Brand management still has its challenges, especially in the digital age. How can marketers perform better? We invited one of our Oxford College of Marketing’s trainers, Paul Hitchens, specialized in brand management to share its knowledge and expertise with the Romanian professionals.
Paul is the author of two bestselling ‘Teach Yourself’ guide books on branding: ‘Brand Management – In a Week’ and ‘Create the Perfect Brand’ (published by Hodder & Stoughton). He is Creative Director of Verve Brand Consultancy (www.verve.co.uk) with over 30 years’ experience in the Creative Industries. Paul has worked in Advertising, Branding, Design and Marketing and helps organisations of all types and sizes to realise their brand’s potential through Strategic Consultancy, Creative Services, Seminars and Training Workshops. He is a Chartered Marketer and Course Director for the CIM and frequently provides industry comment for television, radio, national and trade press. Paul has appeared on BBC, ITV and Channel 5 News. At Institutul de Marketing in Romania, Paul delivered customized brand trainings in Romania for some big FMCG companies in the region.
What are the main problems and opportunities for brands and brand management over the next years?
The main problem for brands in 2017 is the wide scale loss of trust. The results of the Edelman Trust Report 2017 make it clear that trust in organisations is in a state of crisis and this issue is global. The four areas of business, government, media and Non-Government Organisations have seen a drop in public confidence since 2012. This collapse of trust combined with an economic slowdown and a perception of falling standards creates a cautious climate. We are living through an age of disruption where doing things differently and breaking away from conventional thinking delivers the strongest results. The world of Politics has provided some big surprises to those that were looking in a different direction. To regain confidence in society, brands must place values and ethos above value and profit. As the MD of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said “We need investors and financial leaders taking values as seriously as valuation, and culture as seriously as capital.”
The main problem for brands in 2017 is the wide scale loss of trust.
What can Brand Managers do?
Senior Management, Marketing and HR must work together to define their brand’s Key Brand Criteria and implement a comprehensive strategy that engages all stakeholders:
- Purpose: Find your true purpose and attract willing advocates happy to help build the brand with you. A strong sense of purpose attracts employees, suppliers and customers and helps brands outperform those who don’t.
- Vision: Champion an engaging idea of the brand’s future that can be understood and shared by every stakeholder. Can your employees and customers visualise their part in this future? Do they feel motivated to realise this dream?
- Values: Be clear what the core values of the brand are. Values provide an ethical navigation system that equips employees with a set of behaviours that earn trust from all stakeholders.
- Mission: It’s essential to have a manifesto that is shared by the management team. Your brand can be based on a firm charter to remind its stakeholders that they are united by an ideology that will be measured by their behaviour.
- Proposition: Be very clear what your brand offers that can’t be gained from your competitors. You may be operating in a crowded sector or category but you can differentiate a brand by attitude and ethos.
- Positioning: A strong brand should ideally be the first product, service or organisation people think of when making a choice. You may be the first choice for a variety of reasons: price, quality, happiness or security.
- Personality: A brand’s personality is derived from its sense of purpose, vision and values. These qualities drive the brand’s behaviour and are expressed through its culture and performance.
- Audience: Connect with your audience through a shared ethos and build a community built on mutual trust and respect. Deeper bonds of loyalty are earned when a brand understands and interacts honestly with its audience.
Brands must embrace the power of sincere emotional connection.
What are smart brands doing well to cope with today's challenges?Could you give us some examples?
To prosper and grow in a challenging business climate, smart Brand’s must reach out and engage all stake holders by appealing to their hearts and their minds. Brands must embrace the power of sincere emotional connection.
What can Brand Managers do?
- Ambassadors: Brand Managers must aim to be exemplary Ambassadors for their brands and practice their values. Success is achieved by guiding and nurturing a positive ideal and not by aggressive policing and enforcement.
- Collaborators: Social media channels make it easier than ever before for brands to collaborate with their stakeholders and grow together. Brands from different sectors can work together under a shared ethos.
- Innovators: Brand’s that do not innovate will stagnant and compromise their future. Successful Brand Managers must embrace new ideas that align with their values and not be afraid of change.
- Emotional intelligence: Brand Managers must be aware of the brand’s impact on the world and its effect on its market environment. The ability to sense the mood of its key stakeholder relationships with empathy and confidence is essential.
- Communicator: A consistent tone of voice and articulation of the brand narrative, are essential online and across all social media just as they are in the physical world of packaging and print. If the narrative varies from medium to medium, the audience will sense discord.
- Curator: The modern Brand Manager is a curator of brand meaning across all brand touchpoints. Every expression of the brand is an opportunity to bring its nature to life whatever the circumstance.
- Futurologist: Your brand needs to be where your audience expects it to be. Don’t leave technology to the youngest member of the team or ignore new developments. You won’t need a crystal ball, but a keen interest in new technology and an open mind as to what may be possible can pay dividends.
Which are the most common pitfalls that brands are trapped into, especially with the new digital environment?
Digital technology is a powerful tactical asset for any Brand Manager but it is not a replacement for a strong brand strategy. Brand Managers need to think about how they use data and recognise what they are looking for to gauge the effectiveness of the brand strategy. There is an obsession with measuring everything but too often we forget to feel. A strong set of brand values provide clear direction on what to measure to appraise a brands health.
A strong set of brand values provide clear direction on what to measure to appraise a brands health.
What can Brand Managers do?
- Tribes: Socially connected brands engage with their stakeholders through events and online activities to provide a platform for shared experience and advocacy. Embrace your Brand Tribes and strengthen the emotional ties with those groups of like-minded people.
- Storytelling: Leading brands have a strategic narrative that enables engaging stories, myths and legends to be built around the brand and its sense of purpose. Stories are exchanged by brand advocates and admiration for the brand grows organically.
- Employer Branding: An effective Employer Brand attracts and retains the type of people it needs and wants. Brand Managers and HR Managers must collaborate and work together to realise the potential to create a corporate culture where everyone is a brand ambassador.
- Disruption: Where markets have become stale or filled with similar brands, there is an opportunity to turn the space on its head and offer a difference. Brand Managers must commit to innovation if their brand is to continue growing and deliver on its customer promise.
- Convergence: The lines between management disciplines and corporate departments are blurring. Effective Brand Managers must work across these silos and bridge the divide with a holistic approach to managing their brand. Customers are now advocating and recommending brands online, consumer to consumer.
- Authenticity: Brands often fail because they over promise or pretend to be something they are not. Authenticity in thought, word and deed is essential or the truth will out. Provenance is part of the brand narrative and can provide inspiration for storytelling and insights to share the experience and ideology of the brand.