Brand Relevance in Three Steps

Ashton Belk
30 December, 2021

I was recently reminded of a quote I first heard many years ago that I believe is crucial to understanding the idea of brand relevance:

“It is more difficult to stay on top than to get there.”

While the internet may be conflicted on where to attribute this quote (was it soccer star Mia Hamm, basketball coach Pat Summit, or someone else entirely?), it still rings true in almost every line of work. It’s true for athletes, for celebrities, and yes, even for brands.

Getting to the top is one thing; staying there is another entirely.

For brands, one major element of staying on top is maintaining brand relevance, or the ability to become personally relevant to people and partners by connecting with them on an emotional level. While it’s always been a challenge, I believe this goal of relevance is becoming ever more elusive for brands year after year. 

Today’s consumers are bombarded with more marketing signals than ever and have become increasingly savvy in their expectations. They are accustomed to seeing ads that target their needs specifically, and they can smell a hard sell from a mile away.

To gain the attention of these customers and cultivate a positive brand reputation, marketers have to go beyond the obvious strategies. Luckily for you, we’ve worked with organizations large and small and found there are a few consistent keys to this relevancy puzzle that apply to all brands. Here, we’ve boiled them down to a handy list of three. 

Three things you can do to capture and maintain brand relevance

1. Never stop courting your customers

I hope I’m not the first to tell you that a good partner shouldn’t stop dating his or her mate once the wedding is over. The same is true for a strong and relevant brand. A customer’s initial purchase is just the first step in what should be a long-term relationship. 

So what does “courting your customer” look like? (Hint: this should sound familiar, too). 

  • Ask questions you don’t already know the answer to
  • Listen well to the response
  • Meet them where they are (not where you want them to be)
  • Give generously and spontaneously, without expecting an immediate return

Practical tools in this dating toolbox include regular customer surveys, an inviting customer community, engaging in the social media spaces where your customers live every day, etc., etc., etc.

To stay relevant, brands must keep the mindset of a teenager in love, always working to win the attention and affection of their customers day after day after day. 

2. Read the room regarding current trends

It’s not uncommon for marketers to confuse “relevant” with “on-trend.” And it’s a logical misunderstanding. Hopping on the latest meme bandwagon is an easy shortcut to appearing relevant. But if you skip step one (remaining in touch with your customers), you might make the mistake of damaging your brand reputation instead of strengthening it. 

To stay relevant, brands must walk the line between building an emotional connection with their core customer and appearing to pander to the latest fads.

It comes down to knowing what will resonate with your audience and practicing some restraint if you’re unsure. Believe me, your customers will know the difference. 

Which brings us to step number three. . . 

3. Relevant brands refuse to abandon their core identity  

Allow me to offer a slight twist on our quote for the day: “It can be more difficult to maintain a brand identity than to create one.”

Organizations will spend thousands building a brand kit, messaging, and design package, and then immediately be tempted to abandon ship and re-invent themselves again. But consistency is what your customers want to see. It’s how they come to know you and feel comfortable returning to you for content, for support, and yes, even for a repeat sale. 

To stay relevant, brands must have a strong grasp on their core identity and the discipline to hold on to it. 

Above all, today’s customers are looking to feel good about their purchase decisions. They want to do business with brands they feel understand them in an authentic way and represent them well to the world in which they live. 

Maintaining brand relevance is not rocket science. In fact, it requires more emotional intelligence than any marketing textbook will teach you. But if you do the work upfront to know your brand and your customer, it doesn’t have to be impossible to earn and maintain that elusive brand relevance. You can, in fact, get and stay on top.