If you run a business, you likely believe very deeply in your product. This is no doubt important. After all, who could possibly better advocate for you than…well, you?
Sadly, believing in what you have to offer is not enough; you have to compel consumers to believe in it as well. And to score believers, you must capture their attention in the first place. How? By building brand authority.
Before we delve more deeply into the principles of brand authority, understand also that even making a lot of sales is only half the battle. You must be prepared to keep your business alive with your own words and actions.
One study found that a business owed a notable 45% of its reputation to how its owner represented it! Is the message you are sharing as innovative, optimistic, and welcoming as you would truly like?
When your brand’s image depends so much on how you portray it, you cannot afford to throw words around carelessly. Read on if you believe that you are ready to build a brand name that towers above all the others in your industry.
WHAT EXACTLY IS BRAND AUTHORITY?
Feeling confused? You’re not alone!
In short, when we say that a company has strong brand authority, we mean that people generally see its value within its industry and thus respect it as a leading name.
The tricky thing about brand authority is that it is intangible. You cannot reduce your brand’s image to numbers or dissect it cleanly on a chart. Sure, you can examine statistics that might indicate a strong reputation, like exceptional sales numbers or frequent web page views, but these figures tell only part of the story.
As you might imagine, brand authority is not something that is gained overnight. It is also not something that you can manufacture or buy. Rather, you must start with a sturdy foundation and build upon it gradually.
GENERIC TRADEMARKS – AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF BRAND AUTHORITY
One of the best examples of this is when a brand name becomes so culturally significant and well-known that it actually becomes the word used to refer to the product. This phenomenon, known as a “generic trademark,” is one of the ultimate examples of brand authority.
In case you’re curious, here’s a (partial) list of brands that have become the de facto product name, taken from the Atkins Bookshelf blog:
|Aspirin||acetylsalicylic acid||Bayer Healthcare|
|Baggies||food storage bags||Pacific Corporation|
|Band-Aid||adhesive bandage||Johnson & Johnson|
|Bubble Wrap||air inflated cushioning||Sealed Air|
|Cellophane||Thin transparent wrap||DuPont|
|Chapstick||lip balm||Morton MfG Company|
|Coke||Cola soft drink||Coca-Cola Company|
|Dry Ice||solid carbon dioxide||Dry Ice Corporation|
|Dumpster||mobile garbage bin||Dempster Brothers|
|Escalator||moving stairway||Otis Elevator Company|
|(Verb) To search online|
|Heroin||Morphine-based analgesic||Friedrich Bayer & Co|
|Hi-Liter||Vivid yet semi-transparent pen||Avery Dennison|
|iPod||portable media player||Apple|
|Jacuzzi||whirlpool bath or hot tub||Jacuzzi Corporation|
|Jell-O||gelatin dessert||Kraft Foods|
|Jumbotron||large screen television||Sony|
|Kitty Litter||clay-based oil absorbent||Edward Lowe Industries|
|Kleenex||facial tissue||Kimberly Clark|
|Laundromat||coin laundry shop||Westinghouse Electric|
|Onesies||infant (or adult!) bodysuit||Geber Products Co|
|Ping Pong||table tennis||Parker Brothers|
|Plexiglass||moldable plastic||Rohm and Haas|
|Popsicle||frozen ice treat||Joe Lowe Company|
|Styrofoam||extruded polystyrene foam||Dow Chemical Co|
|Super Glue||cyanoacrylate adhesive||Super Glue Corp|
|Taser||stun gun||Taser Systems|
|Thermos||Thermos LLC||vacuum flask|
|Velcro||hook-and-loop fastener||Velcro Industries|
The most insightful fact you can take from this list (apart, perhaps, from the fact that heroin was originally a product trademarked by Bayer!) is that brand authority is no accident.
In almost every example listed above, the company that created the generic trademark was already extremely influential and authoritative. If you strive to be a thought-leader in your industry, good things (such as developing a product so well-known that it becomes a noun) are bound to happen.
Spandex — one of many so-called “generic trademarks.”
WHY YOU NEED BRAND AUTHORITY IN THE ONLINE WORLD
Thanks to an increasingly digital marketplace, building brand authority has become more important now than ever before. As you likely know, the Internet moves fast. One minute you cannot escape a certain meme and its many incantations. The next minute people groan at the mention of it. We mention the fleeting nature of the meme not to reduce your business to something as vacuous as a cheap laugh. Rather, we simply wish to stress the notoriously short attention span of the Internet.
In what peer-reviewed source was this fact pub…oh hey look, a meme!
Fortunately, the Internet does remember what it wants to–and when it remembers, certain names may endure indefinitely. Below are several ways building brand authority online is in your best interest.
- Customers Who Trust You Are Also Loyal To You. We have already touched on this point, but it is worth mentioning again. Brand authority brings with it a sense of trust–from customers, from investors, even from curious newcomers. If they trust your brand, they are likely to trust you with their money.
- You Want Customers Who Believe In You! On a digital platform, you can readily make known what you stand for and why that is important to your business model. This, in turn, attracts customers with similar values to your own. As it turns out, most customers like businesses that show their human sides.
- Develop An Audience Receptive To New Products and Concepts. So, now you have the attention of loyal customers and are gaining new ones consistently. These people are very excited about the products you offer and are therefore likely to take a special interest in anything new you release. This will make marketing your latest good much less intimidating; you already have an audience eager to get its hands on it.
COMPANIES DOING BRAND AUTHORITY RIGHT
Now that you know so much about brand authority, you may be wondering: what are some examples of companies with glowing brands already? There are countless examples, of course. Some thrive because they are true to their values. Others have an inimitable business model. In any case, below are a couple companies that seem to have brand authority down to a science and an art (in our humble opinion, of course).
Most people think of Annie’s as the adorable bunny brand–and for good reason. Even snacks that don’t come in that irresistible shape boast famous Dutch rabbit on their packaging. Perhaps most important, Annie’s mentions on both its website and on the packaging of many of its products how seriously it takes offering quality organic food to health-conscious families.
What makes Annie’s a good example of brand authority? It has a distinguishable mission and a specific demographic in mind. Although the business itself has been around long before the Internet, Annie’s presents itself exemplarily well on its website and on social media. It talks to its audience appropriately.
And the bunny? That mascot honestly seems more, dare we say, “organic” than gimmicky!
If you run a business, you likely already know how difficult getting reliable, high-quality graphic design help can be. The salary for a full-time designer averages out at almost 50k per year, after all!
This leaves many small and medium-sized businesses trying to delegate design tasks to people who (quite frankly) aren’t talented designers. The only other option, for many years, was to hire a freelancer on a platform such as Upwork — an approach that yielded notoriously unpredictable results.
Enter: Design Pickle. This innovative agency essentially offers clients an on-call designer who can help with whatever projects may arise — all for a single flat monthly payment.
Design Pickle’s brand authority was built on more than just super awesome graphic design. DP also offers tons of informative, valuable content, such as on-demand training courses and a fantastic blog that turns lots of other agencies green with envy.
Design Pickle also establishes brand authority by fostering growth in their industry, and encouraging other agencies to follow their “services as a commodity” business model. By embracing industry partners rather than fearing competition, Design Pickle has inspired a new generation of game-changing agencies.
In case you were wondering, that “new generation” of agencies does indeed include us here at Content Cucumber! Not only did Design Pickle help inspire our business model, their project management system, JarHQ, is essential in our daily operations!)
Established in 1996 by a former college football player, Under Armour now provides ambitious athletes with the quality apparel they need to perform. Under Armour stresses not only fitness but also “passion, design, and the relentless pursuit for innovation”–and it shows in the products it has to offer (HeatGear, ColdGear, AllSeasonsGear). Perhaps most notable is its philanthropic endeavors, which we explore more thoroughly below.
Why does Under Armour pass the brand authority test? It clearly knows its audience well: all athletes, from those who thrive in winter sports to those who prefer the warmer summer activities. The brand also appeals to the competitive and driven nature of many athletes with its distinct mission.
Finally, its philanthropic work is not only noble but also complements the brand’s values of drive and sportsmanship. Not to mention that it makes use of social media with its poignantly simple #WeWill campaign.
No, we’re not talking about those hereditary commander-in-chief warriors from feudal Japan. (Though they probably did command quite a bit of “brand authority” in a slightly different sense of the term!) We’re talking about the intuitive and powerful landing page builder!
No, not this kind of shogun!
Designed for e-Com platforms such as Shopify and Bigcommerce, Shogun empowers average Joes and regular Janes to build high-converting website pages. Though Shogun is not the most famous name in e-Commerce site building, they have built brand authority in one of the most effective ways possible: by providing a product that rocks!
As you will certainly see next time you search the Shopify or Bigcommerce app stores for a landing page builder, Shogun boasts tons of incredible reviews — a reputation built through hard work and customer responsiveness.
HOW TO BUILD BRAND AUTHORITY IN THE ONLINE WORLD
As you can imagine, fledgling businesses have to work extra hard to catch the digital world’s attention. Some businesses, both those established and burgeoning, have attempted to capitalize on the ephemeral nature of the Internet with cleverly devised marketing campaigns. Some triumphed while others fumbled. Some have faded into obscurity while others have stood this brief test of time.
The bottom line? Building brand authority requires a lot of risk taking. Ideally, you want to be remembered for making a meaningful impact rather than offering shallowly amusing gimmicks. Below are some tips to help you get started on building brand authority.
Some people still view blogging as a personal endeavor rather than a professional one. Believe it or not, however, a consistent high-quality blog can help you better establish your business’s distinct voice. You can also use your blog to educate consumers on certain hot-button issues within your industry and address what your company may be doing to quell the situation.
In addition to educating customers and sharing your opinions, blogging is also important for SEO reasons. In today’s online world, Google is one of the most important arbiters of authority. Those who do well on Google do well in almost every other aspect of their business because Google determines your visibility — and, to an extent, your credibility.
Understand your Target Profile Customer
Ask yourself these questions: to whom does your product most appeal? What is unique about this group of people? What is typically important to them? Once you consider these questions, you can address your audience in a way that feels personal rather than corporate.
Here at Content Cucumber, we plan on rolling out a “build your customer avatar” tool in the near future. The goal of this tool will be helping online marketers and entrepreneurs to better understand their audience by answering a short survey. If you’re interested in that tool, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list! We will, of course, be updating this article as well once the feature has been unveiled.
Engage with your Audience
It is not enough to tell your audience what they want to hear. If you want to enjoy long-term brand authority, actively participate in the dialogue you create. Acknowledge their thoughts, comments, and concerns and contribute your own. They will appreciate it and in turn, reward you with their loyalty.
Looking for extra help building brand authority? We at Content Cucumber want to help you write blog posts that distinguish your business from all the others. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how you expand your online presence and increase brand authority through high-quality, super-targeted blogging!