No product is appropriate for every market. Clarifying your ideal target markets is a vital element in formulating your Branding strategy.
Factors might include demographics, psychographics, ethnographics, drivers of need, buyer personas, online/offline, and geography.
Remember you can’t profitably pursue every market so you want to determine where you can most effectively differentiate your brand and attract the most profitable customers who resonate with your offering.
Force yourself to sacrifice and focus on what matters most.
Start by brainstorming a master list of all possible markets you could pursue. Then, determine how you will assess each market opportunity. You may use metrics like market size, growth trends, ability to compete, barriers to entry, and the economics of each market.
Which markets have the biggest and most urgent pain?
Where are there gaps in the market?
Which markets are most aligned with your corporate strategy?
Which markets best match your core competencies?
Which markets can you most easily reach?
Which markets have the largest market size and least competition?
Next, assess each market for accessibility, alignment, and overall opportunity. Do what you can to test or validate each market opportunity with key stakeholders.
Review feedback from current and prospective clients as well as employees on the front line. Review trend data from available sources. Try using customer surveys and external focus groups.
Finally, prioritize your market opportunities and refine them on an ongoing basis.
Ultimately, your best opportunities will also attract your competitors, so defining your target markets is insufficient in itself.
You will still need to differentiate your offer and position your brand. But at least now you will have the confidence that you’re fishing where your fish are.
Crocs weren’t created to be beautiful. 200 pairs of distinctively shaped, lightweight footwear were created for the 2001 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. They sold out quickly. This was the brand’s first step to superstardom. More than 720 million pairs of Crocs have been sold since then, and the company is enjoying its fourth straight year of impressive revenue growth. This despite the fact that the fashion world deemed Crocs hideous, one of mankind’s worst inventions ever. How did this happen?
Know What Your Customers Love About You
Crocs may not be pretty, but they are durable, comfortable, and easy to clean. These characteristics, along with the shoe’s iconic clunky silhouette, have remained a constant over the brand’s 20+ year lifespan. Crocs fans are legion in part because the brand has identified what is important to their customer and then improved upon it.
Case in point: Croc’s roomy fit and durable construction made them an early hit with people with diabetes, who often have foot problems. Knowing this, Crocs focused on creating specific styles for this audience, using guidance from medical professionals. Other styles were created for health care workers, who appreciated having comfortable shoes that could easily be hosed off after a messy day of work, but needed a solid top to protect their feet from any medical waste that might splatter or spill upon them.
Love means listening, and Crocs has demonstrated that they do that.
Focus on Keeping Things Fun
As part of their corporate values, Crocs promises to keep an open mind and look on the bright and colorful side. That’s definitely been demonstrated in their product mix. While you can get basic white and black Crocs, the vast majority of Crocs offerings are boldly colored, distinctively patterned, or otherwise eye-catching. Crocs builds trust by delivering on its brand promise to be completely practical and totally goofy. Product options for men include Real-Tree Camo, Classic Tie Dye, styles matched to your Zodiac sign, and more.
Crocs also boosts the fun level of the brand through collaborations and limited editions created with pop celebrities and popular brands. The range of options is very impressive, including shoes inspired by the Grateful Dead and Post Malone, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Peeps, Vera Bradley, and Lightning McQueen from Cars. No matter what it takes to put a smile on your face, Crocs likely has a collaboration that covers it.
In fact, some of the most popular Crocs collaborations have a deliberately counterintuitive feel, such as the ongoing project with top fashion brand Balenciaga. Platform Crocs aren’t for everyone, but for the people who pay attention to what runway models wear, they’re certainly something.
Gilding the lily, in 2006, Crocs acquired Jibbitz, a company that made small fun charms people could use to personalize their shoes. Today, Jibbitz sales represent a sizable portion of revenue and have even been credited with the brand’s strong performance during the pandemic.
Crocs’ fun, expressive footwear makes their customers and other people smile. This positive emotional experience has resulted in a cohort of fanatically loyal Croc collectors. While the ‘typical collector’ may have a few dozen pairs to brag about, Doogie Lish Sandtiger is on a quest to have the world’s largest collection – he has nearly 800 pairs!
Love Means Getting Close: Crocs Direct to Customer Experience
While Crocs are available via many high-quality retail outlets it’s important to pay attention to Crocs’ Direct-to-Customer shopping experience.
It’s very easy for shoppers to quickly find the products that are meant for them, whether they’re after that classic Crocs look or need a new pair of shoes for work. With special discounts for teachers, healthcare workers, and the military, Crocs effectively honors and recognizes an important portion of its customer base while simultaneously keeping the shopping experience cheerful and bright.
While working hard to maintain the love and trust of their core customer base, Crocs uses its website to effectively leverage the social media influencers they’ve been using to expand the brand’s identity and grow market share. This is a smart way to keep customer experiences in alignment with expectations: the shopper who sees a pair of shoes on Instagram that they want will find those same shoes in the influencer’s collection on the website.
Other features to pay attention to are the Crocs Club, the Say Hi feature that directs shoppers to the nearest brick and mortar retail location, and importantly, an opportunity for customers to have their own Crocs images included on the site. The invitation to and celebration of community gives Crocs brand Lovers an easy-to-access way to deepen their relationship with the brand.
Going Forward: Growth Based on Core Values
Crocs has conducted itself fairly consistently since the beginning. The focus has been on continually improving product quality and keeping the fun factor high. Over the years, strategic acquisitions and partnerships have helped Crocs achieve and maintain a High Trust/High Love position.
Crocs core audience includes teachers and health care workers. What professions would you identify as being part of your core audience? How do you recognize and honor these individuals?
Shortly on the heels of the Joe Rogan debacle, in which Spotify found its user base in conflict over the podcaster’s misinformation, the brand announced it was now in partnership with Walmart. In the deal, new and existing customers of Walmart Plus – the membership program built to take on Amazon Prime – would receive six free months of Spotify Premium.
Why Did These Two Brands Join Forces?
There are obvious benefits for both brands. Walmart Plus is at a severe disadvantage in terms of streaming content; Amazon Prime has original video content as well as partnerships with the world’s most famous studios in addition to Amazon Music, Amazon Gaming, and more. Adding Spotify Premium makes Walmart Plus more competitive.
And for Spotify, this partnership is a smart way to increase the customer base without exerting a lot of effort. Six months is certainly long enough for a new user to become hooked on the service and continue enjoying it after the free trial has expired.
But Wait…There’s More!
It’s certain that this relationship was navigated well in advance of the Joe Rogan episode. However, subsequent to it, there are additional benefits Spotify is realizing from this partnership. We’ve talked before about how users’ trust in Spotify has been diminished. People who aren’t personally familiar with the brand have certainly heard negative media coverage.
However, Walmart’s reputation is much the same as it always was. While people may not love the Walmart experience, the mega-retailers performance and pricing are consistent enough that people trust them.
Right now, for people who are dubious about Spotify – in a position where they’re not sure whether or not they should trust the brand – their faith in Walmart may be strong enough to overcome any hesitation. Admittedly, getting someone to enjoy a generous free trial effort isn’t that high of a bar to clear, but if you’re in this business you know it’s not always a sure thing. During this time of crisis, Spotify’s leadership surely appreciates the assistance Walmart Plus gives to its credibility.
Considering Trust in Strategic Alliances
Brands do business with each other in an endless number of ways. Whether it’s a partnership of the sort we see Walmart Plus and Spotify engaged in or a different model, it’s critical to always consider the impact these relationships have on the trust the public has in your brand. Will you be assisted, the way Spotify currently is, or will your brand suffer? The time to have this conversation is before the deal is made, of course, but it’s also continually relevant to keep an eye on existing relationships to make sure they’re in your best interest. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – what other high-profile brands have you seen working together to enhance how trustworthy they appear?
Of all the factors that go into creating Brand Lovers – those shoppers who will come to your store time and time again, even when they have other convenient options – trust is the one that’s entirely within the brand’s control. No matter what’s happening in this world, you can always choose to be trustworthy.
Every single interaction you have with your customer is an opportunity to demonstrate trustworthiness. There are a couple of ways to illustrate this idea. Let’s pick two – pricing and policies – to point out opportunities to create trust.
Pricing & Policies – Understanding The Infrastructure of Trust
Pricing first. No matter what you’re selling, from diet soda to diamond tiaras. Your customers are going to be aware of the price. Trust is established, at least to a minimal degree, if the price they encounter aligns with their expectations. When things don’t line up, trust starts being damaged right away. If a diamond tiara only costs $20, you don’t trust that it’s the real thing. This can work in your favor. If you’re a specialty gourmet foods retailer, let’s say you might be able to sell a diet soda for $20 to the connoisseur looking for a particularly unique flavor. They may have never heard of the brand, but they’ll buy it because they trust you & your store. That being said, if they pay that $20, that diet soda better be the best one they ever had.
If your pricing deviates significantly from the market, there needs to be a credible reason why your customer won’t trust your prices. And if your prices can’t be trusted, the relationship you have with this customer will not go too far. More than half of all shoppers price check; two-thirds will check prices online while shopping in-store. Is Will having trustworthy prices close the deal? Not necessarily, but even the opposite appearance will lose your business.
The Power of Policies
Policies are precisely what I’m talking about when we get into discussing the infrastructure of trust. Every business has policies – how do you return merchandise, is it acceptable to bring a pet into the store, is it necessary to wear shoes in the establishment, and so on. In terms of establishing and maintaining trust, what the policy is isn’t nearly as important as if the procedure is clearly communicated and consistently applied.
Consistent application of policy allows your customers to trust that the experience they have in your establishment is one that they can expect to proceed in a specific fashion. If your fine dining restaurant has a dress code, your guests can reasonably expect to eat their dinner without looking at someone wearing a bathing suit, flip flops, and towel. People who are underdressed can trust that they’ll be able to dine comfortably once they too are suitably attired – and that no one else is getting away with dodging the standard they’ve been asked to meet.
Assuredly, these seem like simple points – but they’re the points that make or break relationships on a day in, day out basis. If your customer retention rate is just not there, it’s a good time to do that close perspective examination of your operation, focused on whether or not your customers trust you on that granular level. If the answer is not yes, the good news is it’s entirely within your control to improve.
Because I have small children, I have seen The Walt Disney Company movie Encanto about 37 million times. And this experience has made me wonder: does every brand have a Bruno?
We Don’t Talk About Bruno – What’s That About?
A quick summary for those who haven’t seen the movie. Encanto is about a family that has magical gifts. Bruno’s gift was the ability to see the future, which sounds fantastic, but most of his predictions were negative. His family began to believe his predictions caused the bad outcomes, and after one especially notable conflict, Bruno left. Ever since, the family’s most famous song says, we don’t talk about Bruno.
In every group, each person has a role to play. Bruno’s role was that of the truth-teller: the person who, genuinely out of a sincere desire to help, says things other people don’t want to hear. These people are often dismissed from the conversation, brushed off, as Bruno was, as the crazy uncle no one listens to.
Who Is Your Bruno?
What does that mean for a brand? Who is your organization’s Bruno? Who don’t you talk about?
Bruno could be a customer, quick to write harsh reviews pointing out even the smallest flaw.
Bruno could be an activist, loudly demanding your company conduct itself in a way they see as more humane, ethical, or otherwise correct.
Bruno could be an employee speaking up about working conditions and pay rates.
Bruno could be a manager pointing out that changes need to be made because the in-store experience is suffering.
Bruno could be in leadership, taking a stand and telling the others the organization isn’t going in the right direction.
In the movie, it becomes clear that Bruno’s predictions weren’t causing the events that happened. He merely spotted the clues of impending events ahead of time and did his best to let people know. But it was easier for the family to become angry with what they were hearing and stop talking about Bruno.
This dynamic plays out in every human setting, including within our organizations. Perhaps you can think of times within your career when you’ve seen someone who’s been acting as a truth-teller phased out of the organization or otherwise disregarded. This is a thing that happens, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
As part of our ongoing conversation about trust, we need to reach a point where brands trust themselves enough to be able to listen to the Brunos of the world without shutting them out. We have to trust that the people in good faith relationships with us – our customers, our communities, our employees, team, and leadership – tell us things we don’t want to hear because they want us to do better.
We don’t talk about Bruno, but we have to if we want to grow.
So we’re at an interesting and unique place in our examination of trust and what it means for a brand to be trustworthy. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had impacts all around the world. What a brand chooses to do or not do now has reverberations that extend far beyond their company’s financial performance.
A brand’s character is demonstrated by its actions. Customers are watching what their favorite brands are doing at this time. This is the moment when loyalty is won or lost on that forever basis.
Knowing What The Right Thing Is Can Be Complicated: The Hierarchy of Trust
Important to remember: we’re less than a month into the invasion. Events are happening very quickly, and brands (just like the rest of us) haven’t had much opportunity to understand what’s going on, never mind craft the correct response to it. Everyone is operating on the fly during a complex, difficult situation.
That being said, what we’ve seen emerging is that this is one instance where size definitely does matter. Small to mid-sized brands appear to be taking inspiration and direction from how larger organizations are announcing their decisions to limit or cease doing business with Russia at this time.
You can see this playing out in many areas, but for this, we’ll use the world of sport as an example. Fairly immediately after the Russians first invaded, FIFA condemned the violence and announced the Russian team would be subject to penalties. This was quickly seen as an insufficient response, with players from Ukraine, Poland, and other neighboring countries refusing to play against the Russian team, no matter what it would be called. FIFA was under great pressure to ban Russian teams from competing entirely but held off saying they would impose a total ban until the International Olympic Committee – IOC made a similar announcement regarding Russian participation in the Paralympics. Over the years, IOC and FIFA have had contentious relations, but in this instance, FIFA seemed ready to let the IOC take the lead.
People Trust Brands More Than They Trust Governments
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Report for 2022, globally, people trust brands and NGOs far more than they trust the government and the media. Why does that dynamic exist?
We can’t cover all of the answers to that question here, but one cause – illustrated by FIFA’s rapidly evolving response to the Ukraine crisis – is that brands have to respond to their fans and critics in a way that governments do not. If the customer base withdraws its support, the brand fails. Even an organization as large as FIFA needs to pay attention to what its fans expect of them so that trust relationships can be maintained.
Subsequent to the IOC & FIFA other brands, including The Coca-Cola Company and McDonald’s have also announced they’re ceasing operations in Russia. Thinking of this in terms of trust, what brand promises do you think these brands are fulfilling with this decision?
Pull up almost any major corporation’s Facebook page and look at how they respond to negative feedback. Often, it’s ignored. When it’s not, it’s usually a copy-and-paste response that reads like it spent several weeks losing its humanity in the legal department: “Sorry you didn’t have the perfect experience we’re committed to delivering. Please call 1-800…”
In the latter case, not only does the customer have to make the effort to call, but they also have to re-explain the issue. And, they’ll likely get put on hold. This is hardly a commitment to a great customer experience.
This isn’t just reserved for negative posts; positive posts usually get the same responses: no answers or cookie-cutter answers that aim just to try and make the algorithm see a boost in engagement.
Behavior like this should be shocking at this point: experts have warned companies for well over a decade to use social media to primarily communicate rather than broadcast. Yet, most still predominantely use social media as little more than a glorified broadcast platform.
In October 2012, I attended AdAge’s Social Engagement/Social TV Conference in Los Angeles. The most interesting thing I heard there was an offhanded comment by Kay Madati—then the Head of Media and Entertainment for Facebook who later worked for Twitter and LinkedIn and now works for FIFA. He said that internally Facebook refers to posts and their threads as stories.
In that context, most of Facebook’s moves—even the controversial ones—over the last decade make sense: how do we allow our users to better tell the stories they want to tell and see the stories they find meaningful?
But, social media isn’t just great for customers to tell their stories; it’s great for brands to tell their stories too. How much different would your brand’s Facebook page be if its only goal was to tell the story of your brand in a way that’s meaningful to your customers’ lives?
If customers are trying to tell their stories, how can you use your brand to help them tell their stories? And, how can their stories help you tell your story better?
Next time you consider your social media, think about the platforms as tools for co-authorship and storytelling.
When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.Paulo Coelho1
Life truly is a gift, regardless of how great or troublesome life and business may appear. Below are four tips to improve your attitude about gratitude and make it a daily practice.
1. Schedule Time to Give Thanks
Incorporate more gratitude into your daily life. Schedule at least a few minutes to feel grateful. Make it a daily appointment with yourself. When the alarm sounds, think of three things you can be thankful for and write them down in your journal. These moments of gratitude will shift your focus from feeling stressed to feeling uplifted.
Another approach is to start and end the day with this gratitude exercise. Being thankful first thing in the morning is optimal because it starts your day with positive energy and primes you for the rest of your day. Reserving time before bed can help put your mind at ease and be a catalyst for a good night’s rest.
2. Write Thank You Notes
Saying thank you is an excellent way to show your appreciation for all the small things people do for you. But the sentiment can lose power when spoken often. Giving a speech on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetary, less than two weeks before his death, President John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Express gratitude through writing. At the end of your day, write a note, send an email, or text the words “thank you” to a colleague whom you are grateful for. Writing will allow you to reflect on why you are genuinely thankful. The letter will also serve the recipient as a token of your appreciation.
3. Stay Present
In The Artist is Present, Marina Abramovic writes, “We always project into the future or reflect in the past, but we are so little in the present.” We are all accomplished multi-taskers, always analyzing past decisions and projecting future consequences.
Unfortunately, divided attention makes it hard to feel genuine gratitude. Take time to be present. Appreciate the person you’re with instead of the phone in front of you, the flowers outside the window, and even a hot cup of coffee. Being in the now is not easy, but tools like meditation can help you stay present, allowing you to focus more on gratitude.
4. Celebrate Thanksgiving Every Day
Every day is a holiday, and every meal is a feast. Think of your lunch break as a giving-thanks break. Sit down for lunch with your colleagues and treat it as Thanksgiving. Share what you are grateful for in your personal life. Take turns talking about what you appreciate about each other. Offer specific examples, such as, “I appreciate all the hard work you’ve done to help me with my report, despite your demanding schedule.”
Not only is sharing a meal great for establishing a thriving corporate culture, but it also will make colleagues feel more connected.
What you focus on grows. When you focus on the many gifts you already have, you create more of these gifts. Maintain these practices every week, and you will cultivate a grateful attitude year-round.
Without new input, it’s hard to create truly new ideas, since you draw on the same bank of knowledge. Starting at my #10 and finishing on my #1, here is my list of the top 10 books I’ve read in the last few years that influenced my thinking about business the most:
While she was a cook, Ellen Marie Bennett set out to make a better apron so cooks would be inspired by what they wear. Dream First, Details Later traces the early stages of her career to the current day, as she created the world-renown kitchen-gear company, Hedley & Bennett. This book offers the wisdom of an entrepreneur finding their way and encouraging all those that want to run their own business—or are already running it—to not hesitate, to dream what they want, and then figure out how to get it done along the way.
“The transformative leader finds patterns in a situation and then takes action to generate new patterns, initiating a fresh and different order.”
Influenced by the pandemic, in 2020 we dove deep into the literature and personal consulting experience and published a blog on how to navigate a crisis or any period of change. While researching the article, the most comprehensive book I found on crisis management was You’re It. It’s a bit academic, but all leaders are bound to face a period of change in their careers and this book offers great insight into how to manage it with case studies on how others have managed it too.
“Like books, sports give people a sense of having lived other lives, of taking part in other people’s victories. And defeats. When sports are at their best, the spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete, and in that convergence, in that transference, is the oneness that the mystics talk about.”
In Shoe Dog, Phil Knight takes readers on a wild ride through his youth into building Nike into the powerhouse it has become. Phil Knight faced a constant barrage of obstacles in building Nike and this autobiography provides inspiration on overcoming any obstacle you may face.
“There is compelling evidence suggesting that we are poor judges of our own leadership skills when it comes to meetings. Namely, we have an inflated view of our skills.”
One of the biggest complaints I hear—and I’m sure you do too if you work in a large organization—is how much time is wasted in meetings. In The Surprising Science of Meetings, Steven G Rogelberg examines meetings through the lens of the academic literature and offers a guidebook on how to improve meetings (and to know when to cancel them). Anyone responsible for creating and running meetings would benefit from reading this book.
“But here is the great paradox of gathering: There are so many good reasons for coming together that often we don’t know precisely why we are doing so. You are not alone if you skip the first step in convening people meaningfully: committing to a bold, sharp purpose.”
As humans, we gather together a lot. In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker takes a look at how to organize and run important gatherings—whether it’s a family gathering or a negotiation or a workshop—to provide maximum effect and meaning for all participants, making everyone feel they spent their time valuably. For anyone running events, this book is a great guide for making sure the event achieves its purpose—and has a clearly defined one in the first place.
“Big data tells us who people seem to be, but not who they really are; surveys tell us what they keep on their shelves, but not what they keep in their hearts.”
There have been a lot of books published over the last few years about incorporating the dynamics of storytelling into creating powerful messaging. Storynomics is the most comprehensive book I’ve found on the subject. In the book, story-structure expert Robert McKee and marketer Tom Gerace examine the biological function of storytelling, the structure of storytelling for connecting with customers, and how that structure differs from more traditional examples of storytelling. Storynomics is a valuable read for anyone involved in customer insights or advertising.
“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”
When we think of accomplishments, we tend to think of something big. We often forget or don’t realize all the little steps it took to achieve something big. In Atomic Habits, James Clear offers a comprehensive guide to creating big change by just getting 1% better every day. This is the most comprehensive and practical book I’ve read on creating change by building new habits that stick. A great book for anyone that wants to create change in their life.
“Customers don’t just adopt innovations; they alter them, adapt to them, and are changed by them.”
Schrage builds on the work of Peter Drucker and Theodore Levitt and provides a great question all business leaders should ask themselves: who do you want your customers to become? Innovation changes customer behavior and companies can use those behaviors to not only make customers better customers of the brand but also more fulfilled people. This is a short and overlooked must-read for anyone in marketing.
“Don’t jump in telling answers until you know what the other person really needs to know. Don’t assume that the person with the question has asked the right question.”
Edgar Schein is arguably the GOAT of organizational consulting. In Humble Inquiry, I found a kindred spirit in Edgar Schein. He lays out his philosophy on how human interaction and problem-solving are improved by inquiry instead of just skipping to making assumptions and giving an answer based upon those assumptions. Schein has other books that elaborate on the concept of humble inquiry for specific contexts—Humble Leadership and Humble Consulting—and one that places humble inquiry into a larger context—Helping—but Humble Inquiry is the best introduction to the idea. A valuable read for anyone, especially leaders and managers.
“Every sports team needs a coach, and the best coaches make good teams great. The same goes in business: any company that wants to succeed in a time where technology has suffused every industry and most aspects of consumer life, where speed and innovation are paramount, must have team coaching as part of its culture. Coaching is the best way to mold effective people into powerful teams.”
Outside of Silicon Valley, Bill Campbell was an unsung hero. Inside of Silicon Valley, Bill Campbell coached people like Larry Page and Steve Jobs. In Trillion Dollar Coach, ex and current Google leaders Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle reveal the wisdom of Bill Campbell that made him a sought-after executive coach and the secret sauce behind many of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. This book is an expert-level course in leadership, management, and coaching. But, at the same time, it’s accessible to everyone. It takes my top spot and is a must-read for anyone in any leadership or management position.
In a year that refocused many people and organizations on what is meaningful, it’s not surprising that our post “The Power of Thank You” was one of the most popular of the year. Sometimes simple gestures can have meaning that far outweighs the effort.
Customers are increasingly looking for businesses that value them and their business. In “Seven Easy Ways to Make Customers You Meet Feel Important,” we reveal seven ways anyone in an organization can make customers they encounter feel valued.
If you want to do something well, it helps to study the best. In “How to Start a Cult … Brand,” we discuss 5 things Cult Brands do to create high levels of loyalty that can be applied to any business (even if you don’t want to go full-on Cult Brand).
Archetypes are like software programs that come preinstalled on your computer (mind). You may not know they exist, but they are always either running in the background or ready to run after a single click.
In this blog, we show how you can mimic great brands and use archetypes to create and keep customers.