Just Thinkin’: Branding in Today’s Complex Media Landscape
When we were naming our agency, a client and all‐around talented marketing guy challenged us on the use of the word “brand” as it had come to mean so many things to different people. He had a good point: what was branding today? Would its cloudy nature suggest that our agency lacked focus? We thought about this but ultimately stood by the word because we believe that brand management is more important today than ever because brands are more challenged today — by a fast‐evolving media landscape, by short‐term planning, by fragmented audiences, by fickle consumer tastes, by the obsession with the measurement of digital media over other important brand influencers, and by consumers’ ability to own and shape the brand independent of a marketers’ plans. Good branding has never been so complex.
So how does a business manage its brand in what seems to be an unmanageable environment?
Understand your customers
Today’s consumers are empowered, and this is something you can and should use to your advantage. By studying your customer’s behaviors, preferences and choices, you can better understand where and how your audience wants to interact with you brand, then use this knowledge to create compatible marketing programs and solutions that foster user engagement and further empower the consumer in a natural way.
Just as they are more empowered, today’s consumers also have more access to brands than ever before and they are looking for brands that align with their personal values. Brands need to understand their customer’s passions and find ways to align their product or services with these passions, in order to create a genuine connection with their consumer. Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, summed it up this way:
“ Consumers … want to be able to connect with what’s behind the brand, what’s behind the promise. Brands that can move to that emotional level, that can create loyalty beyond reason, are going to be the brands where premium profits lie.”
A great WSJ article recently pointed out that 90% of conversations about a brand happen offline. The author has a great point and one we firmly believe in: social is great, but branding begins with the direct experience a person has with the tangible things that represent your brand. This is something marketers can lack focus on and the results can be crushing. Gap, for example, spent millions marketing its clothes and trying to upscale its image by partnering with fashion leaders like CFDA. At the same time, however, changes in manufacturing affected the quality of their product, so consumers were continually disappointed once they saw the actual product in the store. Season after season of over promising and under-delivering eventually translated into a drop in both store traffic and sales, which finally forced the retail giant to re-evalutate its brand from the inside out.
Respond quickly and appropriately
How you respond to consumer feedback—both good and bad—influences perceptions of your brand far beyond the customer who originated the feedback. Since today’s socially-connected consumers expect instant gratification in all aspects of their lives, companies need to create systems that allow them to respond quickly, and train and empower people to respond appropriately.
Listen, adapt and evolve
Consumers are talking about your brand, and brands who care about their customers are listening. The smart brands are using customer feedback and adapting to better suit customers expectations—and evolving into a more customer-centric business. Brands which are ignoring this call for change are quickly becoming irrelevant.
Look, act and sound consistent
Many companies are operating with brand standards that no longer synch up with all possible applications of the brand. It is critical that companies have standards that cover all media channels, including the newer ones like social and mobile. Equally important is creating a system that ensures your standards continue to evolve as the media landscape evolves. This is critical if you want your brand presented consistently, regardless of the media opportunity.
Have any other thoughts? Please feel free to share them with us here!