Become a Free Range Brand
For many years, the big brands dominated powerfully over all. Little-known brands struggled to be noticed, hoping for shelf space or a PR miracle that would catapult them to the top.
That’s all changed now says Nicole Ertas, who argues that it’s easier for a challenger brand to gain a following even without the massive marketing budget of the biggest players.
Good news for the smaller players and for personal branding, too.
With little money and recognition, how do the challengers gain traction?
And what must the big names do to respond?
Nicole Ertas is the founder and president of The Ertas Group and author of Free Range Brands. She has helped build some of the world’s most influential brands. I recently asked her to share her branding insights.
Design for the Unpredictable
What is a Free Range Brand?
The big legacy brands we’ve known forever were built in an era of one-way, controlled communication. TV, print, radio, retail distribution were all very controlled and well planned by big brands with big money, locking challenger brands out.
But today, not only have the barriers lowered for the challenger brands, these brands are able to engage communities in ways the big brands don’t know how. The big brands aren’t set up for this and are quickly losing relevancy.
The brands that are thriving in this new world have made the shift from the old-world model of planning for control to the new world model of planning for unpredictability. In fact, they are designed for unpredictability. They are set up to let go. I call these the Free Range Brands.
How can a brand set itself up to navigate unpredictability and become more relevant?
Today’s consumers demand brands that embrace an unwavering authentic core, but in a hyper-relevant way. This essentially means that a brand has to be timeless and trendy at the same time. Unchanging yet reimagined constantly. This is what the old-school marketing models don’t account for.
The shift to going Free Range is simple, but strategically profound. It requires transforming your Brand Equity to Brand Currency. Free Range Brands trade in Brand Currency. This is the new mode of engagement, and one that is true to what a brand stands for.
Brand Currency is the dynamic offspring of Brand Equity. It allows your brand to reinvent itself to become relevant without losing its authenticity. By transforming Brand Equity into Brand Currency, brands become agile in an unpredictable marketing environment where leaders need to make decisions quickly without jeopardizing brand value.
4 Consumer Personas to Understand
You reveal 4 consumer personas who each interact with brands in a different way. Tell us about them
The key is in shifting your mindset from making the brand the hero to creating entry points for a consumer to become the hero. From brand purpose to consumer purpose, this is how you build community.
There are 4 powerful ways a consumer interacts with a brand – and they can be understood through distinct personas. They are: LORDS, LOVERS, HACKERS, and HAWKS
LORDS are the modern-day influencer. In the past, influencers used to be celebrities. Today, everyone has some form of a following. These are the Lords. They seek to be recognized and seen by their followers.
LOVERS: All brands are headed towards commoditization. This raises the bar for marketers to build a brand over a product. Lovers connect on values. What does your brand stand for that your audience values beyond functional benefits?
HACKERS: Modern day consumers think if brands are for them, then they should have every opportunity to interact and co-create. Brands that don’t let consumers “in” are missing a profound opportunity to connect.
HAWKS: Transparency has unleashed generations of distrust of companies. Now the Hawks are in power, and they know it. You need to think about everything from sourcing to hiring to ingredients, or the Hawks will unleash with little warning.