It’s easy to think of branding as a one-and-done activity – something that is determined early on in a company’s development. Creating the website, logo, and style guide, employing a general content strategy, and hoping for the best is what many companies did in the past. But as our understanding of consumer-brand relationships grows, it’s clear that a brand isn’t just a static ‘set it and forget it’ entity.
Nowadays, we have a fuller picture of what branding really entails. Thanks to major rebrands by corporations like Apple and McDonalds, it’s clear that no company is too big or well-established to revisit its branding strategy.
So where does data come in?
Ultimately, a business can’t revamp its brand without any insights to support the changes. Anything from the slightest adaptation to a total overhaul needs data to ensure that the changes reflect the company’s vision for the future are also compatible with what its audience can connect with. Without careful consideration and research, a company might join the unsavory ‘failed rebrand’ hall of fame –businesses that wasted thousands of dollars and had to undo the changes made soon after a rebrand.
Data-driven storytelling is a concept that has gained traction in the past several years as marketers learn more about social engagement. Countless social media studies have shown that content that evokes emotion and tells a story drives engagement. If a brand can tell a captivating story in bite-sized pieces, it earns salience in the minds of its audience –
“Beyond simply getting noticed, brand salience is crucial for a more subtle reason. It turns out people are not the rational, utility-maximizing creatures in the way traditional economists and marketers once thought. According to a study by Kantar Millward Brown, “consumers rely on mental shortcuts or heuristics when they make their brand decisions. One such heuristic is to assign greater importance to things that have ready mental availability, the effect of which is to choose the most salient brand.” source
Storytelling is an ancient art for a reason. It helps people get to know others as individuals. Thus it makes perfect sense for a business to employ storytelling to earn the trust of its audience and share its core values.
Data insights reveal what topics appeal to readers and what stories make the most impact. Brands that tell stories with their content show who they are, what they know, and most importantly, why it matters.
Data can inform not only how you choose to market and advertise your brand, but also how your audience identifies and experiences your brand. Much like storytelling, data-driven experiences create positive associations with customers. This strengthens their understanding of what you offer and how you offer it.
To start creating and tracking data-driven experiences with customers, it’s critical to know about touchpoints.
“A touchpoint is any time a potential customer or customer comes in contact with your brand–before, during, or after they purchase something from you.” source
Customers will interact with your brand via your website, social channels, software, in-person stores, ecommerce checkout, newsletter, and many other touchpoints. The question your data should answer is: How can we reduce friction and make each of these experiences more satisfying?
There’s no room for assumptions when it comes to business strategy. If a brand seems to be falling short of what its creators envisioned, it’s time for some research. What brand activities or qualities are missing the mark? It’s important to explore all of the possibilities.
One brand might be creating content that doesn’t match the attention span of its audience. Another might be using antagonistic language without realizing it, or even unflattering colors that drive people away from its landing page.
In order to know what needs to change, brands must assess their current identity – Who are they now vs. who they want to be in the future. In addition, data analytics paired with market research has enabled many brands to keep up with important new trends. After finding that a growing percentage of coffee drinkers were seeking non-dairy options, Starbucks introduced dairy-free alternatives. With this single decision, Starbucks expanded its brand to be more inclusive of health-conscious coffee drinkers.
When people think branding, the first thing that comes to mind is often ‘content.’ The content a business creates is closely tied to its identity– What you say and do needs to align consistently with who you claim to be. This is the precise formula that builds brand loyalty.
Data can show what types of content receive the most ROI and what types receive the most meaningful engagement. Data can also expose opportunities your brand is missing out on (e.g. Is there a topic your audience loves that you haven’t talked about? A problem they’re having that you can directly address?) As these insights are observed regularly, brands can build a routine around what works and budget only for that content.
Some marketers may worry that being too data-driven will ruin spontaneity or deflate creativity. But in reality, these qualities of a brand work best when coupled with a sound data analysis practice. With data at the foundation of your branding strategy, your business can adapt to market shifts and new customer interests with confidence.