If You Want to Build a Billion-Dollar Brand Like Apple and Coca-Cola, Change Your Marketing Strategy

Apple didn’t become the most valuable brand in the entire world, worth $170 billion (total market cap: $814 billion), by talking about the processing power or pixel count of its computers. Instead, the company taps into a universal desire to express your individuality. Its ads have consistently reinforced that feeling, from “1984” to “Drake Vs. Bench Press.”

Coca-Cola, the 5th most valuable brand in the world, worth $56 billion (total market cap $197 billion), doesn’t advertise the ingredients of its soda, or even the way it tastes. Instead, its marketing campaigns continue to echo the ethos of togetherness that it first introduced in 1971 with its infectious “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” jingle.

Brand marketing, when done right, can create lasting value. But when is the right time to do it, and how do you get started?

My company, Tile, is currently going through the process of introducing our first brand campaign. When we introduced Tile to the world four years ago, we focused on transactional marketing — ads meant to drive your audience to do something, typically with a message around the features of your product, delivered via direct mail, email and/or digital ads.

Now instead of merely promoting the “What” and “How” of our products, we are talking about the “Why” of our company in an effort to build an emotional connection and a sense of purpose in the eyes of our customers.

We just launched our campaign so we are still new at this, but here are a handful of reasons WHY you may want to evolve to invest in brand marketing as part of your overall strategy and WHEN is the right time to dive in:

  1. You’ve tapped out the early adopters.

In the early days of a new product — whether it’s high-tech or low-fi — newness, inventiveness and novelty can attract the early adopter/taste maker crowd. But at some point, you are no longer the hottest, newest thing, and you need to expand your reach to new people.

You can focus on direct targeting for a little while, but to resonate with a mass audience, you need to craft a brand identity that give your company and product a purpose.

  1. Your marketing model no longer scales.

If you have ambitious goals for top-line growth, but the efficiency of your transactional marketing program is declining (i.e. you are paying more and more for each new customer or sale), it is probably time to create more interest and draw more people to the top of your marketing funnel.

  1. You own the market but somehow no one knows you.

It’s hard to believe, but you really can own 90 percent of a market and still have very low brand recognition. Want to motivate yourself?

Do a market test of your target audience to see how much they recognize your brand versus a made-up company in your category. If the made-up name kicks your company’s butt in brand recognition, it might be time to invest in your brand.

  1. You have expanded your product line.

When you only have one product, you only have one message to convey: Why the customer should care about this thing and how it could make their lives better.

But when you start introducing more products into the mix, your message starts to get muddled. At that point, you need to elevate the story and start talking about the common thread that runs through everything you make, and the sense of purpose that drives your organization.

  1. Your category is getting crowded.

If you have more competitors than fingers and toes, you are probably starting to feel the heat when it comes to explaining your differentiation. At this point, features alone won’t rise above the noise. And the last thing you want to do is start competing on price.

So what’s left? Telling a unique brand story that is meaningful to your customers and building an emotional connection based on a set of shared values.

These are a few reason WHY it might be time to move into brand advertising. Up next, we’ll dive into HOW you do it.

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