In the past the term “branding” was meant to encompass how a company portrayed its image. It covered things like logo and other visual imaging, as well as how they marketed themselves with slogans, jingles and the like.
How the public perceived your company depended largely on how it was portrayed in whatever media you used for advertising. You controlled that message and sent it out to the masses-and hoped the messaging would stick. A company’s biggest hope in the old days of advertising was to develop a catchy, benefit-rich slogan that caught on and became synonymous with your name. Coke’s “It’s the Real Thing,” and Sprite’s “Un-Cola” messaging are good examples.
But the digital age has changed everything. The whole idea of “brand” has shifted because you don’t control the message anymore. It’s no longer enough to throw a term out there and expect your prospects to blindly associate you with that term. Don’t get me wrong. Imagery is still important, but your company’s reputation is even more important because the consumer now controls the conversation around that reputation.
Your customers now associate their product or service experience with your brand-the two are inextricably linked. Today’s hyper-connectivity means that how you conduct yourself is much more important than images and messaging. So what you say publicly about your company and how you interact with your customers had better be in sync, or your “brand” is toast. I’m sure you can think of more than one brand whose reputation was left in tatters because word spread that they under-served, ignored or mistreated their customers.
All the pretty colors, nifty slogans and Super Bowl commercials don’t mean a thing if the experience you give your customers (from introduction to post-purchase satisfaction) is lousy. That means you have to shift your target to developing and improving relationships-not just messaging. Start thinking more in terms of human interaction. How can you improve it? Where can you find more opportunities to make it happen? Like my friend and brand marketer Bryan Kramer has demonstrated, it is no longer B2B or B2C, but H2H… Human to Human.
Brands who “get” this go the extra mile to make themselves available on social channels-not just to be seen there, but to interact there. Your reputation is largely in the hands of the consumer today, and the best way to grow your interaction opportunities is via social channels. Those companies that actively seek ways to give better service, ask more questions, and look for opportunities to make the customer experience exceptional, reap the rewards of improved brand perception.
So whether you’re developing a digital marketing plan or training sales representatives, don’t concentrate so much on your “Brand.” Concentrate on the two “R” words on which your brand perception is based: Relationship and Reputation. Remember that what you say about you doesn’t matter half as much as what others say about you. Make great relationships your top priority, and your reputation will build your brand.