The walking dead.
It's not a marketing term.
Yet according to the regular Havas Media survey, people in Europe and the US wouldn't care if more than 90% of brands disappeared.
Despite billions of dollars spent on marketing, these brands have not made any kind of strong connection.
Sounds pretty lifeless to me.
The traditional marketing approach has been to use advertising to build an emotional connection. And judging by recent Super Bowl advertising in the US and Xmas advertising in the UK, the emotional appeal is taking ever more center-stage.
But in today's connected world, a brand is largely defined by customer experience (and the sharing of it) rather than by any image created through advertising, however heart-warming it may be. Customers can now sense what the culture behind the brand is really like.
Consequently, to achieve a connection, the culture of the company needs to exude a warmth, an emotional electricity whenever and wherever a customer touches the brand - it needs a beating heart.
Building such a culture is more than just developing internal marketing campaigns. Employees after all are people, and people cannot be programmed or scripted to exude warmth. Rather, in my experience, three essential ingredients have to be in place: Purpose, Desire, and Belief.
Purpose is the rational start-point: being clear who you are and why your company exists beyond simply making money. Of course, there's nothing new about this. Enshrined in mission and vision statements, ambitious goals such as “to achieve market leadership” and “to be the most profitable” have been used for years to galvanize employees.
But purpose is nothing without the Desire to achieve it. It needs to inspire, by giving employees a sense they're contributing to something greater and more enduring than themselves. Statements of mission that only reflect the company agenda just aren't enough for today's workforce.
Rather, purpose needs to be grounded in improving people's lives in some way. Just compare Starbuck's mission "to inspire and nurture the human spirit - one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time" with PepsiCo's "our mission is to be the world's premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages". And this has the crucial advantage of uniting both employees and customers around a shared agenda.
Finally, to generate real energy, employees need Belief. They need to believe that the brand can and will deliver on its purpose. This invariably comes down to trust: trust in co-workers and critically, in the leadership's commitment to the purpose. Nothing kills belief faster than policy decisions that contradict the declared purpose of the company. In contrast, just look at the positive message CVS conveyed recently about its commitment to healthcare by stopping Tobacco sales.
Indeed, to give a brand life, it becomes a primary responsibility of leadership to instill this sense of Purpose, Desire and Belief throughout the organization. It is not a marketing job for the CMO, but rather a key role for the entire leadership team, starting with the CEO.
Of course, the brand still has to be useful to customers. After all, a beating heart without a body is just a beating heart. The benefits the brand promises to deliver need to be hardwired into the policies and processes of the organization.
But if Purpose, Desire and Belief are all present, then the brand has a vital, unifying force that exudes warmth and humanity, and engages customers...