Three ways to reimagine your brand for enduring customer driven business success


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Where do you see your business in 30 years?

It’s 1993 and AOL is the most popular search engine. Fast forward thirty years and there’s a whole generation of Google users who’ve never even heard of it. Imagine the number of brands that have experienced the same over the course of three decades, winning big before disappearing into oblivion. Then consider those that have achieved considerable growth in the same period – Nike, Apple, Amazon – standing firm, but not standing still.

Continuous evolution is a key driver of their perpetual success, which means having the ability to reimagine their brand in ways that reflect their changing response to an ever-changing world. When we talk about brand, however, what we’re really talking about is your business in its entirety. So, if you’re looking to reimagine your brand, you’ll need to start by reimagining your strategy. Think of it as your direction of travel, and the following jumping-off points will help to set your course.

1. Connect with your customers

Customer insight becomes truly powerful when you look beyond data and demographics. Yes, these things hold great value, but you’ll have even more impact if you develop deep connections with your customers. Take the time to understand the detail of their daily lives and where your brand fits into it all. Snap Fitness is a great example of a business growing fast and outpacing the market as a direct result of deep customer connection.

The team wanted to understand who their customers are, so we spoke to those who don’t use their gym yet, since this is where we found the biggest potential audience. Research revealed that a relatively small percentage of people are frequent gym-goers, whereas the vast majority are put off by the aggressive, intimidating language often used by businesses in the fitness industry. Say “no pain, no gain” to someone and they’ll probably only hear “pain”.

Snap Fitness wanted to create an environment where everyone felt welcome. As part of this, they used positive, inclusive messaging that encouraged customers to harness “the power of positivity” and “find that feeling”. As a result, they saw a 16 percent growth in memberships across Europe and a 17 percent increase in Australia, making it the fastest growing gym group in the country.

Snap Fitness went on to win multiple awards, all because they reinvented the gym experience with their audience in mind. More than that, they let customers know how well they understood what they wanted, even if the customers themselves didn’t know it yet, which is the principle of the customer driven business. Get to know the goals and aspirations of your audience, then do the work to reimagine a business strategy that can help deliver them.

2. Disrupt the market

There’s an element of disruption in the way Snap Fitness broke the mould, and disrupting your market could be the way to reinspire your brand. If we look to the retail sector, we are still seeing a traditional operating model no longer fit for purpose, with many stores closing at pace. But then we see Restoration Hardware disrupting this retail model and reaping results.

The US-based brand only has a few choice stores in a handful of cities, but they’re not just stores, they’re aspirational galleries, a destination. Customers aren’t able to physically purchase anything. Instead, all orders are placed online by assistants and shipped directly to your home. It’s a totally different retail model that combines the pleasure of the experiential with the convenience of online shopping.

What’s more, Restoration Hardware is harnessing the potential of a multichannel offering at a time when physical retail space is becoming a thing of the past. Technological innovations being applied by other businesses, even those in different sectors, could add value to yours. Especially if no other brand in your space is using it. This could even be a segue to partnering with other businesses owning their market – take Netflix and Nike as an example. Users can now stream fitness content from Nike Training Club for the first time ever. The power of one brand reflects on the other, reimagining what both can achieve.

3. Get back to your roots

Not all big brands have stayed the course. It’s not uncommon for longstanding companies to lose sight of what made them successful when they first started out. Checking in with your authenticity could go a long way to reimagining your earlier successes. When you get back to the core of your business, you’ll see how you delivered something unique that could yield great results when applied to the market today.

The authentic roots of any business encompasses much more than a purpose statement. Let’s look to NAADAM, a brand that sells Mongolian cashmere clothing. The company was set up by a couple of friends who’d travelled to Mongolia and learned how little money Kashmir goat farmers actually received, so they decided to reimagine the supply chain. NAADAM buys cashmere direct from the farmers, removing cash-hungry intermediaries to make sure the money goes back to source.

Better yet, this operational setup enables them to sell responsibly sourced luxury products to customers at much better prices, so everyone wins – especially given the urgent need for more conscious consumption.

Keeping current with changing socio-political trends delivers opportunities for your business to pivot and explore your brand from different perspectives. It’s a chance to tap into the evolving ideologies and values of your customer base, including customers you don’t have yet. This is not a time to stand still. The context in which all businesses operate is changing, and will always change. Remember AOL?

Louisa Osmond
Louisa is head of executive education at Edinburgh Business School


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