March 22, 2018 | By Ric Fedyna

Is Your Brand a Target?

I hope so. It’s what you should want your brand to be.

Brands and their agencies talk so much about how to target and sell to consumers. What rarely gets discussed is how to create a brand that consumers want to target. The modern consumer is more informed and aware than ever before. Almost everyone today has grown up in the digital age and their bullshit metre is at an all-time high. Because of this, they will consciously avoid brands that only try to sell to them.

So how do you target a consumer who is bombarded with so much daily advertising that there is no way they’ll actually process any of it? The answer is to become the brand consumers seek out — become the target. Those who know me might think this is the archer and bow hunter talking. And those people might be right.

Becoming a target is easier said than done. It requires courage, vision and a different way of thinking for most brands and their CMOs. This is especially difficult when the top metric is “Winning the Weekend.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that expression over the years. Brands that yell at their audiences for short-term results fail to recognize how much they are hurting themselves in the long-term. Brands that operate with a “Sale! Sale! Sale!” mentality attract consumers who will leave, leave, leave the second the competitor’s product is cheaper.

In contrast, brands that become the target enjoy blind devotion and loyalty beyond reason. They engage consumers in a real and meaningful relationship. They give consumers more than just a list of attributes to convince them to buy something. They understand what their audience cares about and build an emotional investment in the “Truth” about their brand. Wouldn’t it be so much better — and so much more fun — to involve the audience in your brand and what it stands for? To empower and inspire them and give them a sense of ownership with your brand?

Of course it would. Especially when you realize brands that figure out how to differentiate and create a greater purpose enjoy selling their products and services at a much higher premium. Simply stated: becoming the target means more money.

Today’s brands need to overwhelm their consumers with positive experiences before, during and after the sale, so their audience can’t help but create a positive relationship. Far too few brands invest in providing a positive experience after the sale. Harley-Davidson is one example of a brand that only spends a small percentage of its marketing dollars on attracting new customers. The lion’s share goes towards investing in a real, meaningful relationship with their current customers. Because of this, it’s a target brand with loyalty beyond reason — and one that buyers seek out with almost religious reverence, happily paying full price for brand membership. Just Google ‘Harley Davidson Tattoo’ and you’ll see what I mean.

Another great example closer to home is Lululemon. They managed to create a dedicated following with aspirational women and a growing number of men by tapping into the feel-good mind/body/soul movement that centres around yoga. Lululemon’s products are high quality, but that’s not what differentiates them from their competitors. Lululemon products sell at a serious premium because the brand stands for something their consumers care about: a positive, healthy lifestyle. They figured out how to emotionally connect with their consumers and the result is Harley Davidson-grade loyalty beyond reason. When was the last time you ever saw Lululemon on sale? It almost never happens. They don’t worry about short term strategies like “Winning the Weekend” because they’re focused on dominating the entire marketplace for years.

There’s a saying that price is what you talk about when you have nothing else to say. Another is that people don’t remember specific words, only the feelings they create.

With this in mind, simply blaring numbers at your audience will never give them anything worth remembering. Focus on who you are, what you stand for, and why you’re here to help. Money talks, but without context, numbers and prices just don’t say anything meaningful.

Modern consumers are no longer simply uninformed purchasers. They want to be real, active participants in your brand. They care more about what you stand for than what you sell. People today don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves. The goal today is to find the truth about your brand that will resonate with consumers and their lifestyles, and develop the proper engagement platforms for meaningful relationships with them.

Do that, and watch your brand grow into something both customers and employees will want to be a part of. Give them a trail to follow. Become the target.

I would like to acknowledge and recommend two great books worth reading that share some of the opinions I’ve outlined in this post: FIX by Chris Kneeland, Ryan Gill & Rob Howard and LOVEMARKS by Kevin Roberts.

Ric Fedyna

Ric Fedyna is Executive VP, Creative at WS. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.