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What Airbnb, Louis Vuitton, and Tesla Know That We Don’t

By January 19, 2023January 27th, 2023Blog, Branding, Fashion, Technology

Marketing Secrets Behind their Enormous Success

“Airbnb bets on their brand… and wins big!”

Despite making “deep cuts” in marketing and sales, Airbnb just posted its most profitable quarter ever 

How did they invest less in marketing and sales and come out further ahead?

Megan from the Wallstreet Journal gives us the answer.

“The company in 2019 began trying to depend less on search advertising and to lean more on broad marketing campaigns and public relations designed to build its brand.” (emphasis mine)

They changed their tactic. Rather than aimlessly pouring money into ads and marketing they decided to invest in building their brand their image and their name.

Not only was it the most profitable quarter in Airbnb history but their Chief Financial Officer went on to say,

“Our brand marketing [is] delivering excellent results… it’s been so successful that we’re actually expanding to more countries,” (emphasis mine)

“So successful they are expanding to new countries,” in market conditions ripe with layoffs, financial setbacks, and slowdowns, Airbnb is expanding to new countries – thanks in large part to their brand marketing efforts.

Is focusing on your brand only a strategy for the Airbnb’s of the world with marketing budgets in the hundreds of millions? 

Not even close. And in this article, we are going to dive into all things “brand” to glean wisdom from these big players and discover how you can apply their secrets in your business.

Let’s get started.

Why Build a Brand

First, we need to give our friend Simon Sinek a nod and start with the “why” behind building a brand. There are 3 main benefits.

  1. Brand Perception
  2. Brand Loyalty
  3. Brand Recognition

Let’s explore each benefit to see the impact they can have on your business.

Brand Perception: A 6100% Price Difference

If you’re unsure about the power of branding, let’s take a look at an example.

On the left, we have an authentic Louis Vuitton handbag and on the right an Etsy knockoff. Similar style. Similar materials. Similar design. Difference in pricing?

Etsy Knockoff: $28.88

Authentic Louis Vuitton: $1760

The Louis Vuitton bag is 61x the price of the knockoff version. Is the difference in material, labor, and quality worth an extra $1731.12?

Depends on who you ask.

Louis Vuitton fans all over the world happily pay the massive markup for the brand name alone. A Louis Vuitton handbag means more to them than just another purse.

Having one changes the way others perceive them and more importantly, the way they perceive themselves.

The perceived value of your brand allows you to charge more for a product or service that customers will be delighted to pay for.

Brand Loyalty: The Key to Repeat Business

According to SmallBizGenius, nearly 65% of a company’s revenue comes from repeat customers. So what determines if a customer will continue to buy from you?

It’s your brand and the experience that customers have when they interact with you. 1 loyal customer is worth 10 one-time customers.

Brand loyalty is how Elon Musk and his team have been able to grow Tesla to become the most valuable automotive company in the world.

Tesla has been said to be the “Apple of the automotive market.”

By creating a brand centered around making a change in the world and not following the traditional models of society, both companies managed to create extremely loyal, nearly cult-like, customer followings which have propelled them to the top of their markets.

By developing emotional meaning behind your brand, you can create a loyal brand following that will elevate your business to the next level.

Brand Recognition: “Separate from the Cesspool”

The word “cesspool” is an accurate one to describe what the internet has become. The barrier to entry is low and just about anyone can create and publish anything. There is an abundance of companies, products, competition, posers, fakers, and space takers.

This can make cutting through the noise to reach your target audience nearly impossible.

So what are the honest entrepreneurs with a great product left to do?

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and chairman of Google, gives us the answer in his famous quote:

Brands are the solution… Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.

By consistently delivering a high-quality experience with all consumers you interact with, you’re able to build a recognizable brand that, like oil mixed with water, will inevitably rise to the top.

A powerful and recognizable brand allows for higher prices, creates more repeat business, and generates more visibility in the crowded marketplace.

What does it mean to build a brand?

At this point, we understand the power of building a brand. We can see why companies like Airbnb, Tesla, Apple, Google, and so many other big names are shifting or have already shifted their marketing to be almost entirely focused on their brand and image.

But what does that actually mean? The word “brand” feels like a buzzword that gets thrown around to mean all sorts of things.

A brand is much more than just a logo or a picture. According to Investopedia:

“A brand is an intangible marketing or business concept that helps people identify a company, product, or individual.”

In other words, a brand is “a story.” A great brand tells a story.

To expound on this idea, I’ll share an example about a company that I used to own called CrepePro.

CrepePro and Building a Story Brand

Early in my career, my wife and I ran a side business called CrepePro and sold a French-style crepe pan. The main idea behind the product was that you could make crepes the same way they do in France.

It’s just a flat piece of metal but in less than 3 years of starting the business, we sold hundreds of pans and generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. Not bad for a couple of kids with a piece of steel.

So why were we able to sell such a simple product for over $100 a piece and have people excited to buy?

Because we built a brand around the product. We told a story.

The story we focused on was that our product brings families together.

We all cook and eat so we might as well make family memories with that time. That was our theme and we ended up seeing exceptional results for simply selling a steel plate with a logo.

This is the essence of what a “brand” is. It is the story that your company represents and what that story means to you and your customers.

It is the way you position yourself. The messaging that you convey through your voice, copywriting, images, colors, fonts, and logos. It is the common theme that runs through your business.

Our culture is enamored by stories and the companies that can articulate their brands through a simple and relatable story usually find a way to win in the end.

Summarize Your Brand with a Single Word

To get even more specific with your brand, try to summarize your brand’s story or message with a single word.

This idea comes from the must-read marketing book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

In this book, the authors state that “the most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in a prospect’s mind.”

Here are a few examples:

Hershey’s = Chocolate
Apple = Phone
Nike = Athletic
Tesla = Electric
Costco = Bulk
Amazon = Everything
Google = Search
Netflix = Stream
Facebook = Social
Disney = Magic
Lululemon = Comfortable
Airbnb = Convenient
Louis Vuitton = Luxury
Big Red Jelly = Efficient

The authors go on to say,

“You become stronger when you reduce the scope of your operations. You can’t stand for something if you chase after everything.”

My challenge for you is to try to summarize your brand in just one word. Doing so will help you get extremely clear on what your brand means and what you stand for.

How to Improve Your Branding

Now that we understand what branding is and why it’s important, let’s dive into 3 tactical ways to improve your branding that you can start implementing today.

The “Immersion Strategy” – A Deep Understanding of Your Target Audience

In order to improve your branding you must get extremely clear on your target audience. How can you create a brand if you don’t who you’re creating the brand for or what’s going to resonate with them?

We need to understand how they talk, what their deepest fears are, their insecurities, dreams, passions, what motivates them, what turns them off, etc.

Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich teaches a powerful technique that has helped his team generate millions of dollars in online course sales.

He calls it the “Immersion Strategy” and it’s simple but effective. The idea behind this strategy is to help you truly know who your target audience is on a personal level and be able to build a brand and position your business around what will connect with them.

You’ll first want to start with an idea of who your target audience is or at least who they might be.

1. Google Search:
Take a broad topic like the service you offer or the general audience you think your product is a good fit for, then open up your browser and get creative on search variations.

For example, if you’re broad topic is “weight loss” you might also try searching “dieting for women ” or “weight loss techniques for men.“

Take a minute to browse through the search results looking for common themes and pain points.

2. Amazon Reviews:
Find the most popular books or products in your chosen field that you know your target audience is buying and check out the reviews.

The 4 and 5-star reviews will show you what resonates with them and 2 and 3-star reviews will reveal their pain points and show you opportunities.

3. Q&A Sites
Explore websites like Quora, Reddit, and Twitter to see what questions your target audience is asking, what they are struggling with, and what they are wanting to see more of.

4. Social Media Influencers & Competitors
Find the social media accounts, influencers, and competitors that your target audience is following and see which posts get the highest engagement. Read through the comments to get an idea of the language that they use and what stories are connecting with them.

5. Face to Face Interaction
Nothing replaces getting out and having conversations with your target audience. Don’t try to sell them anything just be genuinely curious. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • What is your main pain point (relating to your offer)?**
  • Why is that painful for you?
  • What is your main goal (relating to your offer)?
  • Which one motivates you more? Why?
  • Would you invest in a solution that relieved your pain point and helped you reach your goal? Why?

 

The “Immersion Strategy” will help to deepen your understanding of your target audience to uncover what will move and inspire them.

Create Your Brand Story: Case Study of Coke vs. Pepsi

Once you have a deep understanding of your target audience, it’s time to build out the story that you want your brand to stand for and how you want to position yourself.

To give a relevant example of the impact the right story can have for your brand, take the history between Coke and Pepsi also written in “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.”.

The law of leadership states that the advantage goes to the company that gets to the minds of the prospects first. Coke clearly did this in the cola market as they’ve been in business since 1886 while Pepsi started 12 years later in 1898 after seeing Coke’s success.

Pepsi couldn’t claim the story of being the original or even the “best” cola because Coke owned that in the minds of the cola consumers. Trying to copy their story or position themselves as the “better” cola would have been a losing strategy.

Instead, Pepsi built their brand around being the cola for the younger generation. Their story was that Coke was for older folks and if you were young and wanted to be “cool” then you drank Pepsi.

This strategy helped them to establish their niche within the cola market and secured their position among all cola brands.

Find the unique brand story and position that only your company can own.

Lessons on Consistency from a Toothpaste Company Selling Frozen Food

According to Fabrik Brands, 64% of consumers say that shared values are the primary reason to develop a relationship with a brand. If your values keep changing, how can you expect customers to trust you?

Just imagine if your wife or husband’s values kept changing from day to day. One day she believes in gratitude and the next day she’s all about “what’s in it for me.”
It would be tough to stay together in that type of situation

It’s the same thing in business. Consumers want brand consistency. But don’t just take it from me, take it from the largest toothpaste company in the US.

In the 80’s Colgate wanted to expand and launched a line of frozen food. Eating and brushing go together right?

The problem was that it didn’t match the identity that Colgate had created for their brand.

Their meals might have been amazing but Colgate soon learned exactly what you’re thinking right now…

Customers don’t want to buy food from a toothpaste company.

The product didn’t fit with the image and story Colgate had created and ended up being a flop and taken from the shelves.

Learn from Colgate and keep your brand consistent. One of the best ways we have found to do that is to create your internal and external brand guidelines or a brand style guide. They will typically include:

  • Company Name and the thinking behind it
  • Your values/mission statement
  • Your company tagline
  • Logo design and variations
  • Typefaces, fonts, and layout styles
  • Unique Value Proposition
  • Primary and secondary color palettes
  • Imagery and brand photography
  • Tone of voice and copy styles
See Examples of Brand Style Guides

What’s Next?

By now you can see that investing in your brand is essential to having a successful company in our modern age of business.

Branding goes so much further than your logo. Yes, the logo is important, but what matters most is the meaning behind your logo. What your logo stands for. The way you position your company and the audience you target. Above all, it is the story you communicate.

We all have a story to tell but sometimes it can be hard to find the right way to tell your story.

To tell it in a way that will create a “Tesla-like” customer following. Not all of us are Elon Musk.

That’s where the branding experts at Big Red Jelly come in.

With hundreds of branding projects under their belts and just as many 5-star reviews, let the professionals at Big Red Jelly take you on a journey to discover, develop, and articulate your brand story that will turn “just looking” into paying customers and customers into brand ambassadors.

Let's Get Started
Nathan Hooper

Author Nathan Hooper

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