The importance and value of brand is meat and drink to marketers.
By driving buyer choice and increasing revenue, commanding a premium and increasing profit along with reducing risk by securing buyer loyalty, the power of brand cannot be ignored.
Which is why it’s essential to understand how the concept of brand has evolved – and is evolving – along with changes in society. Recognising the influence of society on brands has never been more vital, according to a recent online discussion with Jez Frampton of Interbrand facilitated by the CIM.
But first, Frampton provided an insightful flashback through what he termed the different ages of brand “purpose”:
The Age of Identity
- Brand purpose to identify the business, e.g. IBM and Coca-Cola.
- The goal became differentiation and identification.
The Age of Value
- Brands recognised as representing significant value for owners
- Brands became a business asset.
- Brands gave senior marketing people a seat at the top table.
- Primary purpose: understanding how brand added to the value creation capability of a business.
- Brand becoming “business strategy brought to life”.
The Age of Experience
- The customer has a more powerful voice in the brand-building process.
- A need to concentrate on customer experience, staff behaviour, environment and channels in tune with culture, products and services and communications and pulling it all together seamlessly.
- Need to create an ecosystem around the customer – and not all provided by the company.
Getting in deeper to the Age of Experience, Frampton pointed to what dictated success during this period:
- Purpose – striving to achieve the highest quality and buying into a brand with a powerful purpose.
- Innovation – predicting what customers might want next and applying creativity and innovation skills to move markets forward.
- Creating integrated teams to get an integrated experience.
- Deep market engagement through social media channels.
- Data humanisation – the process of seeking genuine human insight into what people might want.
- Brand as the true differentiator – judging a product through the brand provides identification and value creation for the owner.
Still with us? Well before you get overly comfortable in that age, it’s time to move on to The Age of You…
As the photo at head of this post depicts, the environment of the Age of You involves:
- 7 billion brands – i.e. people; meaning you, me and everyone else on the planet
- Big data meeting the internet of anything
- Supply chains reformed around people
- “Glocal” as the status quo
- Data liquidity as important as capital
- Companies replace states as infrastructure providers
- A Mecosystem created to serve the customer better
If, like me, you are scratching your head about what Frampton is saying in totality, he helpfully summarised The Age of You as making business personal.
And his self-reflective checklist of questions is even more useful to assess whether your brand is well-placed to live long and prosper (thank you, Spock) in The Age of You:
- What roles do you want your brands to play in customers’ lives?
- Which moments in your brand experiences create greatest demand?
- What level of personalisation would customers be willing to pay more for? How can you scale up and create personalisation?
- Why would customers want to give you more data?
What struck me about The Age of You and “making business personal” – from a public relations and content creation/marketing perspective – is that marketers and the companies/brands they work for need to be more realistic about their customers’ attitudes and sentiment. How much do customers care about your company and your products? Probably not much. But they do care about their problems, issues and how their company is going to survive and flourish in a fast-moving world.
And that should become the point of intersection with your customers and prospects; your products and services may well offer a solution, but that comes after you have shown an understanding of their current plight, or even highlighted and explained an impending plight they didn’t know about. Build some trust and credibility before you pull out the brochure!
Equally, this approach needs to inform the so-called “key messages” that everybody working in marketing communications likes to strong-arm into every activity. The trouble is not with having a key message, but choosing a message that will prompt a meaningful response from your audience; otherwise it’s just hot air or digital detritus.
To take a common example, insisting on a key message that claims you’re “customer-focused” is not only vague and verging on meaningless but downright irritating for the recipient who doesn’t care what your company thinks it is. However, a key message that makes them think about their situation and how they need to respond to their advantage is more likely be noticed and stand a better chance of starting a conversation. Thereafter you can actually make the customer-focused message a tangible experience for your customer rather than just a phrase.
It’s probably counter-cultural and counter-intuitive to suggest that marketers stop selling. But in the Age of You the mantra may well be “stop selling first”.
Image courtesy of Interbrand.