Why would a dyed-in-the-wool direct response guy be going out on a limb to take a point of view on branding? Especially when I’ll freely state that building brands is not our direct marketing agency’s primary purview?
Having a client with the properly positioned brand is critical to the success of your direct marketing activity. Plus direct can be an important player in broadening your product’s brand experience (see the “Action Brand” tab at www.dmwdirect.com). So what’s with this idea of direct marketing broadening your brand reputation? I had the opportunity to speak about this topic at the winter meeting of the Professional Insurance Marketing Association (PIMA).
A few basic questions, to get us started.
What’s in a brand? Is it simply a logo or a tagline? Or is it much more that? Most Product Managers would agree a brand is really the essence of your company and/or the products you sell. Sometimes what people think of your brand is exactly what you want them to think – sometimes not. So all companies need to be keenly aware of the consumer’s perception of their brand, and what it stands for.
My good friend Neil Feinstein, top strategist at Boombox and Adjunct Professor at NYU says that “brand is the emotional relationship between a product or service and the consumer … brand preference is driven by the heart.” The book Groundswell says “Your brand is what consumers say it is.” So some of what happens to your brand may be out of your control. But for the part of a client’s brand we can control, we need to be super vigilant to be sure we’re helping maintain the desired market positioning.
Pick your “playing piece:” where your brand fits on the “Big Board.”
During the first decade of our 21st century, big banks, big insurance, and big auto all had their brands dragged through the mud. Consumers were disenchanted with brands that they had thought were super safe – to buy from or to invest in. August brand names such as AIG, Citi, GM. Who would have thought that these guys would ever be in trouble and in need of brand triage?
Also, think about some brands that shifted their position in the minds of the consumer. Apple Computer went from being “Apple Computer” to just Apple. iPhones and iPads and iTunes were changing the fabric of the company and expanding what the brand was in the eye of the consumer. So they lost the “computer” part of their brand, and less meant more. A little over a decade ago, GEICO was a little-known auto insurer. Enter Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway with a vision (and budget) to make it a household word. And today it is. GEICO is ubiquitous in its presence. And there are dozens more examples.
Time To Play The Brand Transformation Game.
It’s not really possible for me to tell you what your brand needs, and what to do from this blog post. But I can share a way to help you get the ball rolling with a perspective you might not have from inside your organization. Challenge your thinking, and your brand’s present state, by sitting around your break room some day and play this Brand Transformation Game with your colleagues.
Brand transformation begins by rocking your brand’s boat, asking some new questions, and challenging your givens. Here are some key points and questions to jump start that conversation with your team:
- The real value in a brand is the value of the product behind it.
- One example; ThinkPad by Lenovo
- Could your brand hurt you if something goes wrong?
- Who needs to know your brand?
- Is your company’s “Brand” more than what your customers think you are?
- Consider the Hero Today – Goat Tomorrow Syndrome (and how some bounce back) …
- Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC
- Donald Trump (who has filed Chapter 11 TWICE)
- Martha Stewart
- Paula Dean
- Coca-Cola (New Coke)
- How can you cement your values and deliver on them to cement your brand?
- Decide what you want your company known for – how does it vary from your current brand?
- List 5 practical ways to empower your people — at all levels — to deliver on the brand promise.
- New ways to use your brand, or the brand of channel partners, to maximize your credibility and sales.
- Is it time to protect your brand, and it’s value – or broaden and change it?
That’s just a “starter kit” of a few ideas we discussed at the conference. I am sure with just a little thought along these lines, you will devise more and have your own, personalized “Home Edition.” Any other ideas or “rules” for the game that occur to you, you’re invited to share below…