Managing Demand: Branding is Necessary, But Not Sufficient
March 3, 2014
During my long career at Interbrand, my colleagues and competitors operated under the misconception that branding was the center of the universe. All we needed was to build a strong brand for a client and their business would grow dramatically. Unfortunately, reality proved us wrong.
I spent the last two months working intensely with four great companies to catalyze growth and in not one of the cases were we focusing on making the brand stronger. We’d done that already, quite successfully in each case. Instead, we were focusing on building plans and programs to build stronger engagement with, and more effective fulfillment of, the core brand promises we put in place earlier.
Since we launched Catalyst three short years ago, it is compellingly clear that branding is necessary but insufficient in and of itself for managing demand. Instead, we must simultaneously master three integrated challenges – branding, engaging and fulfilling.
Branding: Establishing the Foundation
Effective branding establishes the foundational promise. We provide a solid platform for growth by articulating “who” the brand is, “what” it does and “why” it does it. This process matches the brand’s distinctive skills with the needs of its target audiences to articulate a promise that is relevant, credible and distinct. We use all of our finely honed skills to define the brand’s personality and reflect it through a unique communication style using both verbal and visual cues, managed consistently across the wide array of touch points the brand uses to communicate with its targets.
Engagement: Managing to Purchase
Engagement is the process of managing the customer’s journey from the initial need or desire that triggers the demand, through the search and evaluation process to the point where the purchase decision is made. Here, success is predicated on understanding the steps of the journey, the key milestones in the process and the touch points consulted to make decisions along the way.
This process has transformed dramatically with the rise of the internet and social media. Gone are the days when a brand could assume success by shouting through advertising and then selling hard with face-to-face interaction. Today b2b and b2c customers move through a thoughtful process of learning, evaluating and deciding that is best fueled by well placed information and well-timed problem solving.
Opinions of key influencers, from friends to experts; company owned, influencer sponsored or retailer provided web sites; social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +, Pintrest, Tumblr, Instagram and Yelp; PR; and events are all critical touch points that need to be evaluated and used effectively to engage and guide targets through the process of making the decisions important to your brand.
This fresh understanding of the engagement challenge has influenced the creation of a new discipline – inbound marketing, elevated the importance of strong informational content and given rise to wide array of marketing tools and skills, including marketing automation and lead management, search engine optimization, and influencer relations. Used well, these tools provide us with the skills to better manage the engagement process and the insight to understand quickly what is working and what is not working in the mix. We can now optimize for effectiveness and make the brand work harder than ever before to build rich and rewarding relationships.
Fulfillment: Securing the Relationship
Branders and marketers are only now appreciating the need to closely manage the process of fulfilling the promise once the target is actually engaged. Delivery is more important than ever today because targets are constantly testing and revisiting their purchase decisions as they bring the new product or service into their lives.
Fulfillment involves understanding and managing the process that customers move through once they’ve made the decision to purchase, from initial integration, installation and testing through ongoing usage and the decision to commit to the product, service and brand. Again, rich informational content and effective problem solving drive success in this process.
The key touch points are very similar to those used in the engagement process, but they are used differently once the purchase decision is made. Here the emphasis is on enablement as customers seek ways to get more out of what they’ve purchased by themselves. It is also important to establish a safety net with opportunities for interaction should the challenge be more difficult than individuals are capable of managing on their own.
Effective enablement and support helps to validate the purchase decision and in the process helps to forge a more fulfilling relationship with the customer. Fulfilled customers buy more from a brand. They also tell others how fulfilled they are, which in turn influences engagement with new targets and helps make the brand stronger. It’s a self-renewing cycle.
The beauty lies in the fact that all through the process we can gather feedback, learn and refine to ensure that we’re making it better and better all along – improving the value of brand, engagement and fulfillment as integrated demand management tools.
With these three important tools, we can manage and grow demand. Handled separately, these tools are only limited in their ability to assure the desired result, but managed together as an integrated whole we can assure that we’re doing what’s necessary to spur growth.
There’s no question that to be effective, you need to start with a strong brand, but that’s not enough for managing demand. Don’t let any consultant advise you that it is. Work on all three together and you’ll make the impact you desire.
Demand driving brands are built from the inside out
November 25, 2012
I’m just flying back from a 10-day trip to the UK and Portugal where I was working with a very special client helping them to engage their organization to drive demand across their markets. During this second annual planning session, we worked through the process of reassessing, validating and refining strategy, reviewed progress against key initiatives and forged plans for the coming year.
Once again, I have come away totally reinvigorated by what can happen when an organization is engaged and focused on achieving something special. The power of building and sustaining this united force is inspiring and reminds me on this long flight home exactly why I’ve been doing this work for 30 years.
Over the years, I’ve had the chance to work on some very important initiatives. In each case, I’ve been part of a team that built a solid strategy, an engaging communications system and a powerful action plan. Some of this work has been amongst the best I’ve produced over the span of my career. Yet in spite of the quality of our work, a few of these programs never achieved the results we believed they were capable of producing.
It drove me crazy then as to why. In retrospect, it is clear to me now that the difference between great success and modest results comes down to a single common denominator. The most successful demand driving programs resulted when the organization united behind a powerful strategic idea and worked through thin and thick to deliver that value to their marketplace.
There’s no question that success requires a solid demand driving strategy – one that uncovers opportunities to be relevant and distinctive in a marketplace offering significant potential for growth. But the difference lies in the ability to inspire the organization to do all it takes to seize that opportunity.
It’s much more than getting people to nod their heads in intellectual agreement. You obviously must be sure that the opportunity marries well with the organization’s capabilities and that the leadership team believes that the organization can truly deliver what will be required to achieve success. This assures you of at least modest success.
The difference lies in getting the organization excited by the opportunity and inspired by the chance to do something quite special. We’ve all seen the power of a team that believes it is destined to achieve something special. Whether it be sports, politics or business, the team that rallies around a distinct purpose achieves superior results.
The magic challenge then is to find that allusive ingredient that will be the catalyst for such inspired performance.
In my work, this ingredient often comes down to a focus on what the team does that makes them the most proud of their role in the organization and the value they deliver to their world.
My friend Gordon Johnson introduced me to a process that has been foolproof in uncovering such a basis for building inspiring strategies. This process is elegant both in its simplicity and its ability to get people to focus on what they’re doing when they’re at their very best.
Within this framework, we forge team engagement by getting members to think through and discuss three simple questions:
- On your very best day serving your customer, client, consumer or colleague, what were you doing that made you the most proud of the value you were delivering?
- What do you need to do more of to ensure you can realize that feeling more often?
- What do you need to do less of that keeps you from doing what makes you the proudest?
This is exactly the process we used in our sessions over the past several days in the UK and Portugal.
The content that grows out of these discussions provides the foundation for building internal communications and customer experience programs that drive inspired performance. It unleashes people to think about what could be and it builds consensus around an inspiring sense of purpose. I’m amazed at the level of engagement that results from this process.
As always, we’ll keep testing and honing this approach to achieve our desired results. As we move thorough this journey, I may come across something even better. But, for now, this process will be core to every demand driving strategy my clients and I build together.