cult branding

Branding at its Finest—Cult Brand: GoPro

Thanks to GoPro, pretty much nothing is unfilmable. Just check out this video offering footage of what it’s like to fly from an eagle’s point of view, or this one for a front-row seat to an owl dance-off. It was this idea, having a camera that could quite literally go anywhere, that inspired the founder & CEO Nick Woodman while on a surfing trip around Australia and Indonesia. Strategic partnerships with key investors got the tech company off the ground, but it was customers merely posting their own videos that got the product on Twitter and Facebook feeds across the country.   

The company was founded in 2002 as a solution to the inability to capture quality action photos and videos at a reasonable price. The name itself was inspired by Woodsman and his friends wanting to become professional surfers because at the time, “going pro” was the only you could end up getting footage of you on the water.

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Extreme sports enthusiasts took to the tiny, but tough cameras, very early on. Never before had they had the opportunity to film or take pictures while base jumping or biking down a mountain, and now they were able to not only capture it, but to share it. In fact, many of these daredevils credit GoPro as a significant driving force in the multi-billion dollar action sports industry. Now that people can see first hand what these extreme experiences are like, more people are getting interested in trying them out for themselves. Suddenly, GoPros weren’t just a way to take videos; they were a way to have an experience. And in a world where people live to show off their best and most interesting versions of themselves online, everyone began clamoring for the newest way to show off their activities.

As smartphones (and their cameras) get more advanced with every new model, the need for a standard point-and-shoot digital camera has dwindled. Most everyone has a decently quality lens in their pocket now, so why would they carry another device? But GoPros aren’t just another camera; they’re an accessory to whatever extreme activity you’re about to do. Having to look through a lens to capture something takes away from whatever you’re doing because you’re no longer living in the moment. With a GoPro, you don’t have to limit your experience at all. And that is something no other camera has ever been able to offer. It’s not exciting when you see someone pull out their phone to snap a pic from the top of a mountain, but when you spy someone strap on their GoPro from the top of a mountain, it probably means that they’re about to do something awesome. Having a GoPro became a symbol that you’re an adventurer. They give you status.

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Having user-generated content as your primary driver in the marketing strategy is undoubtedly an advantage not all brands can capitalize on. However, GoPro also knew what to do with the content once it was out there. Engaging with your audience is a surefire way to create a community among consumers. By sharing user-generated content on the website, social media platforms and in email marketing campaigns, they feature customers. Thus, they can monetize content their customers created for them--at no cost.

Like most companies though, everything has not been all sunshine and rainbows. The brand has seen a tumultuous few years as they’ve struggled to understand their next move. The stock has dropped, they’ve both entered and exited the drone manufacturing business, and had waves of layoffs. But after taking some time to trim their product line and bring the focus back to customer research, they released the Hero 7, which quickly became their fastest-selling product ever. When their line of drones failed to be profitable, they realized they needed to realign their aims with what their customers want. GoPros are a niche product, which means they have a niche audience. Not to mention, they really have no direct competitors. Instead of trying to put out products that might attract a broader range of consumers, they got back to basics and developed the best GoPro yet. The world loves a comeback story, and at the end of the day, no one is skydiving with their iPhone duct-taped to their helmet.








Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Amazon

When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, it was just an online bookstore. Fast forward 24 years and several billion dollars in revenue, Amazon is now the world’s largest online sales company and has made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of more than $112 billion. Of course, Bezos soon expanded the products Amazon offered to include music, videos, and a variety of consumer goods. Since then, Amazon has developed numerous original products and offerings such as Amazon Prime, Alexa, Kindles, Echo and Fire TV, to name a few. Early critics said Bezos was crazy to quit his job and take a risk on that still new internet thing, but Bezos saw an opportunity to create something that couldn’t exist in the real world, a diverse marketplace that offers literally millions of items.

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Aside from the fact that people live for the convenience of front-door delivery, Amazon has solidified its top spot in the retail industry by forging relationships with their customers. From the beginning, the site allowed customers to leave both positive and negative reviews on books and products, something that many people criticized, but Bezos defended by saying they were helping consumers make more educated purchasing decisions and thus building a sense of trust. Brand value has always been a core part of the business plan and has earned Amazon a loyal customer base--one that makes up 43 percent of all online sales per year.

Amazon doesn’t waste time worrying about its competitors, it spends time coming up with ways to serve customers better; e.g., Amazon Prime, a paid subscription service for two-day free shipping, because Bezos knew how much online shoppers enjoy free shipping. Again, critics resounded arguing it was impossible to remain profitable while offering a perk like this, but yet again, Bezos proved short-term sacrifices can pay off. Amazon Prime customers spend an average of $1,300 in a year, nearly twice that of non-members; and more than 100 million people globally are Prime members.

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Years of dedication to customer service and consistently putting them first is what made Amazon stand out among a sea of retailers. Why take the time to go to Barnes & Noble or Walgreens or the grocery store when you can just order what you need online, know it will be on your doorstep the next day, and rely on fellow customer feedback for honest opinions? Bezos himself has stated that building a trusted brand was more important than worrying about potential copycats.

"There's nothing about our model that can't be copied over time. But you know, McDonald's got copied. And it still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world."

In most every way, Jeff Bezos exemplifies the phrase “stay in your own lane.” Don’t worry about what your competitors are up to, worry about yourself. Customer care is something at the top of our priority list at EMB, and it’s amazing to see how hard work and a brilliant branding strategy can pay off.









Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: REI

November is upon us and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which also means Black Friday is fast approaching. Over the last couple of decades, Black Friday has traditionally become the busiest shopping day in the U.S.--last year, shoppers reportedly spent a combined $1 million per minute between online and in-store purchases. Most stores have already been gearing up for the big day and have employees braced for the long shifts and chaotic crowds, however, one well-known retailer does just the opposite: they close their stores.

Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known as REI, actually shuts down all 154 of their stores, halts online orders and pays their employees to instead, #OptOutside. The initiative began in 2015 as a way to urge both customers and employees to spend the day outside enjoying nature with loved ones as opposed to joining the masses on the hunt for sales. REI was the first major retailer to do this, and although many companies gawked at their seeming stupidity, customers praised them. Even without Black Friday sales, REI continues to be a thriving outdoor and sporting goods retailer with a customer base now more loyal than ever.

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REI began in 1955 as a small co-operative in Seattle selling equipment geared toward serious climbers and mountaineers. In fact, REI’s first ever full-time employee and later CEO was Jim Whittaker, the first American to ever summit Mount Everest. The company continued to market to only these serious athletes until the 1980’s when they shifted toward a more family-friendly offering and began supplies for camping, cycling, kayaking, and other less extreme outdoor sports. However, at its core, REI has always remained true to its customer: the outdoorsman. REI’s products are meant to be enjoyed and put to use outdoors, so they invited everyone to join them in doing so and #OptOutside. The campaign earned 6.7 billion media impressions and 1.2 billion social impressions. Social media mentions rose 7,000 percent in only 24 hours. Instantly, everyone was talking about REI, and now more enthused to support them than ever.

REI fosters a feeling of community among both their customers and employees that is inclusive to everyone. Their entire brand identity revolves around the phrase “an outdoor life is a life well lived.” It doesn’t matter your social status, gender, religion, age, political beliefs; if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then you belong. REI doesn’t just symbolize a retailer, it’s an experience. And more and more, studies are showing that people would rather pay for experiences over material items. REI encourages all of its customers to tag them on Instagram when sharing memories from their adventures. The company listened to their customers and recognized most of them would rather spend time outside than shopping, and thus the #OptOutside campaign was born. Unlike their competitors, REI has built personal relationships with consumers by demonstrating they care about their well being. Customers know they can trust REI and its employees for advice on not only which walking sticks to buy, but also which hiking trail to take. Additionally, their site offers a section on expert advice with hundreds of articles ranging from how to hike with your dog to treating blisters.

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For the fourth consecutive year, REI will yet again #OptOutside this Black Friday, now joined by hundreds of other retailers who followed the trend. Each year, REI sees an uptick in the number of members who join after Black Friday, now encouraged to join after witnessing firsthand the company’s generosity toward its employees and legitimate understanding of its customers. At the end of the day, if there’s one thing REI has an expert grasp on, it’s customer care. Their marketing strategy is something that inspires our team at EMB, and it is most definitely something we strive to emulate.





Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Apple

It seems every time you visit the Apple website these days, there’s yet another new product/update/technology ready to be swept up by the millions of Apple users around the world. When the first iPhone premiered in 2007, it retailed starting at $499—half the price of the brand’s latest iPhone X, which ranges from $999 up to $1,149 making it the most expensive iPhone to date. Yet, they still have us lining up around the world ready and willing to fork over our hard earned cash just because there’s something newer and shinier on the conveyor belt. Today, we’ll be taking a look at how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak took Apple from a garage and turned it into one of the most successful cult brands in the world.   

After the iPhone made its debut, it wasn’t long before competing brands released their own versions of smartphones. While the Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel have their fair share of buyers, iPhone sales still top the charts. In 2017, 13 million iPhone 7’s were shipped around the world putting it as the #1 smartphone of the year. In a distant second was the iPhone 6 with 7.9 million units sold, and Samsung just cracked the top three spot with 7.8 million shipments of their Galaxy J2. When you break down the specs of each of the devices, they’re not all that different. In fact, there are plenty of people out there who argue the iPhone is staunchly inferior to its counterparts, but still, Apple says jump and we ask how high—or rather, how much?

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The now iconic partially eaten apple has become a symbol synonymous with luxury and self-fulfillment; and thanks to payment plans, you don’t even have to be particularly affluent to afford the latest and greatest tech accessory. Now you and celebrities can have the same phone, at the same time. Yet, when you take a look at how Apple markets, whether it be their landing page, store layouts, commercials, etc., only one word comes to mind: simplicity. They let their products speak for themselves. They don’t tell you the camera is better, they show you the camera is better by portraying ordinary people capturing extraordinary photos. Instead of telling you the phone is waterproof, they simply put it underwater. Their marketing techniques don’t make you feel like you want the new iPhone, they make you feel like you need it.

Apple has become so intertwined in the average adult’s life because they focus on creating products that will simplify your life and seamlessly become a part of your daily routine. They took a walkman and turned it into a small rectangle that could hold thousands of songs. From there, they decided to have to tote around both an iPod and a phone was too inconvenient; thus the iPhone was born. They took their famed Macbook and decided maybe it was too bulky for someone always on the go and gave us the option to start using the iPad as a lighter alternative. We’re all a part of the Apple community because they’re making products with the everyday person in mind. They are at the forefront of innovation, releasing new technology before we even ask for it.

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The tech industry giant has even become one of the highest-selling watchmakers in the world, they even outsold the entire Swiss Watch industry in 2017. There’s an Apple product for nearly every piece of technology, guaranteeing compatibility between devices, so why not just become loyal to them? Thanks to customer loyalty, Apple doesn’t need to drop millions of dollars on advertising; every one of their customers is a walking advertisement. Unique marketing strategies are game changers in the industry, and luckily at EMB, they’re our specialty.






Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Old Spice

In a recent blog post on rebranding, we touched briefly on the incredible marketing campaign and rebranding overhaul Old Spice did in 2010. That said, we thought about and decided the brand needed much more than a short paragraph, but rather its own spot in our ongoing cult brand series to thoroughly discuss the enormity of their achievement.

Old Spice is an American company owned by Procter & Gamble that produces body washes, deodorant, antiperspirants, shampoos and soaps for men. The brand has been around since 1937 and has steadily been successful, but no one could predict the aftermath of the now famous “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ad that premiered during the 2010 Super Bowl. In the hours after it premiered, the ad was viewed on YouTube more than 220,000 times. Today, that number has risen to more than 55 million.

After this massive success, Old Spice kept the ball rolling and created more than 180 videos, which were distributed across TV, Print, Facebook, Twitter, etc., that led to 29,000 new fans on Facebook and 58,000 new Twitter followers. Say goodbye to associating Old Spice with your Grandpa, and say hello to a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa on a horse.

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Aside from the fact that these videos were just wacky enough to be wildly entertaining and just short enough to hold our collective attention spans, the brand also achieved their primary goal—reaching a new audience. Prior to 2010, Old Spice was targeted toward men ranging between the ages of 40 and 60; now, Old Spice is ranked as one of the top-selling body washes in the world for men aged 18 to 35.

Now some people may wonder why a men’s body wash brand would use a good-looking man to sell to other men, but studies show that women make up 50 percent of the consumer group and are buying skin care products in an effort to stop their husbands, boyfriends, etc. from using their own grooming supplies. Knowing this, Old Spice built a campaign around an ad that is entertaining for everyone, but specifically used a male sex-symbol to garner female viewers' attention.

Finally, Old Spice managed to keep up their momentum by continually engaging with their followers. As stated above, in the months following the initial ad’s release, the brand put out custom, rapid response videos to questions asked by fans on Twitter and YouTube, some of which featured celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Alyssa Milano and Ashton Kutcher, to name a few. Suddenly, followers felt they were personally engaging with stars, something no other brand had ever before provided with a marketing campaign. In fact, the ad is still so well loved that Tide put out a spoof of it for the 2018 Super Bowl.

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At the end of the day, connecting and resonating with your audience is what will make a video go viral or cause a brand to set new records. This is just one part of developing an unstoppable social media and marketing strategy—something we prioritize on a daily basis here at EMB.


 

Walking the Fine Line of Rebranding

In a world where your website and social media accounts can either bring you a customer or scare them away, your brand, personal or professional, needs to leave a lasting impression. 48 percent of consumers report that they are more likely to become loyal to a brand during the first purchase or experience, so you need to be bringing your A-game from the moment the consumer begins interacting with you. Your website should point your audience in the direction of finding what they need from you, and your social media should be an active point of communication between you and the potential customer. This whole “branding” phenomenon is time-consuming and costly, but even with all of the effort and elbow grease put in, there comes a time where rebranding may do you some good. Sometimes rebranding works, but unfortunately, sometimes it ends up doing more damage.

Rebranding works when you have a clear vision of where you want to take your brand, and who you want to reach, but there are also some crucial rules to follow when rebranding. Something as simple as even a minor logo redesign may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the fact is your customers trust you and have certain expectations, and when they’re not met, the backlash can be detrimental.

Not even major companies like Starbucks are immune to this kind of problem--let us all look back on the infamous Starbucks “Christmas Cup Controversy” of 2015. Every November since 1997, Starbucks debuts their new “Christmas cups” that replace the standard cups for the remainder of the holiday season; however, 2015’s debut of plain, red cups saw not only lackluster reviews, but outrage on social media. Millions of people took to Twitter alleging that Starbucks was waging a “war on Christmas” with the removal of snowflakes, trees and ornaments seen on cups in years prior; some celebrities even called for boycotts. Of course, the story did die down in time, but one can’t help but notice that 2016’s cups returned to featuring reindeer and other whimsical images depictive of Christmas. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, you know?

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That said, rebranding works when you want to introduce a new aspect of your brand, and can be your way of re-introducing yourself to new, younger generations. Before 2010, Old Spice was known to millennials as a brand for their grandparents--if they had even heard of it. To capture the attention of that missing audience, Old Spice launched a campaign of strange, yet highly-entertaining videos, that led to not only sales skyrocketing, but a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial. Suddenly Old Spice was no longer reserved for the geriatric crowd, but the number one brand of body wash for men.

Old Spice had a specific goal in mind--reach a new audience. Starbucks simply changed something on a whim. Having clear aims is essential to a successful rebranding; customers need to understand why you’re changing something on them. Over time, pages can become outdated; an old webpage or an unkept Instagram feed can yield negative results that rebranding can fix just by providing your consumers with an up-to-date experience. Not only does rebranding allow your brand to level up, but it also allows the consumer to feel as though they are moving forward with you.

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More money, a different audience, an insane desire to keep your brand fresh--whatever your reason for wanting to rebrand, with the proper team and strategy, you will be able to accomplish your goal. If you are struggling with the decision to rebrand yourself or your business, take some time to reflect on the scenarios listed above. Know that you are not alone in this marketing frenzy and we at Enrich My Brand are here to help you sort through the confusion and ultimately help you acquire the brand you deserve!

 

 

 

 

Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Southwest Airlines

When Southwest Airlines was founded in Dallas in 1967, it began as a small airline operating only within the state of Texas. As of March 2018, the airline employs more than 57,000 people, oversees more than 4,000 departures a day during peak travel season and operates in 99 destinations across North America and the Caribbean. So how did the once tiny budget airline grow into the cult brand it is today? It’s simple, fostering a great company culture.

When Southwest Airlines first comes to mind, you’ll likely think of the iconic blue, yellow and red planes and catchy, satiric slogans such as “You're Now Free To Move About The Country” or “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” But where Southwest really sets itself apart is in how they treat both their customers and employees. In fact, in 2016, CEO Gary Kelly revealed that the company has never laid off a single employee. That kind of security is the reason you’ll always be greeted by smiling faces every day because the flight crews actually enjoy coming to work.

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Although the lack of seating assignments and premium cabins may be a dealbreaker for some frequent flyers, the airline does offer perks such as two free checked bags and no fees for flight changes/cancellations to any and all customers. This is compared to an airline like American which offers only one free checked bag to AAdvantage members and up to a $200 cancellation fee. They may not provide you a complimentary meal or personal TV, but a flight attendant in a good mood might give out a free drink coupon or two on a delayed flight or even waive a substantial difference in fare when changing flights.

Now, the flexibility the airline allows, of course, does not come without its own set of challenges. No seating assignments mean a frenzy at the gate when boarding begins to have the first pick of seats that many have compared to a cattle call. Southwest flights also do not pop up on popular travel search engines such as TriVaGo or Google Flights, which bothers some people who like to shop around for flights. In side-by-side comparisons, Southwest may not always be the lowest fare, but it makes up for the extra cost by superior customer service and the other perks listed above.

At the end of the day, the airline delivers on expectations. Their current motto is “Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.” They believe in a culture of transparency both among their employees and to their customers, and this is one of the many reasons they have been able to retain 45 consecutive years of profitability, something no other major airline is able to boast. Through some of the business practices we’ve discussed above, Southwest has been able to build an army of loyal customers that will ensure they remain at the top of their game for many years to come. At Enrich My Brand, we are always looking to creative and unique strategies like this to inspire us for both our own business practice and our clients’. Check out our corporate site to learn more about our services.

 

Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Buzzfeed Tasty

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years or are the last person on earth who doesn’t use Facebook, you’ve undoubtedly come across a Buzzfeed Tasty recipe video. You know the ones--bright, short videos giving you a birds-eye view of a cooktop or mixing bowl and showing a breakdown of a recipe. Continuing with our cult brand case studies, today we wanted to take a look at how Tasty has created a recipe for a fantastic content marketing strategy.

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Tasty may only be about three years old, but already their YouTube channel has more than eight million subscribers and a total of more than one and a half billion views. Yes, billion. The Tasty empire does fall under the Buzzfeed umbrella, which was obviously helpful in becoming the digital powerhouse it is today with their 163 million monthly readers, but Tasty also found a niche and jumped on it: food porn. Since its inception, Tasty has also expanded from mere videos to an app, customizable cookbooks and even their very own line of cooktops. And, as of March 2018, they are partnering with Walmart to sell a Tasty-branded line of cookware.

While instructional recipe videos have been around for a while now, Tasty also captured their target audience, Millennials and Gen Z, by coming up with recipes that might appeal to a younger palate. On their site, you can, of course, find simple seafood or steak recipes, but you can also find anything from Rainbow Hummus to Rosé Gummy Bears to Inside-Out Fried Chicken Tacos. Younger generations are all about being unique, so why not cook unique? Tasty also knows the attention span gets shorter and shorter with each new generation, so the videos average between 60 and 90 seconds.

Additionally, the production quality of the short videos is incredible. Bright colors on a clean cutting board or table top with the names of the ingredients popping up in the corner as the anonymous hands cook, chop or sauté away, all to the tune of upbeat house music. A link to the written recipe is also included with each video so the viewer can read the details for themselves. There’s just something addictive about watching someone cook or bake something in less than two minutes, but unfortunately, sometimes the finished product doesn’t always come out perfect the first time. From time to time, the brand will also share videos of just how many attempts it takes to get that final, perfect take.

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The videos are tailor-made for social media viewing and have become ubiquitous on the social media feeds of every millennial; and, thanks to Facebook’s autoplay, you don’t even have actually to click on the video to watch it--it just starts playing if you stop scrolling. With the addition of Tasty, it’s no surprise that Buzzfeed reaches three out of every five U.S. millennials per month.

At EMB, we are in constant awe of marketing giants like this. Check out our site to learn more about our services and take a look at some of the other cult brands we’ve highlighted.

 

 

 

 

Branding at Its Finest—Cult Brand: Lululemon

We have already taken a look at Yeti Coolers and La Croix Sparkling Water, so for the third installment of our cult brand case study series I wanted to dive into the retail world and talk about Lululemon Athletica. The luxury Canadian lifestyle brand opened its doors in 2000, but has had a meteoric rise in establishing themselves as a premier athletic apparel retailer and generating nearly $2 billion in revenue.

Go to any gym or spin class across America, and you will undoubtedly see multiple pairs of the company’s iconic yoga leggings, which retail at $98; quite the steep price tag for something you buy with the intention to sweat in. Nike, one of the company’s key competitors, offers a variety of comparable leggings that retail between a more modest $50-$70. But through a unique guerrilla marketing strategy, Lululemon has been able to compete with the likes of industry giants like Under Armour and Athleta.

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While the brand has undoubtedly received its share of criticism for these prices, people continue to religiously purchase their apparel because they want to be a part of the Lululemon community of like-minded individuals looking to lead healthier, longer lives. Or as the company’s PR director calls them, “Luluheads”—a group so sought after that patrons are willing to fork over hundreds of dollars just to be a part of it.

The brand promotes a distinctly fit, organized and active lifestyle—something they encourage from the moment you walk into the store all the way through the sale. Their eco-friendly reusable bags are all printed with inspiring phrases such as, “Do one thing a day that scares you.” or “This is not your practice life. This is all there is.” Customers aren’t just buying a pair of leggings for $98; they’re buying a new lifestyle.

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Thanks to the cult-like following of Luluheads, the brand has largely been able to rely purely on word-of-mouth advertising. People see their friends wearing new Lululemon workout clothes and hitting the gym more, and suddenly they're encouraged to buy some new gear and join in. On weekends, the stores even offer free fitness classes, further cementing a customer’s “membership.” And how have they been able to achieve this cost-effective form of marketing? Brand Imaging.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 64 percent of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. This phenomenon is why the use of social media and content creation is so important—it lets the customers know who you are and gives you the opportunity to establish a connection with them, even if it's just through a touchscreen. Lululemon posts on Instagram on a regular basis, and not just product pitches either, but motivational images encouraging followers to be more active, while also inviting them to share their story by tagging them or using a unique hashtag.

Customer care goes hand-in-hand with brand imaging; consumers want to know what kind of experience they’ll be getting before they even enter your store or office. If you’re struggling with establishing brand identity in your marketplace, visit enrichmybrand.com today to learn what we can do to help change that.