Smart branding starts with an investment in employees.
Today service plays an important role in every category, making investment in talent critical. Research has demonstrated a direct correlation between employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity. Satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers, which in turn drives loyalty, enhancing both profits and margins. So how does one start the chain of events to generate a satisfied employee? Like most things in business and life, it all begins with communication and an ability to interact with depth and dimension. It is incumbent upon successful brands to communicate with their employees frequently; to provide clarity of purpose and communicate a shared set of values. Many organizations do not pay enough attention to the importance of beginning the brand dialogue with employees before they communicate with people outside of the organization. It is essential that employees not be the last to hear of your plans.
Engage an insider at the top.
The reality of most organizations today is that there is constant movement of personnel, which inevitably results in shifting brand strategy. As brand managers rotate responsibilities to gain greater breadth of experience, they are encouraged to leave their mark, often creating conflict with what could be a wise decision—to stay the course. Consultants come and go, leaving no one with the vision to convert strategy into execution. Wall Street’s pressure for short-term profits makes brand investments seem far more discretionary than they should be.
Despite these troubling paradigms and trends, a handful of great brands rise to the top. In most cases, you’ll find a visionary leader consistently engaged in steering that brand.
Take Phil Knight’s vision of delivering superior product to achieve athletic excellence. The swoosh is indelibly burned into the psyche of the world’s consumer. Nike remains untouchable, expanding into new categories and geographies with a unique and relevant brand delivery.
At Apple, Steve Jobs’ return to the company he founded led to a dramatic turnaround inspired by his passion for the brand and its intuitively designed products for people who care about creativity. The consistency of the Apple brand at every point of contact—from its stores, to the iPod, to its packaging, is reflective of a focused vision emanating from the top.
At Starbuck’s, Howard Shultz has a single minded focus on coffee and the entire coffee experience at Starbucks. This includes the taste and smell of great java; how it feels to have a Starbuck’s moment; what it looks like (in the store or at home); and what the sounds of the brand are. Importantly it begins with how each barista interacts with the customer with knowledge and respect.
Three great leaders with their priorities straight—focusing on the brand and the customer relationship first—delivering sales growth of 10%-24% over the last five years.
Effective branding is more than skin deep.
These brands are also examples of how to be successful in today’s experience economy.
“What people really desire are not products, but satisfying experiences… People want products because they want the experience which they hope the products will render.”
--Design Management Journal
In a time where it’s more difficult than ever to deliver true differentiation, the brand experience becomes perhaps the only unfair advantage a marketer has. It begins with your brand identity. Is it clear and meaningful? Is it more than a logo? Does it begin to tell your story? Does it intrigue your customer and provide and emotional connection point? Does it influence a broader brand language of words, colors, pictures, textures and service cues? Does your packaging serve as more than a safe means for distribution? Is your advertising interesting and meaningful enough to survive the Tivo generation?
Strong Brands Stimulate The Senses.
Designing a successful brand today requires new methodologies. It’s not good enough to have a big media budget and a clever advertising campaign. Because while studies indicate that 83% of retained information is received visually, smell is the most persuasive of the senses. In the case of clothing however, less than 20% of people believe look is more important than feel.
So what’s a marketer to do? It’s time to reach beyond traditional forms of brand building via marketing communications. It’s time to consider the brand experience in the multi-sensory world; carefully considering taste, touch, smell, sight and sound (notice the two that are now at the end of the list).
The opportunity today is the same as it has always been—to stimulate people. But we must do it in new ways, ways that not only strive to enhance people’s perception of a product, but their desire to interact with it and bond with it. It’s still about striving for loyalty, but the path to establish it is a new one.
A recent study by McKinsey highlights some dramatic trends that reinforce the need for a new playbook. Today’s marketers are witnessing a 23% decline in ads viewed due to “switching off.” A 9% loss of attention due to consumer multi-tasking. And a 37% decrease in message impact due to saturation. Behaviors of next generation consumers suggest even more radical shifts in media consumption.
In today’s marketplace, your brand is about so much more than a logo or ad campaign. It goes beyond the right merchandising or point of sale plans. Your best chance to create branding that impacts the bottom line means engaging the right partners—inside and out; designing the right strategic plan, and delivering great execution; and considering the careful design of the full brand experience. Those are the things that deliver brand integrity. And when you achieve band integrity, you will achieve an exponential return on investment.
The visual graphic displayed for this article is used with permission from Jack R. Slentz,
artist. To see more of his work, click the link above to connect to his personal website.