Be an Apple: Branding lessons from marketing's cult-status superstars

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Perusing my favorite marketing blog, I came across a wonderful post that boils down the cult-like following of certain brands to a single “branding best practice” that typifies each one. While the examples are all B2C brands, some of the lessons transcend the metaphorical divide and are instructive for B2B brand marketing as well. Below are a few of those best practices and key takeaways that stood out to me:

Keep it simple
Brand example: Year after year, Apple manages to generate incredible hype around its new product releases — even though the new products typically offer only marginal or incremental improvements over last year’s version. Messaging around these launches is straight-forward and centers around a few key user benefits.

Takeaway: Whether you’re launching a new product or supporting a tried-and-true offering, build your marketing strategy around the key benefits vs. assaulting readers with a list of product features. Keeping a message simple means readers are more likely to retain the information and also implies confidence in what’s being sold.

Own your rebrand
Brand example: Southwest put on a masterclass in rebranding in September 2014. From ads to taglines, plane tails to peanut bags, Southwest updated nearly every touch-point a customer might have with its brand, all centered on the idea of “without a heart, it’s just a machine.” And Southwest supported this rebrand with a fantastic public relations campaign communicating why the refresh was done and inducing buy-in from customers — ultimately positioning the company to get the most out of its rebranding efforts.

Takeaway: If you suffer through the blood, sweat and tears of a rebrand, don’t be afraid to leverage it. All too often we see companies roll out rebrands without properly elevating or explaining the move — as if they don’t want customers to notice the changes. Rather, use a rebrand as a chance to illustrate that you are listening to customers, relevant in changing times, and dedicated to improving your company and offerings.

Inspire ownership in your brand
Brand example: As most know, CrossFit is a fitness program that’s taken the nation by storm on the way to becoming a billion-dollar business. A large part of CrossFit’s success is owed to its approach to messaging. The company leveraged the desire for community by carefully positioning itself as a movement vs. a product — “harnessing a natural camaraderie” among their members, as they’ve put it — and all the messaging flows out of that idea.

Takeaway: Something as seemingly trivial as word choice can have a huge impact on brand advocacy by inspiring more ownership in your brand. Tap into your customers’ values and position your company to show you’re aligned with them.

Allow your brand to evolve
Brand example: Moleskine, best known for their higher-end notebooks, has remained relevant and successful in the digital age. A company with a historical past (apparently van Gogh, Picasso and Hemingway were fans of the pocket-sized books) has evolved beyond the page, now offering “a family of nomadic objects…dedicated to our mobile identity” including bags, smart notebooks and apps.

Takeaway: Whether it be product offerings or marketing efforts, don’t allow your brand to be overly tied to the past. Letting branding grow and change allows a company to stay fresh and relevant in the minds of consumers.

Incorporating the above takeaways will help better position your brand for growth. Use the comments below to tell us how you’ve seen these branding strategies in action.

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