Brand-building tips from Stance founder and CEO Jeff Kearl
The answer to a single question can determine your brand’s success for years to come.
“What is the nature of your business?”
Your answer tells consumers how your brand is different to competitors. Of course you could compete on price - but saturated and competitive markets mean you would ultimately be in a race to the bottom.
In contrast, if you base your response on the experience you want to deliver, it’s more likely you’ll find yourself in a race to the top.
For example, the nature of Microsoft’s business is to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” At Starbucks it is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Here at Qualtrics, our purpose is “build technology that closes experience gaps.”
These organizations have built strong brands by taking the time to understand what matters to their target consumers, such as the products, issues, and experiences they value, and by building workforces that live their company values.
A decade of rapid growth
To demonstrate the power of this question, at X4 Summit Jeff Kearl from Stance shared the story of how, in just 10 years, his sock and underwear brand became a market leader, and the official sock brand of the NBA. It counts popstar Rihanna and NBA star James Harden as brand ambassadors, to name but a few.
Stance has revolutionized the sock and underwear market with its mission to “celebrate human originality.” Its rapid growth has been fueled by extensive analysis to ensure the brand creates unique customer and employee experiences.
Take the product, for example. 10 years ago it would have been fair to argue socks were not a unique product to sell. Yet viewed in the context of “human originality” socks are an opportunity for people to express their individual personalities and preferences.
This single insight provided Stance with a platform it has never looked back from.
Stance set about profiling the market opportunity and reviewing competitors. Combined with its brand mission, these insights enabled Stance to create a product that consumers could not get anywhere else. Would Stance have reached this point if it had begun its journey without first understanding its ‘why’?
Staying at the top
In defining its purpose, Stance also identified certain values the company would follow. These values enabled the brand to continue differentiating itself as other brands inevitably followed its lead. Ultimately, you might be able to get similar products elsewhere - but you wouldn’t get the same experience when doing so.
These values are used to benchmark candidates during the recruitment process. And to remind its workforce of their importance, Stance regularly revisits the values in employee communications - such as a dedicated deep dives during monthly town halls.
By defining the company by its nature, Stance continues to push the brand forward through innovation and design, and its people are motivated to provide a unique customer experience.
Experience trumps product
How you buy coffee is another example demonstrating the economic potential of experience and purpose. While the product is nearly always the same, the way it’s delivered changes the experience (and therefore the price!).
At the lowest price point, you could buy a jar of coffee at the grocery store and make your own cups at home (or even roast your own beans). The step up from this is buying a cup of coffee for a few dollars at a service station. But the most you’ll pay for coffee is in dedicated stores with allocated spaces for sitting down and enjoying a hot drink - you’re paying for the coffee and the experience.
Change the game you’re in
Enduring brands stand for more than the products they sell. They ensure the ways they operate, the products they sell, and the people they hire all link back to a higher statement outlining their mission and the experiences they want to create.
When purpose is fueled by customer and employee experience data, brands can become unstoppable. Future products and services are tailored to individual needs, and delivered in a unique way people can’t get anywhere else.
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