Allan Yip has held portfolios as the Director of Brands at Intercontinental Hotels Group and Chief Marketing Officer at Dorsett Hospitality Group in Hong Kong. Bringing with him the experiences garnered from these roles, he has assumed the position of Vice President of Marketing, Distribution and Brands at Artyzen Hospitality Group. Lessons learnt from his various stints in marketing have given him an acute understanding of what makes customers tick and how best to unravel the secrets of branding. Allan believes in simplicity, and approaches branding by simplifying this seemingly abstract idea down to a few easily comprehensible core values. In his Arcadier Inspire summit talk, Allan speaks at length of the importance of incorporating the human value in your branding and how you can utilise it to distinguish your brand from the competition.
Allan points out that the world has become very polarised. With social media and echo chambers, there are increasingly more avenues for people to express their views and find like-minded others who reinforce them. What then do brands need to do amid this situation? For one, simply focusing on the functional value, as brands of old have done, is not viable for converting your adversaries to your customers. With the strong opinions that people, and very likely your customers, hold today, you need to go beyond the functional aspects and find a human value that resonates with them in order to win them over.
Allan says, “Every brand needs to have a purpose to its existence and have the human value proposition.” Brand = Human value + Functional value. This is the brand equation. Despite the integral nature of the human value, most brands still concentrate their efforts on identifying and communicating the functional value of their product or service. Those who have dived deep into the human value are a minority.
Allan brings up Durex and Airbnb as examples of brands which have successfully capitalised on the human value of their product or service. Condom advertisements used to convey the functional value of protection across all brands, be they Trojan or Durex. As the ads evolved over time, they become more humorous to attract the audience’s attention but the emphasis on the functional value remained unchanged. It was Durex that managed to break away from the competition and distinguish itself by going beyond the functional value. Durex was able to highlight the human value, which is not merely about protection, but about ensuring that the user is not restrained by future liabilities.
In the case of the hospitality industry, once again hotel brands tended to focus on the functional value through glossy pictures of luxurious rooms and exquisite dining establishments. Airbnb bucked this trend and zoomed in on the human value of their service. Airbnb’s branding has kept up with the times and now speaks to people’s innate desire to belong, regardless of their race or ethnicity. What catapulted Airbnb to success was not a dogged emphasis on the functional value of its service, but rather a shrewd underscoring of the human value the brand has to offer.
There are countless human values out there. But that doesn’t mean that you should just pick any one. A product can contain a multitude of plausible human values but the challenge is picking the right value for your brand and customers. The first step is to analyse yourself, your product, your brand’s mission and your target customers. Allan offers some words of advice, “It is important to understand who you are before you start talking to who you want to market to.” To find out the true purpose of your brand, Allan suggests partaking in a simple exercise. Keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you simply can’t ask anymore. By answering these questions, you are pinpointing and digging deeper into your brand’s raison d’etre. Once you have figured this out, communicating your key messages and building your brand becomes easy. The human value is the thread that connects you and your customers.
Allan quips, “The worst brand strategy is trying to be everything to everybody. You just end up being nothing to nobody.” Trying to target everybody is nigh impossible. Instead, Allan advises brands to always go back to their core values and identify the human value that is most relevant to them. Next, identify the customer segment which your core value speaks to.
Allan says that identifying customers is like making friends. Though many brands look at customers from a commercial perspective, the human value aspect should not be neglected as well. If you attract customers who are not a right fit with your company’s culture, you may very well lose them over time. It is akin to forcing two mismatched puzzle pieces together. Instead of wasting time on these customers, spend your resources wisely, and look for the perfect key to your lock.
Watch the full Arcadier Inspire summit talk here:
Check out Allan’s presentation here: