By Lynn Manternach / Guest Column

Are there any brands you just can’t live without? Brands that make your world a better place because they seem to understand what you want and consistently deliver the experiences you crave?

The brands you can’t live without are the brands that are most relevant to your life. Relevant brands connect with people on an emotional level. They encompass all the elements required for a strong brand and healthy bottom line: high demand, strong appeal and products and services that add value to a customer’s life.

Research firm Prophet asked 15,000 U.S. consumers which brands they simply couldn’t imagine living without. It’s likely no surprise that Apple comes in at the top of the list of the nation’s most relevant brands for the second year in a row. Next on the list is Amazon, followed by Android.

While your brand may not have a lot in common with Apple, Amazon and Android, you can still aim to increase your relevance with consumers and enjoy the many benefits of a strong brand.

Relevance is an increasingly important way to look at how your brand is positioned. That’s because of the emotional connection of relevance – it’s personal, authentic and all about the consumer. Your brand and the customer experience are tightly intertwined, so you have to pay close attention to both.

It’s easy for a brand manager to believe they know exactly what their target consumer wants and what motivates them. But relevance is a constantly shifting target. What’s relevant to a consumer today may not be relevant tomorrow. That’s why a well-positioned brand needs to be highly attuned to the perceptions and behaviors of the targeted consumer.

The Prophet brand relevance study asked consumers to rate brands across four dimensions.

  1. Customer obsessed: Being important to a person’s life, connecting emotionally and creating happiness.
  2. Ruthlessly pragmatic: Makes life easier by being dependable, available and delivering a consistent experience.
  3. Distinctively inspired: Inspires, has meaningful purpose, is trustworthy and in-touch.
  4. Persuasively innovative: Pushes the status quo, engages with customers in new and creative ways, and finds new ways to meet unmet needs.

Apple dominated by earning the top spot in three of the four dimensions that drive relevance: customer obsessed, distinctively inspired and persuasively innovative.

Amazon, in second place, ranked highest on the remaining dimension, pragmatism. It also received the highest score in the entire survey for being “available when and where I need it.” However, low marks for emotionally connecting with and inspiring consumers stopped it from unseating Apple as number one.

And Android, in third place, ranks highly because people love its “ease of use and warm, welcoming advertising,” according to Prophet.

How would your customers rate your brand on the four dimensions that drive relevance? Your brand is relevant when consumers say it’s relevant – you don’t get to make that call. That’s why consumer brand research is an important tool for understanding what your targeted consumers want, how they perceive what you’re offering and what they think of the experience.

You can’t just assume; you need to ask. Use open-ended questions to provide the rich data that will help you identify the nuances in the ways people want to connect with your brand and the brand experience. Combine that with rating and ranking questions to identify and prioritize opportunities to connect with the relevance your customers want. Consider partnering with a firm that specializes in brand research – getting this right is well worth the investment.

When your marketing efforts are relevant to consumers, they will listen. When you deliver the consistent brand experience they crave, they’ll engage and advocate on your behalf. When your brand is relevant, everybody wins.

Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and LeClaire. Contact Lynn at lmanternach@mindfirecomm.com.

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