The business landscape is filled with jargon, truisms and clichés posing as innovation and even ‘paradigm changing’ breakthroughs.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of branding and marketing, where many practitioners seem to operate on a plug-n-play model of the latest buzzwords to back their often benign ideas.
The one area where any marketing practitioner worth their salt is ready to outdo everyone else is the rhetoric of change. In some senses, our industry is now akin to the proverbial boy who cried wolf. Having talked up change for so long, we are all now struggling to figure out how to respond when it is staring us in the face.
For, just as the internet has had a profound and irreversible impact on innumerable industries; it has fundamentally changed the way we interact with brands. A few in our industry have rejoiced and produced stellar work that uses available technology to strengthen the cult of the brand. The vast majority however are reeling. Their typical response – more truisms and cliches – ‘the customer is the new CMO’ and ‘content curation’ anyone?’
So then if change is upon us then what is the best way to react? Most important is to understand the nature of the change itself. The impact of the net is a lot more pervasive than just as media. The fundamental truth of post- modern marketing is democratisation of the brand experience. Compared to the intrusive nature of marketing and advertising in the TV era, marketing is increasingly based on permission, with consumers deciding at what level they interact with brands. At the heart of strong brands therefore is a compelling philosophy that resonates with its audience. Walking the talk has never been more important.
To manage and strengthen brand equity, brand experience can be broken down into four digestible areas. These are the key areas that organisations need to get right to ensure success.
1. IMPRESSION – This is the classic heartland of marketing – based on identifying customer needs and offering a solution that is both relevant for them and different from competitive offers. While this was largely the entire focus of marketing previously, today brand managers don’t have the luxury of their predecessors. This is now table stakes – the minimum cost of entry.
2. INTERACTION – In our hyper- connected world it is impossible for brands to fake authenticity. Interaction is all about living up to the promise you make though your marketing efforts. From service at shop floor to post purchase care, every touchpoint must be aligned to ensure the delivery of the claimed promise. This is not to say that customers will not tolerate any slip ups; they will, provided your heart and your policies are in the right place.
3. RESPONSIVENESS – Technology has created expectations of constant improvement across all aspects of life and brands are no different. If consumers are willing to engage with you, they expect you to be responsive and focus on improving their experience on a regular and consistent basis.
4. RESILIENCE – This is about conveying a meaning bigger than yourself. This could be for a cause or within the category or improving the user interface; whatever it may be, consumers now expect the brands they allow into their lives to be agents of positive change.
From the above list it is apparent that branding can no longer function as a department within the organisation. The experience of the brand is the brand. Hence the best examples of successful brands come from organisations where, from the CEO downwards, everyone believes in what they offer to their customers. The role of the brand therefore is to act as a unifying philosophy that not only attracts customers but also brings employees together to deliver the brand experience.
It may be tough being a brand manager today but it has never been as exciting and meaningful.