Why Branding Is Crucial to Lure Millennials—and Their Big Wallets

Three lessons to improve brand awareness, learned from major players like Nike and MasterCard.

In today’s world, consumers are inundated with thousands of branding messages every day that confuse, contradict and complicate. For most, the ever-rising number of messages is overwhelming. Many businesses believe that brand relatability is disappearing and, with it, brand loyalty — ultimately making it difficult to become a truly legendary brand. Legendary brands are the iconic ones, such as Apple, Home Depot and Starbucks, that take the approach of effectively communicating their core market differentiators and turn customers into fanatic brand advocates.

Throughout my career in banking, I’ve learned three important lessons about becoming a successful, legendary brand.

  • Always stay on message. It’s critically important to develop a consistent voice and stick to your company’s core values, not bending your brand to passing trends.
  • Keep it simple. Easily digestible messaging leads to increased recognition and awareness.
  • Consistently exceed your customers’ expectations. If you do this, they will become your brand ambassadors.

Consistent messaging seems like a branding no-brainer, but it’s often easier said than done. Holding your brand to its defining values and promises will help keep messaging tight. According to a recent SDL study, 60 percent of millennials surveyed expect brand consistency across all channels. This is especially important to note as brands compete to attract the millennial generation —a generation that represents one-fourth of the U.S. population, and has $200 billion in buying power.

Through its “swoosh” logo and “Just Do It” slogan, Nike’s branding is among the world’s most recognizable. Utilized in all company communications over the past 25 years, this consistency has boosted the bottom line: In the campaign’s first decade, Nike increased its North American market share from 18 percent to 43 percent. Compare this to Reebok, a competitor that has altered its branding time-and-time-again since 1990s, and has experienced nowhere near the same growth.

Brand simplicity is equally as important to an organization’s success. According to the Global Brand Simplicity Index by Siegel+Gate, simplicity factors heavily in the minds of consumers when they are deciding which brands to engage with. In fact, 75 percent of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand with simpler, clearer communications. Equally important, CEB’s research reveals these brands are also 86 percent more likely to be purchased. This straight-forward messaging serves an important purpose – helping customers make informed decisions easily and efficiently.

Finally, legendary brands value their customers and understand when and how to thank them for their loyalty. According to Edelman’s Brandshare 2014 study, 87 percent of people say that they want “meaningful relationships” with brands, yet only 17 percent think brands deliver on this. To “surprise and delight customers” is a tactic that addresses this issue head-on. Creating memorable, emotional interactions for customers — through grand gestures or small tokens of appreciation — is a true marker of a legendary brand.

MasterCard’s “Priceless Surprises” campaign enters cardholders into a sweepstakes each time they use their cards to make purchases. Prizes have included visits with Justin Timberlake, exclusive Gwen Stefani concerts and upgraded seats at Yankee Stadium. Because of the campaign, an emotional connection has been established with MasterCard, cultivating brand advocacy among winners (all 77,790 of them!)

While meeting Justin Timberlake is a dream for many, small gestures can be more practical and equally as meaningful. A free cup of coffee at a neighborhood bakery or even a free dog bandana can yield similarly positive outcomes. Companies that show appreciation for customers by delivering the unexpected are fostering a lasting relationship with them.

I’ve always considered branding to be a sum of all parts: The people who provide outstanding service, the messaging, the products/services and the physical locations. At Republic Bank, we aim to seamlessly integrate all of these to build a legendary brand of our own. The research continues to show consumers are losing connections with their banking institutions, emphasized by a recent Accenture survey that found 79 percent of consumers perceive their banking relationship as purely transactional. Through consistency, simplicity and an element of surprise, we developed our branding with the consumer in mind, and today, we aim to set ourselves apart by providing unparalleled customer service and convenience, aiming to turn each valued customer into a loyal, lifelong fan.

Capturing a potential customer’s attention among “the noise” requires a certain level of empathy. Consumers want to be associated with brands that realize their needs; consumers want to be associated with brands they feel good about. Legendary brands have recognized these essential customer needs, leveraging customer service to separate from the pack and drive business growth.

Rhonda Costello is the executive vice president and chief retail officer at Republic Bank.