If you’re anywhere near the functions of brand management, marketing or communications, either as a client or agency professional, you may feel like you’re suffering from ADHD. There are just so many distractions and so much disruption — constantly expanding and morphing social media, the shifting ways people access content and interact online, new apps emerging daily. The winds of change rocking communications and marketing have already transformed the concept of brand and shifted power from the marketer to everyone else. The Internet has leveled the playing field, and many companies no longer can find the playbook.
Time to go back to fundamentals and try to remember the things we do know about how brands work and what’s important when trying to build a lasting one. First and foremost, brands must be authentic. Even though this has been true since there was a concept of brands, people underestimate how difficult it is to get to the essence of a company. Brands must reflect that truth if they are to resonate with a company’s stakeholders and if a company is to remain consistent and believable.
Today that essence has been wrapped around another concept — purpose-driven branding. While many companies focus on the values that are meaningful to their stakeholders, they sometimes forget to take the time to understand which values are important to them, what mission is one that they can pursue consistently and genuinely so that their performance always lives up to their promises.
Another important concept is brand momentum. Is your brand always moving forward, aspiring for more, pushing innovation? That may sound a bit Zen, but consumers, employees and investors are coming to expect it, even demand it. No one simply “makes it” anymore; companies and people seem to be on a perpetual quest. For all things brand, metrics are important. You may think your brand is moving, but the metrics will tell you if that vision has been communicated to your stakeholders.
And the final truth has to do with those stakeholders. Is the brand thoroughly understood and appreciated both inside and outside the organization? I declare on my own little pulpit that employee communications remains the most underleveraged and least appreciated play in the brand playbook. Every day, your stakeholders are coming face to face with your brand, and it isn’t through an advertisement. It’s in their experience at a retail counter, or hearing the woes of a neighbor who works at one of your factories, or dealing with one of your lawyers at a public hearing, or even interacting on your website. Sadly, this is often one of the most likely places for a potentially strong brand to trip up.
While there are mountains of books, articles, speaking panels and new authorities proposing the latest model and tool to help companies ride out the tornado of change, the question I ask myself and my colleagues on any given day, with any given client or project to cut through the clutter: Are we building a true brand that’s authentic, moving forward, and thoroughly understood by its key representatives? So far, this simple list of three keeps me focused and off the Ritalin.