Welcome back to the Miss Details Deep Dive blog series on Customer Acquisition Cost.
We’ve already covered the basics of Customer Acquisition Costs, or CAC. Over the first three installments of our multi-part series, you’ve read about the importance of knowing and understanding your CAC, exploring its concepts and calculations, and how both industry and business size affect those costs.
Now it’s time to show you why the details really matter.
Setting the Stage: Building a Recognizable Brand
On a quiet Saturday afternoon, you get a call from a close friend who’s looking for something to do; they suggest going to see a movie. They tell you that there’s a new blockbuster out, one you hadn’t heard of before. Then, your friend tells you that it’s written and directed by Christopher Nolan—and instantly, you tell them you can’t wait to go. Without seeing a commercial, reading an article, watching a late-night interview, or even noticing a billboard, you’re already eager to spend your money.
How is that possible? Branding.
Over the course of Nolan’s standout filmmaking career, he’s developed a personal brand, with his movies taking on a particular style and tone. It’s not that all of his movies are identical, but between Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006), Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014), the Dark Knight Rises trilogy (2005-12) and more, there are clear identifying characteristics. Nolan’s movies always explore different aspects of humanity through compelling storytelling, with a sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding the main characters; often, his movies force the viewer to do problem-solving of their own, trying to unlock the mystery before the main characters do.
So when your friend asks if you want to see a Christopher Nolan film, you know a few things right off the bat. You know you’re going to see a movie with big-name actors like Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Christian Bale, and an inventive, thought-provoking storyline. You’re almost certainly going to see a movie set in a world similar to our own but different in one or two key ways, perhaps set in a dystopian near-future or with a reality-bending twist. There will be elements of film noir, flexible morals, and a big-picture message to apply to humanity.
Most importantly: you’re certain it’ll be worth the money. And so Nolan and the film studio, through his personal brand, has gotten you to spend money without any additional acquisition costs. I call it the snowball effect: money that businesses spend to introduce a brand to its audience pays off immediately as well as in the future, when those customers have a lower barrier to entry thanks to past experiences.
Now, the key question: how do you get your customers to feel the same way about your brand as you do about a Christopher Nolan film?
Here are several factors that your brand requires to pull this off:
There’s no way around it: you can’t fake it to make it. A brand identity can’t just be a mask or a facade, an attempt to win over customers, or a means to an end. Your brand’s identity has to be meaningful, authentic, and tied to your company culture as well as your product or service. If your brand’s voice is scholarly or educational, its leaders should value education and seek to involve themselves in intellectual conversations.
Imagine finding out...
- That the people who run an education foundation espouse anti-science views?
- That the founder of an animal rights organization had a massive fur coat collection?
- That the board of a healthy eating organization bought all of its meals from a fast food chain?
- That a blog you read about popular nightlife in your area was run by someone who never left their house?
Why would you want to support those brands over those run by and for people who feel strongly about those causes? Chances are, you’d abandon that brand, product, or service for one that really practiced what it preached.
Nobody likes a copycat. Every brand needs to find a new approach within its market, even if that change is a subtle one from a successful brand or brands. It’s a way to set your company apart from the pack, to signal to consumers that you offer something fresh and innovative. Brands need to convince their audience that they need to break from the mold and try something new, and they can’t achieve that without some level of brand differentiation.
Finding a niche within a market can come from numerous angles. It could be a way your brand talks: the language it uses, its style. It could be the channels your brand populates, whether that’s new social media outlets, in new publications or on certain websites, or attracting fresh eyes. It can be a different attitude, a different price point, a different experience,or a different packaging. And all of that needs to happen while staying true to the brand’s values and doing so in a way that still resonates with your customers and makes them excited about supporting your organization.
You know your values, and your brand aligns well with your objectives and ethics. You have a product or service that will bring a benefit to the public, and there’s a community ready to give you a chance. You’ve got a great logo, crisp visuals, a hardworking team, and a comprehensive growth plan. However, if you don’t have a quality product or service, your brand is in serious trouble, even if its goals are lofty and admirable.
Think about a company you know whose brand has a well-developed identity of giving back to the public and generating positivity: take Bombas socks, which donates one pair of socks for every one they sell. As of Dec. 2020, they’ve donated over 43 million socks to homeless shelters, community organizations, and people in need. It’s an incredible mission and social impact, but it wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t also make great socks. Nobody would buy their product if it fell apart after two washes.
No matter how authentic you are, or how high-quality your services or products are, or how much your brand stands out from the crowd, it won’t matter if your brand can’t sustain itself over time. If people like your brand because it gives back to the community and partners with charities every month, then that needs to stay at the top of your mind, with all your initiatives tying back to your mission. Of course brands and businesses will make mistakes, but the ones who move past them are the ones who admit when they’ve strayed and correct their course.
Think about it like a personal relationship: you can create snap judgements about someone when you first meet them, but if every interaction you have with them is completely inconsistent, you don’t know where to put them in your mind. You want your customers to have that kind of personal relationship with your brand, to be able to trust your products or services the way you can count on a good friend to lend a hand when you need it. It doesn’t take much to break that trust, and without consistency, you won’t stay friends for long. And keep in mind that consistency is not to be confused with predictability: consistency is good, but predictability is not. You can continue to mix things up with your marketing and keep things fresh without losing your brand consistency.
Don’t Be Afraid to Think Long-Term
Nobody builds up a brand overnight: when it seems like brands pop up out of nowhere, it’s almost always the result of years of work and planning, done right by experts who know how to create a full branding experience. Unless you’re already a billionaire or world-famous movie star—and I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you are not (but if you are, hello Beyonce!)—getting your brand into the spotlight is a process.
When it comes to setting up your brand, you have to keep an eye on the future as well as the present. Developing awareness of your brand’s quality and then proving your consistency can’t happen immediately, but there are things you can do in the short-term to help that process along: quality customer service, accessibility and transparency, and authenticity all go a long way. But make sure that whatever you’re doing with your brand, you’re building the foundation of what’s to come, and setting the right expectations for your audience.
Think About Your Branding
It’s tough to put a value on the brand awareness you achieve over time. But we know that creating a memorable and consistent brand across platforms helps people put you in the right bucket in their head. When they know they can trust you, they’re more likely to come back, to refer you to their friends, and to feel good about being your customer. And retaining customers is absolutely essential for growing businesses, as those returning clients bring with them additional benefits. In our next installment, we’ll discuss customer retention and why you should never forget to pay attention to your current customers just as much as you do your potential ones.
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About Miss Details
Founded by Tanya Gagnon in 2004, Miss Details is a full-service branding and design firm which helps entrepreneurs and companies launch, adjust and reinvent key aspects of their branding and business marketing strategy. With a background in all aspects of interior and experiential design and a passion for data-backed design, Tanya leads the Miss Details team to guide her clients through everything from a refreshed website to a full rebranding, helping them put the pieces together to create a consistent, authentic, unique brand image.