Brand relevance can be elusive—but it’s easier than you might think to stay top of mind.
How does a brand stay dominant in a world of constant competition—and one in which a PR disaster seems to lurk around every corner? Brand relevance.
Think of brand relevance as a stool on which your happy, devoted, most loyal customers sit. That stool has three legs—resonance, alignment and transparency.
First, your brand’s purpose needs to resonate with your customers—and it needs to be articulated so clearly that customers know it in an instant.
Consider TOMS and their “One for One” promise; buy a pair of TOMS shoes and they’ll donate another to someone in need. There are lots of socially responsible companies—even socially responsible shoe companies, but TOMS owns a big part of this space. If you buy into the idea that you can do good while you treat yourself to some hip footwear, you’re pretty much a customer for life.
When your purpose itself attracts customers, brand relevance comes baked in.
Second, everything about your company—from your products and prices to your emails and tweets—needs to align with that brand promise in the service of the customer.
That includes customer experience—a fact which Toys R Us, after filing for bankruptcy protection, has sadly discovered.
The toy-buying experience has changed; more and more busy parents get their toys online from the Amazons of the world.
And the brand that was once a giant in the industry—who else remembers “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us Kid”?—is foundering. Yes, TRU has an ecommerce store, but when competitors stock more items and deliver faster, how can Geoffrey the Giraffe compete?
Toys R Us simply stopped being relevant to its customers, and is seeing the results at the bank.
Third, when your brand makes a mistake—and you will, eventually—you need to own your “oops” and try to get things back on track as soon as possible.
For just one example, look at Taco Bell.
It goes without saying that no-one’s going into Taco Bell expecting a fine dining experience. But even still, the 2014 revelation that their meat contained only 88% beef sent shock waves.
The brand weathered the crisis, however, by being direct about the ratio of meat to seasoning and filler, gambling—correctly, it seems—that 100% pure beef tacos just weren’t relevant to their customers.
Take whether you want to eat their food, or whether you consider it food at all, out of the equation, and you can see that Taco Bell’s décor, their menu choices, their prices and their branding all align—and their directness about what they are and what they’re not complements it all.
That’s brand relevance to a “T.”
When brand relevance disappears
Has anyone else noticed that brands don’t ever seem to learn how to use resonance, alignment and transparency to stay relevant?
That’s bad for them, but good news for us—because we get to cackle over recent brand fails like these:
- Pepsi and their tone-deaf Kendall Jenner ad that appeared to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement.
- United Airlines, whose slogan was once “Fly the Friendly Skies,” forcibly dragging a passenger off the plane when the plane was determined to be overcrowded.
- Social media giant Twitter abandoning its very reason for being and doubling the length of user tweets—leading some to protest they’ll simply double the amount of hate speech that plagues the platform.
It’s easy to be smug about brands losing their relevance, so it’s best not to gloat. (Not for too long, anyway.) The better strategy is to consistently check whether your brand still resonates with your customers, whether all your touchpoints are aligned with your purpose, and whether you’ve got what it takes to own up to your mistakes.