Brand 3.0: Feed your users.

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.

 

Marketers Action Plan …take some.

Marketers Action Plan …take some.

This morning, I met Stuart Pocock, managing partner of The Observatory, a global agency search and selection organisation. Stuart has a great insight on global trends facing Marketers and their agencies as we turn and face 2012. The Observatory believe that while clients who engage them have made a decision to change an agency roster, the solution maybe to fix a relationship (on both sides), before undergoing a selection process. Deciding on what is the best option clearly depends on each situation, but there are common issues that can help clarify why a decision needs to be taken.

Overall, many senior marketers are feeling increasingly constrained by being time starved and resource stretched. Their budgets are being reduced yet expected returns on these investments are increasing. Their own teams are being reduced while their agency rosters have increased. Senior marketers have to prioritise where they focus their time with a main agency(s) and often have to delegate others to look after other disciplines, sometimes not changing that focus as one discipline’s importance for the brand increases.

Bigger clients have extended their agency partners to handle new disciplines or countries. Each agency has a team made up of talent and account people, juniors and seniors. Their team’s make up are often procured on an FTE basis (full time equivalent people with % of timesheets being allocated to an account and costed) rather than on people basis (to create the best outcome, quickly). Too many junior people without the experience to cut through instinctively and create solutions. Too many assistant brand managers with the power to say no, rather than, yes.

The broad team structures mean that the processes are inefficient and slow. Too much duplication and checking in rather than creating and doing together. Making things truly integrated is hard when there is a distinct lack of collaboration as too many people have conflicting goals & KPI’s to be judged against.

There are too many silos affecting brands – inside a company and outside with the agency rosters. Silo’s who become disconnected to the customer journey they are meant to be supporting. Making that journey inconsistent and focused on a company rather than a customer.

Stuart’s summary answer to my original question about what’s keeping Marketer’s awake is telling…”Everything!”

Fixing everything takes too long. Worrying about everything causes inertia. Worrying about what to do in the unknown face of another recession will add to the fear. As Dale Carnegie suggested, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Taking action is vital. But what? We suggested some a couple of weeks ago on Double Dip Marketing.

What will help is to create a few, small, incisive actions – with an immediate next step and a way of capturing, and then sharing, that learning. Actions that that can stimulate a brand with the customers. Actions that can change the way you do things inside your influence sphere. Create a small, senior team from your agency and team – and deal only with them. Recreate your brand story to ensure all touch points inside and outside your organisations are on song together. That way means collaboration, which is the best way to integrate. And the best way to create.  And use both of these actions to innovate at warp speed.

As Marketers face up to 2012, there are many things, fuelled by media headlines, that are causing fear and inertia. But there are still unlimited opportunities out there for brands to take action and start a momentum that will help them grow and gain significantly as markets turn again, which they will.