In the age of the customer, brand building is more important than ever to differentiate offerings and create long-term customer value. Consider this: 45 percent of U.S. online consumers who
frequently recommend brands to others say that it is very important that a brand surprises them with the way it interacts with customers -- compared with just 22 percent of all U.S. online adults. Add
to that the notion that 42 percent of U.S. online adults are Always Addressable -- owning and using at least three connected devices and going online multiple times per day from multiple physical
locations -- and it becomes clear that brands must form an emotional connection with digitally empowered customers.
Companies need to shift their mindset from thinking of brand building
as an expense to viewing brands as an asset that creates business leverage. Why? Because strong brands are key enablers in opening the door to new categories, new markets, and new distribution
channels. But building a twenty-first century brand takes more than a media budget. To attain all of these benefits and build the business case to their C-level peers, marketing leaders must account
for four categories of investment that:
- Uncover unique customer insights. Today, brands must be customer obsessed to win the hearts and minds of consumers. Investment
in customer insights will reap rewards of relevance and consideration. But you must not only find out what your customers think about your products – but what they care about. For example, the
idea behind Procter & Gamble’s support for youth sports organizations as part of its Olympic "Thank You, Mom" campaign came from moms themselves. According to CMO Mark Pritchard, the company
asked moms around the world what it could do to "honor them for all that they do for their kids." The answer? Support local youth sports organizations.
- Clearly define the brand North
Star. A clear brand North Star will rally the resources of the entire organization around achieving one common goal. In fact, 100 percent of marketers recently surveyed by my company agree
that brand building is a companywide effort that requires employees in all departments to be brand ambassadors. But only one in 10 marketers surveyed qualify as true brand-building leaders -- having a
highly developed brand-building organization and process in place. A brand North Star should be inspiring, distinctive, strategic, and concise.
- Create an integrated brand
experience. Today’s fragmented media landscape requires a unified communications strategy to break through competitive clutter and grab the attention of the consumer. To be effective,
marketers must expand their investment horizons beyond media and promotions, and invest in all touchpoints with the goal of delivering a consistent brand experience. For example, household cleaning
manufacturer Method built a differentiated brand in a highly competitive category without the big budgets of its competitors. How? It integrated smart design and environmental values across all
touchpoints with beautifully designed, sweet-smelling, and environmentally friendly products.
- Proactively monitor brand health and market dynamics. To know whether your
brand-building efforts are working and to identify potential business downswings, marketers must invest in predictive brand health monitoring. Go beyond the annual backward-looking brand trackers, and
instead connect changes in brand performance to business results like top-line revenue growth. In an effort to create this link, IBM measured how brand strength enhances selling favorability: Are
prospects that have been exposed to the Smarter Planet campaign more likely to take a call from IBM than those who have not?
Successful brand marketers inspire their organization to
reach for the North Star and are prepared to invest in brand building that will see their vision realized in the marketplace. But remember to ground that brand vision in business outcomes in order to
align with the mindset of C-level peers -- as strong brands increase marketing effectiveness across the customer life cycle, drive loyalty, and open up new growth opportunities.