How brands make people feel,
not price, determines premium
by Dayoán Daumont
Consulting Partner, Innovation & Digital Transformation
It’s a given to anyone in the advertising industry that technology has changed the entire relationship between brands and consumers. As Paul Papas, digital leader at IBM, has said, “The last, best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.” You are no longer competing only with those in your category, but with every company and platform that interacts with your customers. Adding insult to injury, alternative interfaces, like voice, add a level of complexity to brands’ ability to stand out.
Take your current portfolio of products and services. Now remove everything—what are you left with? Without these current offerings, what is your brand’s purpose for existing in the world? What does it stand for? As your products and services inevitably become commoditized over time, you can’t depend on them anymore to be the sole elements that make your brands special.
In a way, this takes us back to the basics of brand building, creating those emotional connections to the brand that transcend connections to products only. The difference? We no longer create that bond by communications alone, and traditional ideas of aspiration become only part of the equation. Now you must create experiences that make the consumer say, “That was so easy, I can’t believe I didn’t have to wait two hours in line.”
Take Disney, its parks were once the gold standard of high-value family vacations. Families planned all year to have the experience of a lifetime. Fast forward 30 years, and your vacation planning has become a job and a strategy session. You’re getting up before the sun rises and expecting to stand in line for hours. For consumers who are immersed in technology and have expectations of service and convenience, that experience is as far from their expectations as Mickey is from being a real mouse.
Enter Disney’s MagicBand, the Disney play at premiumizing the experience. This wristband is the wearer’s digital access to everything Disney, from entering your hotel room, to paying for anything, to planning your visit and accessing all the memories for years to come using Disney’s cloud-based tech. By removing all the worst pain points in the park experience, and then adding new technology-enabled services that enhance the experience, Disney brings this legendary brand back into the magical customer-focused world of its creator.
The realization that what consumers expected 30 years ago is not what they expect in 2018 is key to making the hard choices, and boy did they. Disney bet $1 billion on the digital transformation.
Transformation does not require the investment of a small nation’s GDP, it starts by understanding what is premium and how it’s changed from meaning “luxury” to meaning “ultra-relevant experience.” Think Apple, Nike, Samsung and you start to understand why a $1,000-plus smartphone is sold out before it even reaches store shelves. These experiences range from Dyson’s $500 hair dryer to unlimited listening of your favorite music streaming service.
But cost is not the only way to value premiunization. An Amazon battery is as generic as they come. The reputation of battery brands like Eveready and Duracell far surpasses Amazon’s. Yet offering a discounted subscription service elevates the Amazon battery’s value and experience. Add to that free delivery to Prime members or even two-hour delivery for PrimeNOW and you elevate a mere battery to a premium product.
Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla that eats entire categories whole. Companies struggle to understand cooperation or competition. And getting it wrong is disastrous. However, there are examples of brands that got it right, like Bai, a niche sparkling beverage, that grew to be the No. 1 sweetened beverage sold online. Bai spotted the health and wellness trend just in time and started building a product line that consumers loved. Bai’s online sales mix was 57 percent Amazon subscription, 38 percent Amazon direct and 5 percent other. Even today, Bai’s biggest sales channel is Amazon.
What was once defined by how much you would spend for a higher service, rarity, or recognition is now open to all brands. What was once reserved for “premium” brands has now become standard and expected. What’s more, the “premium” experience is being offered with lower cost.
Actions for earning
a greater premium
Innovation is about more than your core products. It is about adding value and removing friction from your customers’ journey. Think customer first, technology second.
2. Enhance experience
Use multiple channels and technology to bring your story to life. Don’t just put a TV ad into a Facebook timeline. The goal is not “matching luggage.” It is putting costumer experience first.
3. Be data-driven
Gather data—responsibly. How well do you know your consumers, of today and of tomorrow? If you do not use data to get to your “audience of one,” then you will not survive. As data collection and use become more complex, using it in a transparent and responsible way is the only way to create a great experience.
Where does your brand promise have permission to stretch into new products, services, and experiences? Can you apply the competitive advantage of your products or services to other categories? Can your clothing line be considered wellness wear not just active wear?