Ok, those are some pretty harsh words, I know, but hear me out. There is a widespread misunderstanding amongst many marketers, as they seem to believe that people walk around thinking about brands (and their brand specifically).
That “top of mind” means that human beings actually go around thinking about specific product categories and brands even when they are not shopping for that category. For almost every brand on the planet, that’s absolute nonsense. Of course, as they go into a consideration phase or a purchase phase, brands help them choose. And in FMCG there may even be a craving phase, where people want a specific product and brand. But all in all, you are lucky (or a very big brand in a high involvement category) if anyone thinks about you outside the purchasing cycle or a usage situation. And I’m here to tell you that that’s ok.
Branding is a game of time extension. The better job you’ve done over time to build your brand, the longer people remember, the higher degree of first purchase and repurchase you will see, and the better chance of your customers recommending your brand to others. In the olden days, you had to be on TV to build that brand, and you would either choose a strategy of frequency in media or of making an impact through creativity. Today, TV is still important, but we have a slate of other channels that create a stronger path to purchase and a more engaged consumer at the point of experience. This means that our opportunity to “extend time”, is broader and more flexible than ever before.
Branding isn’t only about names, logos, fonts and advertising. As Jeff Bezos of Amazon once said, “Ultimately, a brand is the things people say about you when you’re not there.” So, a brand is everything people remember that you do and say, and everything people say and feel about your company and your products. If your customer service sucks, well, then your brand sucks. If your advertising sucks, ditto. To build a strong brand, you need to align everything in your business and project a personality that people can believe in and like. Many brand marketers spend all their efforts on likeability, which is great, but very little on authenticity, which is a shame. Striking the right balance here can mean the difference in long term success, and being a fad.
If we stop assuming that people think about our brand all the time, and start rethinking the way we connect and reconnect with our customers, through engagement, we can actually build a more and more indestructible brand. And even when we make mistakes (in customer service, marketing or even corporate affairs), people will forgive the brands they like and are quick to shame those who aren’t being authentic.
The only way to do this, is to start thinking holistically and putting customer engagement first. Customer engagement becomes the ROI we all are looking for. If you can create brand engagement, ROI will follow. It’s that simple, and that complicated.
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder & CEO of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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