There was a time when marketers and advertising executives created and drove brand strategies that easily manipulated consumers and businesses. Think Madmen, the popular television show. Many businesses still think that the millions, or hundreds of millions of dollars they are spending, are having the same direct impact.
Unfortunately, they are mistaken. Yes, they are influencing brand perception, but there are two factors that have shifted ownership of the brand from the company to the marketplace. First, consumers and businesses have become much more sophisticated in how they think about brands. They no longer blindly believe information provided by the vendor. They chose to make decisions about a brand for themselves based on all the information available to them. Secondly, and more importantly, markets are talking. Markets are organizing and sharing information. Therefore, the newly sophisticated customer has far more accurate, credible and timely information than they ever had before. The truth is that the brand belongs to the market, not the company. The market decides what the brand will become based on all the available information. The Internet has rapidly changed this dynamic by making product feedback almost instantaneous. Users share positive and negative reviews on broad social networking forums. The brand exists, lives and breathes in the market itself, not within the company. The best that the company can hope to do is add value to the brand by providing the best quality product/service and then promote (communicate) that value to the market.
A key success factor is to recognize your true brand and align your marketing efforts around it. Companies often fail because they position their products/services as something that they aren’t, and the market doesn’t accept the rhetoric. Don’t fight the market – it doesn’t lie.
A reality is hitting many companies today. Online communities are forcing transparency and honesty like never before. If your branding strategy is to position your company as having the highest quality business travel luggage, but your failure/return rate is higher than industry average, you will fail. Online reviews and chat rooms will expose you faster than you can issue new advertising campaigns or product improvements. If you claim to have the fastest and easiest to configure wireless router, you had better back it up – your customers are talking. Remember, they own the brand – you don’t. However, don’t assume this is bad. If you provide a quality product or service, the online communities will give you the best advertising money can’t buy!
Action Item: Listen to your customers. Listen to the market and determine if your company/product/market strategies align with the market-determined brand. If not, take action.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to the RSS feed.