how your customers really perceive your brand?