To Grow Your Brand’s Share of Life, Focus on Building Two Kinds of Relevance





This article was written by Jamie Perry, Client Partner

One of the great privileges of working as a Client Partner for Material is that I get to talk to some of the most storied and successful brands in the world and hear about the challenges they face. While doing this, I have noticed a few common themes arising in waves across categories and geographies.
In late 2020, as the pandemic lockdown took hold and consumer behavior fundamentally changed, everyone was asking whether this was the new normal or whether once the lockdown lifted, we could expect things to return to how they were before.
Next, everyone wanted to know about AI, how it was going to impact them and whether this was good or bad news.


Recently, I have noticed a new theme emerging. I’ve heard clients say:
  • [Entertainment client] We launched this great subscription offering that now has millions of subscribers, but we don’t know how to grow these relationships beyond the core offering.
  • [Healthcare client] We need to stop focusing on delivering individual procedures and refocus on how we become the healthcare provider of choice for patients across the continuum of care.
  • [Airline client] We need to evolve from selling one more seat on a flight to becoming the airline of choice for consumers within our region and connecting our region to the world.


While very different businesses, these clients are all expressing essentially the same challenge:  we want to evolve from focusing on selling one more unit of whatever we sell to having loyal customers who buy many things from us over time, but we don’t know how to change.
What they are saying is they want to increase customer lifetime value.  At Material, we say, they aspire to grow Share of Life.


Share of Life
When you orient to share of life, you unlock opportunities to become a brand that is not just relevant in the moment of need, but relevant to the consumer and their broader identity.
Share of life leads to persistent share of wallet and creates opportunities to transfer brand love to new generations of customers. By orienting to share of life and becoming deeply embedded in customers’ lives, you benefit from the relationships you build now for years (and potentially generations) into the future.


How did we get here?
Many large, well-established and successful brands are facing the same challenge. They started decades ago with a primary offering. Over time, as they became successful, they grew and expanded into adjacent channels, categories and markets. With each new offering came a new team charged with delivering that incremental offering, complete with its own revenue goals and other KPIs. This turned what had once been simple organizations into complex businesses, focused on delivering each product and service and maximizing the performance of each channel and market. Business units became more siloed, inward looking and disconnected from each other. Until ultimately, somewhere along the line, the focus on the customer was lost.
Brands have become so focused on delivering what they do that they now force consumers to adapt to their paradigm, rather than meeting consumers where they are. This creates friction in customer relationships, leading to frustration and ultimately forcing customers to look for simpler, easier to use alternatives elsewhere. Not great, Bob!
Consumers won’t pay you to make their lives more complex. Instead of incentivizing them to adapt to your org chart, brands need to rethink their business models and design an ecosystem that places the customer back at the center. An ecosystem where offerings are designed to be deeply relevant to customers’ needs and preferences and the journeys that they go on with your brand over time.


The relevance of relevance
In a world of ubiquitous connectivity, time is consumers’ scarcest resource.
Consumers are busy, distracted and exposed to more brands and ads than they have the concentration and attention span to notice. The first thing brands must do is stand out from the noise, which means getting consumers’ attention. To get attention, you can be loud, controversial or relevant. At Material, we recommend relevant.
Relevance helps capture consumers’ attention, but also rewards it. Consumers notice things that are relevant to their identities, and they remember better when what they see aligns with their goals. You cannot buy demand, but you can align your messaging and offerings to meet consumers’ needs and make their lives better and easier.
To connect to consumers’ identities, brands must deliver on two distinct but interrelated types of relevance – what we call “Big R” Relevance and “little r” relevance.


“Big R” Relevance is about connecting to the consumer long-term:
  • “Big R” Relevance means delivering impressions, expectations and value that connect to consumers’ identity.
  • You must know who your consumer is, what they need and then deliver it memorably.
  • Be the brand for their current AND aspirational lives.


“Little r” relevance is about the moment:
  • “Little r” relevance means being there in the small moments, like habits and rituals, that shape how consumers make decisions.
  • You must know how your consumer decides, anticipate their needs and have the right offering available at the right moment.
  • Be the brand with the right offering at the right value at the right time.


Ultimately, delivering on “Big R” and “little r” relevance builds Share of Life.
The goal is to create consumer experiences where the minor details are easy and habitual, while the focal experience is emotionally engaging and memorable. Positive memories create strong emotional connections, which ultimately delivers Share of Life.


10 steps to share of life
Once brands choose to pivot to share of life, the first step is to figure out how to become and remain more relevant (Big R and little r) to consumers. We draw upon key principles of behavioral science to inform our understanding of the human factors that impact this process: identity, habits and memory make up the core of the consumer experience, with motivations, emotions and culture shaping how they affect behavior.
By understanding consumers’ needs and motivations and how and why they make choices, brands can design offerings and experiences that meet those needs and motivations, create positive memories and build strong emotional connections, keeping consumers engaged with your brand over time.


At Material, we summarize the transition to Share of Life in 10 steps:
  1. Understand your customers’ fundamental needs and the roles your brand and offerings fulfill in their lives.
  2. Design relevant offerings and experiences that fulfil your customers’ needs and motivations, evolve as their needs and motivations evolve and create positive, lasting memories.
  3. Design relevant customer journeys through your offerings to address customers’ current needs and their future needs as they move through life phases.
  4. Create seamlessly interconnected digital and real-world experiences with the customer at the center, which carry customers along these journeys.
  5. Turn your data and technology from a blocker into an enabler, by aligning your data and technology infrastructure around the customer so you can deliver these journeys perfectly, in repeatable and scalable ways.
  6. Write stories that generate attention and allow you to stand out from the competition and connect with potential new customers.
  7. Build onramps that bring these new customers into your brand ecosystem at logical times in their life.
  8. Create a feedback loop of relevant incentives and rewards to build habits and keep customers connected to and regularly engaged with your brand, feeling fulfilled and coming back for more.
  9. Stop your org chart from showing – align your organization, KPIs and incentives around the customer so you can repeatedly and consistently deliver these experiences and journeys.
  10. Measure, refine and adapt. Consumers are constantly evolving so you must too.


For brands stuck in delivery mode within an organization that has become siloed and has lost its customer focus, these steps can feel daunting. However, understanding consumers’ needs and motivations as they relate to your brand is incredibly empowering, and can change the way you think about things and make decisions about your offerings and organization almost immediately. Once you see the benefits of these initial changes, it creates excitement and energy to do more and go further.
As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Interested in learning more about how Material partners with leading brands to increase consumer relevance and build Share of Life? Reach out today.