Mundane to Memorable: Authentic Brands Evoke Emotion

Equipment manufacturing isn’t typically seen as a “sexy” industry. But it could be.
Just ask Niki Schwan, who helps brands build a competitive advantage across industries by leveraging customer perceptions, preferences, dreams and values. With her classic sense of style and knack for trend-setting, Schwan keeps her finger on the pulse of what is relevant, she embraces modern-day nuances and technology, and welcomes good old-fashioned marketing with open arms #InPursuitofSexy.
“Sexy has less to do with the product you are selling, and more about the problem you are solving,” Schwan explains. “How does this product make your customer feel, and what problem will it solve?”

Whose Responsibility Is It?
In a continually changing market, in which consumers are saturated with products and messages, and where we can buy everything — even heavy machinery — online, it’s easy to forget where the ultimate responsibility in problem-solving lies.
The answer is simple: a company and brand must ensure that their showroom and online presence are up to par, especially when it comes to visuals. And it’s up to the sales team to take advantage of every customer interaction — to make an emotional connection, to guide the customer experience, to solve problems and elicit “good feels.”
Of course, feelings can run the gamut from relief to anger, so it’s essential for the branding team to look up from its desk and see the world through customer eyes.
“Shopping has become a subset to being engaged and entertained,” Schwan says. “A good experience generates positive buzz; a bad experience becomes a lost opportunity sabotaging the brand, particularly when it is lost retail business.”

Turning Mundane into Memorable Experiences
Because the customer experience almost always starts online, it’s imperative to ensure your brand aligns with your digital presence and showroom floor.
“When I’m in the showroom, I look at all visuals," she notes. I identify all merchandising components, from the floor, to the lighting, to the equipment itself. How is it merchandised? How can it be better, more current, more inspiring?”
Taking a step beyond that, she explores how she feels in the showroom: Is there ample seating? Is it an inviting environment? Then she’ll get to know the team: Who are they? How do they treat me? Are they educated, well-versed, and aware of the market? Can they solve my problems?
“Ask yourself what people want today, not what they wanted yesteryear,” she says. Schwan embraces three core components in branding: perception, behavior and performance. Ensure your brand meets all three and you’ll seize every opportunity to position your company first in your customer’s mind.

Old Fashioned Marketing, New Age Advertising
“The world is obsessed and run by visuals and storytelling through photos, videos and constant content,” Schwan says. This requires brands to step up their marketing game to provide a constant stream of relatable and authentic visual content.
Staged product images absolutely have their place in the visual messaging mix. Add to that an owner in the field getting his equipment dirty for the first time, and now you have a story to tell.
Today’s buyers are more likely to research star-ratings and ask their peers for advice and experiences. “Attention spans have become limited and if your brand isn’t tapping into its story to connect with customers, it becomes dated, and the customer becomes easily disengaged,” cautions Schwan.
Ultimately your goal is to convince prospects that your product is what they need to solve their problems. You want them to be excited about your product, interested in your story, and thrilled to be a brand advocate.

We’ve Come Full Circle
Back in the good ol’ days, the sales professionals on the showroom floor were the eyes and voice of the brand. Their job was to connect—really connect—on an intimate level with prospects, turning them into years-long loyal customers who wouldn’t think about leaving.
The fact is, this sales scenario hasn’t changed at all. What has changed are the many ways to reach your audience, and to make that powerful connection. Today, we’re challenged to provide a personal, authentic experience online first. The customers have changed, and along with them, their values.
So, we need to talk at their level. Today, consumers want to know you have a happy brand. They’re influenced to select your products and services based on perception: What do their friends say? What’s your community involvement?

Are you transparent?
Being the brand that solves problems and connects with customers turns them into loyal customers who won’t think about leaving.
Raised in one of the most agricultural regions of the U.S.—California’s Central Valley—Niki Schwan knows a lot about creating a successful brand. By sheer grit, determination and tenacity she got her first full-time job at a large clothing retailer at the age of 15, and was schooled by industry itself. She then tackled the fashion and entertainment industries, and today travels the world, shops the markets and maintains constant exposure to predict trends. She sees the market as a cycle: Apparel and entertainment trends directly relate to what people are eating, what products they are using, and ultimately what machines produce them.

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Thursday, November 7
“Fashion Your Brand from the Inside Out” – Niki Schwan

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Thursday, November 7
Master Class — Farm to Table Style for Ladies & Guests – Niki Schwan

Register now for the 2019 FWEDA Experience

Far West Equipment Dealers Association

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