Is Branding Going Through Another Evolution Or More of the Same?

Branding is always an interesting topic. In many ways, successful branding is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle as it is hard to know just how a consumer sees a particular company.. Paula Lawlor of the Beacon Initiative describes “…branding is what you are.” From your logo to how you are represented in your communications, branding is meant to illustrate who a company is in the world and what sort of person buys from said company.

Coca-Cola is an easy example

It is easy to identify the red and white and particular font used by Coca-Cola. Coke is meant to signify happiness and community. From the recent American ad to the bottles with names printed on them in 32 countries in Europe, Coca Cola has been clear about who they are and why they want the consumer to pick their carbonated beverage over another. They are speaking to lifestyle and values, not thirst.

But is branding really changing or is it more of the same?

A recent New Yorker post by James Surowiecki claims we’re in “The Twilight of the Brands.” He uses Lululemon as an example of how brands are fragile. After the debacle with the see-through yoga pants and the fabric pilling, Lululemon’s brand could no longer be associated with the “lifestyle” they branded. And adding to this public crisis is the access consumers have to information about brands and their products. Surowiecki explains that brand loyalty is largely a relic of a time when information was less accessible. A company can make a fabulous or disastrous product and have it discussed and dissected via social media. This coupled with segmentation and that a company’s reputation is based on the most recent product (not its history) could very well make branding even more ephemeral.

This seems to say that branding has to evolve into a “personality” more than a message

Branding does seem to be more about “who you are” rather than historical performance. Just because Sony made a great television in that past doesn’t mean consumers will trust that its current product is equally as good. Which brings us to Tom Asacker’s question, “Does branding matter?” In his post, Asacker writes, “A brilliant idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to engage them today.” This seems to agree with Surowiecki’s point that brand loyalty is waning, if not dead. It is not the idea that matters, it is the “impassioned dance.” Branding seems to becoming a mutual storytelling between company and consumers. Perception, context and priorities are more than a message. They embody the personality of the company. Whether an organization sells itself as green, innovative, sustainable or some other sexy concept depends on the consumer participating in creating the message. Brand evangelization, word of mouth and social media posts and shares describe companies as “someone” with whom to do business. If branding is really a mutual act between company and consumer, it may be that branding is evolving.

What do you think? Is branding going through another evolution or is it really more of the same? Join us Friday, February 21, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to look at this more closely on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz

How is branding really an expression of the consumer’s desired lifestyle?

What trends or changes do you see in how companies brand themselves?

 How does access to information from other consumers add to a brand’s story?

How is branding more like a company’s personality than a message?

About the author:  Elli St.George Godfrey, founder of Ability Success Growth, executive coach, trainer and international expansion consultant, is the host of KaizenBiz. I’m passionate about business becoming a more human-centered place so I host this chat to connect business ideas and develop people.This passion shows up in my work with my clients. Whether you are expanding locally or internationally, Ability Success Growth guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to unlock the CEO within during times of transition and growth.


Quality of Connections and Content Marketing

If marketing is about about building connections and relationships with the Consumers and Content Marketingconsumer, could we be changing how we define connection and relationship?

Content marketing includes curating information, creating avenues for conversation and user generated content. This week on, there is an interview with Julie Fleischer, Director of Content Management of Kraft Foods in which she explains how Kraft builds connections with consumers. She explained that engagement and traffic are very important but more important is identifying attributable sales growth. Fleischer has a great question for knowing if content marketing fits your organization. She asks, “What is your basis for conversation?”

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience  – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

                                                                                 The Content Marketing Institute

Conversation, not talking at, is what creates connection in the first place

Marketing has traditionally been companies talking at us. “We’re a great company and this is a great product (or service) because…” Now, marketing includes being where your customer is. As Susan Gunelius noted in her post, “That’s because consumers build brands, not companies.” But that may be oversimplifying because the consumers need a starting point.

Healthy connections and relationships are a two-way street

Companies have to produce content that has some kind of meaning for their target audience. And this meaning has to spark some kind of action. For Kraft, having people sharing their recipes using Kraft products encourages good will, enthusiasm for the products and, of course, purchase of the products.

In a recent presentation by Clay Collins, he recommended a system where you engage with your followers to tell you what they want your next product or service to be and then sell it to them before it is even created. Through email, surveys and other channels, his system enables your consumers to get exactly what they want when they purchase from you.

Using social media sites and blogging seem to be the most natural place to have actual conversations with your customers. There is a natural give-and-take there.

Content marketing may speak to a larger sociological trend

If I am responding to the online spokesperson (or spokespersons), it would make sense that I would feel a connection to that person or persons. Much like shopping at a small business on your Main Street, you might share information or a laugh. There is a wine shop I go to occasionally. They always greet me like I’m their favorite customer. When it comes to online interactions, can you give someone that warm fuzzy feeling so they want to do business with you? If you are creating some kind of platform for people to share their experiences and uses of your product and service, are you really creating a community or a group of people with similar interests. Communities have been made up of people who some kind of relationship with one another. Connections repeated over and over create relationships. Multiply that into a network involving companies and consumers and what do you have?

*Please join us this Friday on Twitter at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT on #KaizenBiz to explore this topic further.

How is the relationship between company and consumer changing?

With content marketing, how is community defined?

Do consumers have a relationship with the product, the company or the person they are interacting with? Why?

How could using more content marketing affect our perceptions of authenticity?

If the market is perceived as fragmented, how do companies connect with their specific audience?

How do you see content marketing changing our participation in communities?