Brands were once the creatures of marketing, created primarily through advertising and kept completely separate to the company behind them. However, the marketing world has been turned upside down with the rise of new media, and today, marketing is just one activity of the brand.
The rise of the Internet and its powerful search engines allowed consumers to easily find out about the company behind the brand and what competitors had to offer. They could also read reviews about a brand, company, or product from experts or customers. Next, the rise of social media allowed consumers to quickly find out what their friends and family thought about a brand. They could even have conversations with the people behind the brand, and observe how those people interacted with other customers. And now, there are smart mobile devices. Suddenly, consumers have access to all this information and opinions on the go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week - even while they are out shopping.
As a result of these changes, brands are no longer images created solely by marketing. Instead, brands are defined by the experiences customers have with them, and by the sharing of those experiences online. Potential customers can have an opinion about a brand without ever being directly exposed to it through traditional advertising.
Delivering a great customer experience requires all aspects of a company to work together, so that whenever or wherever a customer interacts with the brand, it feels like a coherent whole. Achieving this requires a very different approach to brand management. The following simple, five-step framework will help ensure the brand voice rings clear to consumers no matter where they interact with it:
1. Stand for something. Develop a core purpose, rooted in improving people's lives, which will inspire employees, customers, and communities alike.
2. Create value for customers. Earn the right to exist by creating something that's useful, affordable, and has meaning for consumers.
3. Build brand and organization as one. Embed a brand culture around the core purpose that lives and breathes the brand.
4. Engage around your story. Develop a compelling story around the core purpose, and engage employees, customers, and communities in telling it.
5. Say "thank you". Look after your customers, make them feel appreciated, and build relationships with them over time.
Building brands in this way may not have the glamor of the Mad Men of old, as it requires extensive and painstaking collaboration across the entire business. But it goes right to the heart of why a company exists, the value it creates for customers, and how it behaves.
Rather than a creature of marketing, the brand itself now embodies what the company is.
A version of this post was first published in The Licensing Book.