Every organization is doing two things—building its brand and driving transactions.
It doesn’t matter the industry, the size, the for-profit vs. non-profit status. Every entity is building a brand and driving transactions, or some variation of those two universal tasks. The consumer has to know why we’re here and what we’re about (brand) and how to get involved (transactions). Otherwise, you’re out of here.
The terminology may change, but you’re still doing the same two things. For you, brand building may be “establish yourself,” or “get your name out,” or “establish street cred,” but it’s all the same. Driving transactions may be sales or church engagement or volunteer hours or getting views, but it’s all the same. It’s moving someone to an action step, not just a thinking step. In his TED Talk on “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek calls it “driving behavior.”
Imagine a business that builds a great, recognizable brand but can’t drive transactions. What happens to their P&L? They’re sunk. Or imagine a business that drives transactions but can’t build a brand. Before you know it, consumers migrate to better branded competitors. Again, our imaginary company is sunk.
So why write a blog post about this? Because the challenge of building a brand and driving transactions just got more complicated. Social media and the digital revolution have completely changed the way we think about and go about these two things.
Brand and Transactions Today
Throughout the 20th century, brand and transactions were all driven through traditional types of marketing—TV, radio, print, salespeople, marketing campaigns, etc. Watch this commercial and figure out how you’re supposed to respond. It’s not super subtle.
Today, however, I can build a brand and drive transactions without any of these traditional forms of marketing. Google is the best example of this (you used a Google search long before you saw a Google television ad), but there are many other examples—AirBnB, Craigslist, Uber. The list is endless.
The advent of the digital age and the presence of social media allow businesses: 1) to communicate who they are in new and varied ways and; 2) to drive a response, whether that is “follow me on Twitter” or “repost my Instagram post for a chance to win” or “click through and make a PayPal purchase.”
It’s not hard to see that there’s both enormous opportunity here and enormous challenge. Here are three:
- The rise of the subculture
A 2016 Harvard Business Review article noted that one of the effects of social media has been the rise of the subculture. For example, motorcycle enthusiasts used to just meet occasionally at a rally; now they can meet online every day. The same goes for video gamers, fans of RC Cola, insomniacs, and any other group. Organizations, therefore, can drill down and reach a specific subculture and build a brand and drive transactions with them. Finding, penetrating, and building relational equity with those subcultures is “money,” as my son says.
- Monetizing likes
Countless companies have had their turn at the hot new idea online only to go bankrupt because everyone was visiting their site or following them on social media but not giving them any money. This is the battle Pandora fights. Pandora has 80 million users, but the question lingers, “Will it survive?” It’s trying ad revenue, monthly subscriptions for “Pandora Premium,” and more to turn use into financial transactions. Following you, liking you, even sharing you is all free … to me. But not to you. Jumping the shark to monetizing social is not easy. Trust me.
- You can’t “be corporate”
Consider this. The Wal-Mart YouTube channel has 235,000 subscribers. Coke has 1.6 million. Starbucks 138,000. In contrast, PewDiePie, a Swedish video gamer, has 56 million. Justin Bieber has 30 million. Dude Perfect has 20 million. What’s the pattern? It’s individuals over corporate. (And kids from 8-18 spend a lot of time on YouTube.)
Consumers don’t always want the brands that giant corporations churn out. It seems they want something more authentic and independent instead. Therefore, companies have to find ways to be authentic and independent in selling their brand.
In this digital age, companies need to make something that people will share with others. So, companies turn out branded content like this:
The more it feels like a traditional corporate thing, the less likely they are to share it.
Seth Godin said, “The connection between running ads and making money is gone, probably forever. …The new era of modern marketing is about the connection economy. It’s about trust. It’s about awareness.” (You can read the whole great—and short—interview here.)
In the digital age, creating a brand and driving transaction is about trust. Can you build a tribe of people who trust you? If so, they will probably act the way you want them to—not in a puppet-master kind of way, but in a “We think the same and care about the same things, so we’ll probably act the same” kind of way.
Lewis Howes says, “Instead of telling a story about how great your brand is, try telling a story that shows you completely understand your customer and their life.” Do that and you’ve got a foothold in solving the problem that’s changed form but is still the same for businesses and organizations—how do I build a brand and drive transactions?