Stop, look and listen
Customer-centric branding
Rather than ask what we are good at… ask who are our customers? What do they need? And then…give that to them.
Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
You don't need to be Jeff Bezos to have a customer-centric approach. Yet many companies pay little attention to their customers before making decisions about their positioning and communications. Beyond the confines of internal marketing meetings, why are so many brand decisions made, without considering customer preferences and expectations?

Take for example a mid-size company that briefed us to re-fresh their brand. Yes, the time had come for a brand refresh, but their insistence on using social media to “build brand engagement”, was entirely at odds with their largest client-base: a group of 60 something investors that used Twitter and Instagram about as frequently as their children called them from a landline.

It was only by identifying the real-world behaviours of their customers - they preferred face-to-face meetings and reading industry related news to sharing selfies - that we were able to make sure their brand was positioned with the right tone of voice and promoted in the right context.

Then, there was the launch of a brand new “intrapreneurial” venture from a large company. With resounding commitment to their cause, we were briefed to create a simple on-brand website and then re-briefed to create a sophisticated digital platform, (more than doubling the project budget and delivery deadline). All this, before the business had spoken to even a single potential customer? Of course, it would be unfair to dismiss the company's ambition for technology, the point here, is that this ambition was built entirely on internal assumptions, without consideration of what their customers might genuinely find useful. So, with the risk of over engineering and ultimately damaging their brand - “we know that customers can suffer from feature fatigue, which hurts future sales” Rethinking Marketing, HBR - we advised them differently.

First, we identified their key customers, then we conducted a series of interviews to build clear use-cases. By mapping out real-world customer preferences, we were able to clarify what the brand needed to do, across channels, to engage with its customers. This process had the added benefit of saving the company unnecessary amounts of lost time and expense too.

Once a company has recognised that the loyalty towards its brand is determined by the people that buy in to it, a shift to building brands built on customer insights can be realised in several ways:
Segmentation:
Organise your customers in to groups (age, gender, demographic, preferences etc.) and talk to them. Make sure that you are clear about who and why you are servicing them, and what it is they truly value in your products and services (price, customer support, ease-of-use etc).

Empathy:
Observe how your customers interact with your brand across channels, in their own context, (at their home, their office, on their mobile device, desktop etc). The clearer you are about how customers interact with each touchpoint, the easier it will be to improve their experience.

Review:
Brands are not static and neither are your customers' perceptions. In order to maintain a healthy brand: run customer satisfaction surveys; implement data management systems; continue to improve the customer experience as your brand and business grows.

Foreground undertake customer segmentation, conduct customer interviews and unlock key insights to help our clients build brands with lasting appeal. Give it a try, you might find the customers that buy your products and services are much less likely to want to shop elsewhere.