Today, gatekeepers make the worst brand builders
To create consistency in the mind of the consumer, one needs a single, definable brand expression, explains Mike Jones, strategic planning director for NATIVE VML. This works, because in a highly fragmented world, the consumer is looking for simplicity and navigable signs to know which brands to transact with, and which to avoid.
The focus on this drives efficiencies and a competitive advantage. Before the world became 'digital', corporates like Procter & Gamble could muscle out smaller brands by dominating the airwaves with larger budgets that created a 'bigger' brand feel. While this might be true, the execution of this brand expression is where businesses need to rethink.
Redefining your own rules
Disruptive businesses, like Uber and 23andMe, play by a new set of rules. They see digital as a way of thinking in order to provide the user with a differentiated and improved experience. This makes big brand building irrelevant. Uber's rise to success built its brand through revolutionising and leading a taxi experience by using digital as the sharp end of the stick.
Disruptors have the ability to avoid cumbersome, and siloed corporate fiefdoms, and build experiences on what Elon Musk refers to as 'first principles', which serve customers' needs, rather than the businesses'.
Channel control and authenticity
The ability to control a message through multiple channels, when the expressions in traditional channels are controlled by the brand, makes brand building simpler. In the post-digital landscape, channel control has been lost by the advent of chaotic channels.
These chaotic channels are uncontrollable, and the control has shifted to the consumer's hand, or mobile device. Reviews on retail sites or experiences posted on Facebook carry more weight due to a perceived authenticity. You just have to look at the rise of influencers like Khuli Chana on Absolut to see this trend play out in South African advertising.
Collaborate to encourage participation
In order to meet this changing landscape, brand builders have to shift from control to collaboration by relinquishing control of branded assets. For example, Nike allows you to snap a picture of your run, overlay it with branding, and then share it on any social network. Nike now has a branded user-generated piece of content that they had little control over. Another way to drive collaboration is to encourage participation. Oreo recently allowed you to customise a message on its holiday promotion pack and then send it to a friend or loved one.
Focus on the brand experience
Ultimately, it is about being more customer-centric. Your mind-set should be that the primary objective is to create a brand experience driven by the entire organisation, rather than just marketing. These experiences need to create visible value. It is no longer good enough having a 'unique selling proposition' because people can simply search on Google to find a matching, often more affordable, offering. It is about creating an emotional bond by providing delightful experiences that adds real value to one's life.
Connect emotionally with your consumer
To drive this emotional connection, we create value beyond the purchase of a product or service. Looking at the consumer's needs, Nike, for instance, found that people didn't need better shoes to become a better athlete. They uncovered that shoes and apparel are but a small, commoditised part of feeling like an athlete. It was more the ability to track, measure and compare your performance that allowed someone to feel like they are growing in their skill. Nike is becoming tethered to their consumers' life by 'gamifying' their activity.
Another way of creating an emotional connection is by providing an experience that is personalised. We all want to have a unique experience that feels like you had a hand in creating it.
The Sephora app allows users to upload a pic of them, apply make-up virtually and, once happy, to purchase the makeup online. NIKEiD is another prolific example of how a business can use technology to deliver an unsurpassed ability to personalise goods. On top of the digital ecosystem Nike provides, this product control powerfully entrenches loyalty.
Refocus your employees to start by building brands and by leading brand experiences through collaboration with your audience, rather than trying to command and control your brand building from a centralised point. A hybrid of control and collaboration might be needed to future-proof your brand and business.