Brand 3.0: Feed your users.
Digital marketers and social media champions are taking brand thinking on at a pace that threatens to leave traditional brand thinkers behind. As brand thinking develop new tools and descriptors for the Brand 3.0 version, one shift that intrigues me is in how as brand “ownership” has shifted from inside an organisation to those outside.
In a few short years, how organisations think of their customers in brand terms has changed (& is still doing so). Since Mad Men’s glory days, they were treated as “viewers” where messages were delivered from the company via TV, radio, print media – and in broadcast thinking, brand was measured mostly in Awareness measures. Agencies were full service and could do everything in house to keep those messages flowing and tell the brand story.
Some of the biggest broadcast brands were consumer products and the thinking evolved into speaking to the “consumer” and the marketing communications industry added more means & more skills to deliver more messages to help consumption. Militaristic language of campaigns, positioning, defending vs. the competition were boosted by short term tactical efforts (such as shopper marketing, coupons) to balance the strategic efforts (long term advertising ideas and corporate identity driven guidelines) to keep a brand at number 1. Brand ideas were based on great consumer insights. Emotional brand stories were still important. Specialist agencies grew and media separated from creative houses. Budgets began to become fragmented. Sales began to be measured in a direct relationship to the activity undertaken and ROI measures hatched.
This product led brand thinking didn’t work that well for service companies and with an increasing focus on understanding the customer journey, the brand focus moved onto “customers” and how they experienced the brand throughout the journey and how & when they learn about the value/benefits of the service. The ROI measurements of different touch points became important indicators in balancing the marketing mix and an integrated approach to the customer was demanded. Brand had to work inside the organisation with their people/staff (as well as with the customer) and involved more than simple internal communications to become brand behaviours. These complexities needed a holistic approach from both inside an organisation and outside with their agencies. Marketing teams grew along with the many discipline specialists. ROI thinking and detailed analytics helped measure impact of the brands efforts and most importantly, the customer became part of the process – not simply via insight and understanding, but bands began a rudimentary dialogue with the customer. Customer care efforts grew and were rewarded with customer loyalty when it was recognised consistently. This customer thinking seeped into consumer thinking as the Nineties became the Noughties.
The latest thinking today recognises the power of today’s digital landscape. People now don’t spend time waiting for advertising to inform them of new offers or new services. They learn about these things online in real time – actually on the products and services that have become the world’s biggest brands – Google, Apple, Microsoft. They are “users” of brands, products and services. People are individuals rather than audiences. They have peer groups and friends that are communities. These users have the ultimate power of “use” – to use more or less. To stop using. To recommend the usage to others in their communities. Use is about experiencing that usage. The brands that understand this best are the real brand winners – this user thinking is faster, focussed, looser, innovative, frequent, rewarding, value not price, individual, action orientated. It’s about utility not about ideas or campaigns. And brand utility as judged by the user. To deliver these actions, brands need small, creative teams, focussed on that project or action & who are happy to start small in a “do-learn-do” methodology in order to test and capture success before rolling it out or starting again. This way of collaborative team thinking exists in Silicon Valley, in Bangalore, in Shoreditch but it’s not always apparent in brand thinking.
Brand 3.0 thinkers need to ensure this jump is quickly made and feed their users.