Branding sure has changed

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Today, branding matters more than ever. But, the nature of branding has changed dramatically in recent years.

In the course of helping my good friend Jim Little create a “Ted” style presentation, we explored the ways that brand has changed over the years we’d been working together. These are the seven most significant ways that branding today has evolved to better drive demand.

1.  It’s about relevance, not just awareness

We know that today people are crazy busy and besieged with messages wherever they turn. To pierce this clutter and get people to notice what we have to say we must speak directly to their needs. If people see our relevance, they’ll be actively aware of our existence. Without relevance, the best we can hope for is passive awareness, which can make us feel good, but won’t generate any meaningful economic value for our firms.

2.  It’s about performance, not just positioning

It’s important for us to engage our targets with a meaningful promise. But, people today have no time for empty promises. We need to deliver exactly what we promise or they will turn to an alternative faster than we can say “good bye.”

3.  It’s about dialogue, not monologue

Gone are the days when we could stand at the top of the mountain and shout at everyone we could afford to reach. Credibility is no longer simply a function of visibility. People today want to interact with our brands the way they would communicate in the course of any relationship. We need to relate to our targets in a meaningful way, interacting and responding to their needs, as the relationship requires.

4.  It’s more about earned media than traditional advertising

Advertising still has its place, but we need to rebuild people’s trust in the medium.  People trust what others say about us more than what we have to say. We need to be able to tap all of the new media sources available to give people the opportunity and the venue to open a dialogue with and about our brand.  This will build their confidence in their learning and help them to make better decisions about forming a relationship with our brand.

5.  It’s about retention, not just acquisition

It’s very important that we not only win business, but that we win our customer’s love and keep it.  They’ll be loyal to us and will share their good feelings with those that they influence. We’ll grow our business and our brand on the basis of the security of these relationships and the new demand they help to generate.

6.  It’s about advocacy, not just intention to purchase

This means there’s a big change in what we need to measure to ensure we’re being successful.  When I started, the magic number was intent to purchase.  Today, that’s just the beginning.  Now, the most important variable is the degree to which people are willing to be an advocate for our brand to others.

7.  It’s about informing and teaching, not selling

The most profound shift I’ve seen over the years is in how we communicate.  People today are actively involved in decision making about brands.  They seek the information they need to make better decisions and are turned off by “selling.”  The brands that recognize this fundamental shift are going to be way more successful than those who don’t.  In the sell, inform, solve continuum, inform is now the most important function.  If we inform well, our clients will sell and solve for themselves.

So there you have it.  As you can see branding has changed quite dramatically, but for the better.  A brand today is all about the relationship.  Managing a brand today comes down to understanding the fundamental rules around how people want you to behave within that relationship.  Following these rules enables us to build strong, rich relationships that build mutual value and the spur the growth needed for our businesses to thrive.

Who knew that I would have been better off with a degree in psychology than marketing.