Why Branding is Critical in Today’s Economy
Why Branding is Critical in Today’s Economy
By Lida Citroën, for Edwardsturm.com
I admit it: I was that mother who told my children, “It doesn’t matter what other people think about you… it just matters what you think about yourself,” and I was half right. What you feel in your heart is important, but equally important is what other people think about you, your company, and your brand.
In today’s economy, news, information, and perception travel faster than the speed of light. One ill-timed joke, post, comment, or snicker is suddenly shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and your boss’s inbox. More than ever before, what other people think and feel about you matter.
A Brand is a Promise
A brand, by definition, is an expectation of an experience. Brands make us believe in a promise that we will feel something when we buy or encounter that brand. For example, the BMW brand makes us feel that by buying BMW, we will feel sexy, powerful, successful, and attractive. By shopping at Wal-Mart, we will be treated with respect because the prices will be fair. By working with Jane Smith, we will feel inspired and empowered. And so on. Brands are the feeling part of marketing.
Each one of these logos is capable of triggering a deep emotional experience for somebody.
Brands are critical because they create an emotional connection with a target audience. Without that connection, consumers would make decisions based only on cost, functionality, and features. Brands overcome this by creating emotional ties. “Can’t afford a BMW but want to impress your girlfriend…. Let’s figure it out (through creative financing…).” “Aspire to be a leader? Our product will get you there (well, not literally).”
Brands are promises – either authentic or not. Brands that are not genuine are short lived in today’s economy. The social online community is quick to call out imposters, as seen time and again.
Difference Between Personal and Business Branding
Today, we know that having a company or product brand is not enough. The awareness that individuals can build their own “personal brand” created a major shift in the way we now treat our careers and define leadership.
We now know that a company is defined by its leader and who that person is, what they believe in, and how they behave around others – in person and online.
We know that, from the front desk receptionist to the sales person to the television spokesperson, an individual’s personal brand reflects the promise and the value of the entire company. When these brands are consistent, market share and scale are achieved. When there is a disconnect, the promise collapses.
Imagine if a fast-food company founded on Christian principles, for example, hired a cashier who was a known racist. Let’s say this cashier posted online about his views, drove to work in a car splattered with stickers of his opinions, and made offensive comments under his breath when serving customers. Could this one person’s values cause damage to the fast food company’s brand? Of course. Consumers would begin to question the company’s values, beliefs and practices if they condoned this cashier’s behavior simply by not stopping it.
The Impact of Social Media
Social media affords us the opportunity to market brands, offers, and relationships to a global audience. Creating a relationship with our audiences online is a pivot for many businesses that couldn’t afford that kind of market reach in the past. Previously, to reach a global audience required multi-million dollar advertising and promotions budgets. Today, it can start with a Facebook business page!
Building trust with audiences online is another pivot of the brand experience. Promoting your brand to be known by consumers around the world is great, but engaging those audiences with your brand’s values and enticing those audiences to trust and refer your brand take careful planning and authenticity.
Peer-to-peer information sharing has created an intense paradigm for companies promoting brands and trust with consumers. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer highlights this: “The most credible source of information on social networking sites is ‘my friends and family,’ a source considered much more believable than CEOs and government officials.”
The Cost of a Negative Brand Online
In the past, if a brand went sour, news was shared in small circles. For instance, if a restaurant’s service plummeted, neighbors would share that bad review over the fence. Today, that same restaurant experience might lead the diner to post negative reviews on Yelp, share details of the bad service on Facebook, and post about it on Twitter. Maybe that same diner even took photos of the lackluster meal or dirty dining room, posting them to Instagram and SnapChat. Worse maybe, that diner took video of the server slinging their plates to the table in a careless fashion. Now that’s on YouTube.
The neighbor over the fence who heard the poor review might have told a few friends. But the online communities can tell millions. The restaurant’s trust and reputation with consumers can be torpedoed by that patron’s experience.
For businesses and individuals doing work in the digital space (and that’s pretty much everyone), disregarding the online perception of your brand can be costly if not fatal.
Today’s marketer knows that the brand is the hub around which all the spokes revolve. Public relations, networking, social media, image, and logos all orbit around the same promise of a unique, compelling, and relevant experience which customers today demand be authentic and tangible. Is the bar set too high for companies? Not at all – today’s brands are real, viable, and scalable in ways we’ve never seen before. The opportunities are amazing!
A very engaging 2013 Google “Think” event talk about the future of branding. A must-watch for anybody interested in the field.
Do you have anything to add? Any questions that I can answer? Let me know in comments, I would love to hear from you.