27 Nov
Do Consumers Value Your Brand?

One of the greatest challenges facing business and brand leaders in the age of digital disruption is figuring out just how much value their company’s products have to the consumer.

At a time when the average life expectancy of a Fortune 100 brand has decreased from 75 years to 17 years, an increasing number of global companies are taking a hard look at their brand portfolios to determine if their products still matter to customers. Just ask any marketer of a packaged goods manufacturer how she feels about developing and maintaining consumer loyalty, and you’re likely to get an earful about the fickle nature of the new generation of consumers.

Consider leading disrupters like Netflix, Amazon, Starbucks, Spotify, Mastercard and Apple. All would agree that a consumer-first approach to doing business is critical to long-term success. But given the tumultuous nature of the marketplace, and the ever-changing behaviors and preferences of younger consumers, what exactly does it take to transform and deliver in this way?

Here are just a few things I learned from the industry leaders that helped inform my strategy for turning around Trusted Media Brands, a legacy media company with valued brands such as Taste of Home, Reader’s Digest and The Family Handyman.

  • Determine how data can help enhance and innovate the consumer experience. Netflix used first-party data to test and learn what was required to create the kind of original programming its consumers would love. This strategy provided important insights when it launched series such as Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black. And it’s pretty certain that the company will continue this strategy as it invests $8 billion more in original programming after recently announcing it had added 5.3 million new binge-eager subscribers.
  • Don’t undersell your product. Customers, especially Millennials, will pay for premium experiences. MasterCard’s Masterpass program rewards cardholders with exclusive opportunities to pay for experiences, such as tickets to Grammy Award-related events and parties. Other companies, such as American Express and even Playbill, have created paid experiential opportunities that enable customers to indulge their passions for everything from world-class tennis tournaments to cruises hosted by award-winning Broadway performers.
  • Use social media to engage audiences and also learn from them. At Trusted Media Brands, we often use our social channels as listen-and-learn tools. For example, an organically created Facebook group of Taste of Home fans helps inform us when we might need to adjust the direction of a particular feature or lean into a certain area of home cooking or entertaining that is becoming a trend. The knowledge we’ve gained from listening to their conversations has been incredibly valuable in helping our brands stay relevant with new audiences.
  • Quality does matter. Whether it’s a rich, tactile paper stock for home-cooking bookazines that sell at $9.99 or more on the newsstand, or HD cameras on smartphones, consumers are willing to pay more for higher-quality products that help them further enjoy their lifestyle and passions.
  • Understand that your customers change on different platforms. At Trusted Media Brands, we know that our magazine audience is different from our digital audience, and that those who visit our website expect something different than our Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest followers do. We work to ensure that the essence of our brands remain consistent, but that the content we produce—whether it’s videos, visual assets or long-form feature stories—works hard to “super serve” each channel.
  • Use your audience’s enthusiasm to grow your brand. At the heart of any high-quality brand is a consumer who wants to have an active relationship with that brand. The MLB Network, for example, realized that just because a fan of the New York Yankees moved to, say Iowa, doesn’t mean he isn’t still deeply passionate about his favorite team. To engage fans with their favorite teams from anywhere, the Network created a variety of custom experiences. One, a pay service that streams out-of-town games to smart phones and tablets, now allows Yankee fans to wear their pinstripes everywhere, from the heart of New York City to the Iowa cornfields.
  • Look for opportunities in unlikely places. Jeff Bezos leaves one chair empty during meetings to represent the “consumer voice at the table.” Reed Hastings says he was inspired to create Netflix during a trip to his local gym, where he looked around and thought could this membership model work in video? These are just two instances that emphasize how everyone in an organization must constantly be on the look out for new ways to serve the consumer. Observing, listening and anticipating changing consumer needs and desires—and adapting your business to put the customer first—is essential for surviving and thriving through disruption.

Ultimately, companies that embrace a consumer-first approach strengthen the bond between their brands and the consumer while also growing their bottom line.