Brand authority is a powerful tool.
When you effectively establish it, you can build a brand that is:
- Seen as an industry leader
- Trusted by customers
- Envied by competitors
- Worth paying more for
In this article, we will explore what brand authority is, why it is important in 2020, and the six steps you need to take to build it.
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What is Brand Authority?
Brand authority is the ability of a brand to influence an industry: it is the impact of a brand on both its customers and competitors.
This is an earned reputation based on multiple factors.
- Expertise: the brand’s industry knowledge
- Quality: the effectiveness of a brand’s products or services
- Trust: the brand’s ability to follow through on its promises
When combined, they work together to create the perception that a brand has authority.
For example, Tesla has brand authority in the electric car industry.
They have curated a brand name and message that is synonymous with their industry. As such, Tesla has made a significant impression on both consumers and direct competitors:
- Consumers aspire to own a Tesla
- Competitors try to compete with their offering
We know them to be experts at what they do, produce quality products, and we trust their vehicles will work how they are supposed to.
You can see the same phenomenon in other industries:
- Google has brand authority for search engines
- Tiffany’s has brand authority for jewelry
- Rolex has brand authority for watches
- Nike has brand authority for sportswear
Customers aspire to own these brands; competitors wish to emulate their products.
That being said:
Brand authority at a customer level can change from person to person. It can be influenced by factors such as customer experience, needs, and personal preference.
Tesla may be the industry standard, but it will not be the customer’s standard if they:
- Have a negative in-store experience
- Do not like the feel of a Tesla car
- Have lost trust in the company
This could force the perception of a customer to switch to a competitor, like BMW or Nissan.
This is good news for brands. Why?
Because it means you have a level of control over your perceived brand authority: by investing in your brand, you can swing customers’ perceptions.
In the next section, we will look at why doing this is important for your brand in 2020, and the major rewards you could reap.
The Power Of Brand Authority In 2020 (And Beyond)
As we explored in our post on 2020 marketing trends:
Your brand is your best moat: it is the only way to future-proof your business and secure long-term success.
Your brand needs authority for that to work.
You must establish yourself as having expertise in your industry and a quality offering. Then, your customers need to trust that when they invest in you, it is money well spent.
Research shows that customers who trust a brand are more likely to:
- Remain loyal
- Recommend them to friends
- Buy more products and services
- Buy more frequently
- Spend more money
- Share their experiences
The inverse is also true: 43% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand they lost trust in.
Brand authority, and the foundation of trust it is built on, can help you to:
- Promote brand loyalty
- Prevent (or promote) brand switching
- Foster brand integrity
All of which can establish you as the go-to brand in your niche, and ensure you have a profitable customer base in years to come. (It will also have your competitors quaking in their boots!)
But what steps do you need to take to establish brand authority?
Let’s take a look:
6 Steps To Build Brand Authority In 2020
In this section, we will look at six tried-and-tested steps to build brand authority.
- Carve out your niche
- Establish your brand voice
- Stand for something
- Create good content
- Share a consistent message
- Collaborate with your peers
If you can follow each of these, you will be well on your way to being the idol of your customers and the envy of your competitors.
1. Carve Out Your Niche
Brand authority begins at your niche.
To establish authority, your brand must operate in a specific space. This is an area of expertise, where you can establish a clear and authoritative voice. (More on that in step two.)
- Volvo operates in the “motor” industry, but they are in the “safety” niche
- Oura operates in the “health” industry, but they are in the “sleep tech” niche
- Mont Blanc operates in the “stationery” industry, but they are in the “luxury pens” niche
Their authority stems from their ability to confidently create products, services, and content for their chosen niche.
That is why Volvo is able to create campaigns that talk about auto safety:
And campaigns that talk about making cities safer for women:
The niche you choose can be an existing one or a space you carve out for yourself.
Whatever you decide, it should:
- Resonate with your target audience
- Align with the products you offer
If you struggle with this, it can help to look at the reason why you are in business; the core driver behind what you do.
To explore those previous examples again, this could be:
- Volvo wants to make driving safer
- Oura wants to change the way we sleep
- Mont Blanc wants to preserve the writing experience
You can then extrapolate this “why” into the niche you will operate in.
2. Establish Your Brand Voice
The next step is to look at how you communicate with your customers.
Your brand voice plays a pivotal role in this. We can consider a brand voice to be:
- What you say
- How you say it
Your choices here will be heavily influenced by your industry, your niche, your audience, and the type of authority you want to become.
Innocent, a UK-based drinks company, chose to establish a friendly and informal brand voice. It was conversational and felt like an interaction with a friend.
View this post on Instagram
A cup of tea unites the nation. The correct colour of tea divides it.
Their brand voice made them approachable to customers. But, it also had a subconscious effect.
The simplicity of their voice reinforced the simplicity of their drinks. Like this simple-but-effective Instagram post about their green smoothie:
View this post on Instagram
What can we say about our new drink? It’s green, it’s the same colour as leaves and grass, it’s green, and it’s green. There’s probably some other stuff we’re meant to mention like it’s boosted with vitamins and it’s 1 of your 5-a-day, but we feel like the main thing is it’s green. Green.
This type of brand voice was perfect for them in the health food niche. Why?
Because, previously, health food drinks brands:
- Used confusing jargon
- Made big health promises
- Overwhelmed customers with information
Innocent’s brand voice was the perfect antidote to this and allowed them to quickly become an authority in their niche.
This also spawned many imitators who copied their style of brand messaging but with much less success. A true sign of brand authority.
Your brand voice should reinforce the trust, quality, and expertise of your brand. It should be a subtle reminder of what you stand for and how you will impact your customers.
Speaking of which:
3. Stand For Something (And Deliver On It)
Customers trust the brands they associate with; the ones that get them and stand for similar ideals.
Research shows brands committed to social values are more likely to develop more trust than their counterparts; this is especially true if you are targeting Millennials or Gen X.
Take a stand and work hard to deliver on it.
Lush is a great example of this. They are a social issue-driven cosmetics company, with clear stands on many of today’s hot political topics.
Their core message, though, has always been against animal testing. There is a clear anti-animal testing policy on their official website:
Lush also create products — such as tote bags — that help to promote the cause, and offer a guarantee that no animals were harmed in the making of their products.
They have clearly defined a niche. Curated a strong brand voice. Taken a clear stand. And created a quality product that delivers on it.
You can create this kind of authority for your brand even if you choose not to work on social issues. You can just as easily choose an issue relevant to your niche such as:
- Better customer service
- Improved transparency
- Lower prices
- Reduced fees
If it is a real problem that you are committed to helping your customer solve, then it can be an effective part of your branding strategy.
4. Create Good Content
Content marketing is a powerful way to build brand authority.
You can deliver real value and leave a lasting impression on your audience while reinforcing your brand voice and message.
Content can take many forms, including:
In 2020, we predict we will see a large increase in the use of rich media content, the ones we have bolded in the above list. Why?
Because they allow you to expand and reach your audience in new and exciting ways. This dynamic storytelling can help you positively increase your brand authority.
Whatever medium you use:
The end goal is to effectively communicate ideas, thoughts, trends, and solutions that are relevant to your industry.
5. Share A Consistent Message
Brand consistency is key in today’s digital world.
Research shows that brand consistency is a crucial factor in how customers choose a brand to buy from. Why?
Because consistency establishes expectations and builds trust. To be consistent is to be reliable; to be reliable is to be trustworthy.
To do this you must repeatedly reinforce:
- Who you are
- What you do
- What you stand for
Across all touchpoints in the customer journey. These include (but are not limited to) your:
- Content channels
- Customer service
- In-store experience
- Official website
- Social media feeds
If you would like to learn more about brand consistency and how to establish it, we recommend you read our Ultimate Guide to Brand Consistency right here.
6. Collaborate With The Right Brands And Influencers
Collaboration is king.
We predict, thanks to changes in technology and how brands operate, that collaborative marketing is going to be paramount in the next decade. Why?
Because there are lots of benefits to aligning yourself with the correct:
When you partner with another high-profile brand to offer a unique product, service, or experience, you create positive brand associations.
You can tap into their existing audience, and utilize some of their brand authority to grow your own. When you are seen with that brand, you are further legitimized as an authority.
Adidas have been able to raise their brand authority with streetwear customers and competitors through partnerships with hip-hop artists like:
- Kanye West (YEEZY)
- Run DMC
- Big Sean
We have also seen this happen with brands like Netflix and Baskin Robbins, Chubbies and Star Wars, and Sonos and IKEA.
You can read more about collaborative marketing and how it can grow your brand authority in our Definitive Guide to Collaborative Marketing.
Brand Authority In A Nutshell
Brand authority is a brand’s ability to influence the customers and competitors in its niche. It is driven by a brand’s:
- Customer trust
Brands must earn authority, but marketing teams can definitely influence it. When done correctly, you can reap a lot of rewards, such as:
- Increased brand loyalty
- Increased customer referrals
- Higher average customer spend
There are six steps you can follow to increase and establish brand authority:
- Carve out your niche: choose the specific space you will operate in
- Establish your brand voice: define what you will say and how you will say it
- Stand for something: align yourself with a relevant cause
- Create good content: deliver up-front value to your customers
- Share a consistent message: reinforce who you are and what you do
- Collaborate with your peers: create campaigns with relevant authority brands