Nowhere is the power of branding and marketing as clear as it is in the bottled water industry. Despite virtually zero product differentiation, bottled water has become a billion dollar business with a wide range of prices, many distinct brands and strong brand loyalty. Brands like smartwater, Fiji, Voss, and plenty others have effectively found a niche within an undifferentiated market.
This industry represents a microcosm of virtually every other market. Without any product differentiation, these companies have come to rely on branding as the only way to stand out. It is the ultimate test of branding, illustrating how powerful marketing and branding can be to influence consumer behavior.
A strong brand is essential for connecting with consumers and helping your company stand out from the crowd. However, marketers often approach each advertising campaign, website or piece of sales collateral as individual, unconnected items instead of tying them together to form a cohesive brand image. Each marketing item should fit together like a puzzle and solidify your overall brand. It's this collective whole that defines how your company is perceived by consumers. This brand image should always be taken into account when implementing any new marketing project or your carefully crafted brand will erode over time.
The media loves to highlight "disruptive" companies and technologies - organizations that are shaking up the status quo in their respective industries. However, there are many businesses out there who are terrified of this type of change. If you are one of those that see change as a threat, then you need to learn how to embrace disruption if you want to thrive, or even survive.
Build an emotional connection with your customers. This is what has made Apple so successful. While Samsung's recent series of humorous commercials point out the irrational level of loyalty many consumers feel towards Apple, there is a reason why many people refuse to buy a phone (or tablet or computer) from anyone else. It's not just the widely acclaimed Apple "ecosystem", although that is a strong retention tool. It's not just the focus on the design of the software and hardware, although that draws many to the brand. What really sets the company apart is their ability to elicit a personal connection with their customers that is unmatched among their competitors.
Your marketing message should always be highlighting how your product will help your customers. Although it should be obvious, this marketing fundamental often gets forgotten. All of your promotional material should answer the customer's most salient question: "What's in it for me?"
In this digital age, when emailing, texting, tweeting and posting on a friend's Facebook wall are the primary ways of communicating for most people, a personal touch can go a long way. This especially holds true for companies that offer a high ticket product or service. When you're making a sales call, actually make a phone call. Even better, set up an in-person meeting or take your prospect out for lunch. That doesn't mean you shouldn't leverage more technological means of communication; a periodic email to check in with your current customers or to follow up on a recent meeting is always a good idea, and if you can connect with them via social media, go for it. But it's important not to forget the power of actual human contact.