Branding started with a rush to occupy consumer’s mind space has ended up being personified. This has added more confusion and players in the “Game of brands”. Consumers perceive and interact with brands as human beings. This is simply in order to make the whole process of interaction and communication easy. Behind these brands are real people making big bucks just to make sure that the brand looks good and shiny. Users know that the brand is just a face for communication and the real industry is run behind by real people.
The job has become a nightmare for brand managers owing to heavy competition. The real competition is not in creating the brand, the real competition exist on how well the brand is reaching the target audience. This is the role of the brand managers to make the brand engaging and trust worth. Brand managers know very well, what they create in years gets destroyed in seconds through social media. It is very hard for anyone to say a word without being countered and presented an equally strong argument. Take the Syrian crisis or the trump ban or the Brexit or even the Chinese south sea policy and many more and you end up with a dizzy head.
So how can a brand be more humane than simply a promise of the company?
This million dollar question has left many guessing and experimenting. The picture is yet not clear but we can look at some of the salient points that make a brand.
Authority by Branding
When powerful people speak they know that the rest of the people will definitely listen to them. Social media is the best example to demonstrate this whole crazy phenomenon. Will you like to talk to a man who does not know what is going on in his own house or industry? What good will ever come out talking to him in fact you’ll ridicule him for not being social or even intelligent enough. Similarly a brand needs to look powerful enough to engage users.
The brand is the face of the organization and it has to look confident.
Many brands have their social media pages hijacked and they have no clue of who runs it with their name on it (definitely not them). This is normally not with major parent brand having a central marketing team. But it is seen with some sub brands operating under the corporate umbrella of parent brand.
In one instance a social media page was set up by one of the Ex staff in organization with no handing over of account page. No one in the organization knew who was operating it. It also allowed users to post whatever they felt like with full permission granted. No one in the organization knew or did anything about it.
Who will you listen to, someone who banters unnecessarily or listen to someone who talks sense on regular basis?
Social media engagement of brands has to be meaningful and provide value to followers. The brand exercises and communications are supposed to do a lot of things and selling should be the last on the list. If the band name comes down to selling, you know the days are numbered. Understand the importance of your communication. Don’t use it for selling. It is important to build up a image, a trust such that you will start to make money. The reality is that people buy a product on the basis of trust rather than other factors, in fact that is how the top brands in the market play their game.
Users will obviously buy your product or service if they find it useful. The brand communication is supposed to highlight your stature and not for sales pitch.
It is to be noted to make sure that your message does not have a hint of desperation in it.
The brands must create and share content which shows their sophistication. They should be also able to withstand the critiques and criticism of users. This requires a lot of thinking and analyses by brand managers and planning at back end.
Vision should be of making the brand a thought leader in the domain.
Your digital presence including website and social media accounts need to be updated and in line with the current trends. Some strong brands have decade old website frames and sell on the cover page of social media accounts. Many brands are scared of communicating on strong professional Social Media platforms like LinkedIn or twitter as one wrong word and the brand manager might lose his job.
Brands should share their thoughts on consumer pain points, industry insights that effect users. What new they have been doing and changes a consumer might expect the next time they consume their product or service should be provided. This allows them to have a regular mind space of consumer and also climb the ladder to thought leadership slowly.
Compassion with users
There is nothing like compassion which boosts any person or a brand. This is the most sought after quality in any individual and celebrities use them all the time. Remember those touching photographs where celebrities are seen with commoners and typically helping them out in dire situations. These photographs give them huge mileage in terms of self branding. Random acts of kindness gets you highlighted on regular basis and if you are in for a particular cause, then you are the eye candy of society. Brands like Amazon, Disney, and Tata have made a mark on their empathy quotient
Similarly the brands need to be seen with compassion and CSR activities play a very important role here.
Think how you can help users in their lives and get seen as having compassion. Moments of mass crisis are the best time to support people around. Restaurants may provide free working space for a couple of hours, meeting venues on specifics days, hospitals may provide free consultancy to some, free product distribution to needy or even get school students to visit their premises.
Driving the world forward
Brands need to contribute to the betterment of world and take it ahead. After all that is the first role of a leader. A reason why Google and Apple are so highly appreciated is because of their technological contributions and leaderships to our lives. This makes a company’s ideology a part of our life and when general public gets emotionally attached to a brand then taking it way high is very ease. As the whole world is with you to take your company to its dream destination. You cannot afford to be seen simply as a good stock to buy or a product or service to consume.
Nokia ruled the Indian markets with 72% of share but failed to capitalize this into R&D through innovation and technology. Soon the market slipped right from their hands like sand does when held tightly. Consumers switched technologically better sets, even though they were costly. You’ve got to accept the fact that people love technology and anything that is technically back is considered as a dinosaur.
Selling Milk To Survive?
I remember a friend who has lamenting about the herd of cattle he has in his village and how his family takes care of them. During the discussion it so turned out that the friend’s family was not so well off financially which left me a bit confused. Innocently, I suggested that to sell milk and use the money. He smiled and replied that he can’t since he comes from high caste and can not appear to sell milk to make ends meet.
Although, I knew what he meant but it took me many years to understand the implication of maintaining the status in society. When I decided to start my own digital marketing agency in Delhi, I saw businesses having road side canopies and employing fresh graduates for selling. Maybe they were agency people, but the sentiments remain the same. At the same time, they were spending on offline marketing tools like promotions on TV. On TV they talked of all kinds of smooth stuff while they were running after every other guy passing by.
It is the dissonance in approaches that send mix and confusing messages to users and question the brand behavior.
If you are spending heavily in offline marketing and at the same time your sales team is running like crazy then all the money spent on brand communication is wasted. Brands should take charge of all communications including sales to ensure they are well represented everywhere.
There is nothing wrong with reaching out to people in streets and in fact is a mark of humility which many people and brand do not seem to have. It is these conflicting messages that are the problem. As we discussed earlier, the important aspect of a brand is the trust the brand builds in the minds of their customers. If the statements or ideology of your brand is conflicting, then how come will the customers have a trust over this brand? Hence it is very important to be serious while branding a company. The commitment you make should be shown in your actions rather than now in words. In simple words this is the best of brand behavior.
Choose channels which are more suitable for brands of your caliber. Remember the club of Harley owners?
To make an error or mistake is human and to forgive is divine but unfortunately, the same may not be in the case of brands. Brand image is the most fragile substance, you would have heard how a single news will make the shares of a company rise to the peak or fall to the bottom. One small wrong step in brand marketing is definitely going to cost a giant push backwards for the organization. Before jumping to any conclusions, brand managers need to think about their core beliefs and the action plan. These core beliefs and action plan should always correlate with each other, this makes the brand more successful. These should contain all the aspects like the benefits, value, cause, differentiation etc.. They need to address the core issue each consumer asks every time “what is in it for me?” or “how do I benefit from this”? If you have solid answers to this, go ahead and plan your branding activities well with the help of above points.