Only one kind of branding matters, and that’s the customer experience.
I love ad agencies and individual marketers that preach the ultimate importance of visual and personal branding, respectively. They’re wasting their time.
You can manufacture as much messaging as you want, but if your brand promise doesn’t meet the customer experience then your efforts will fail. Fast.
See, experienced marketers — and I mean marketers, not amateurs who conjure up imagery — know they need a great product or service. If their experience sucks, they will develop a bad reputation.
In fact, a strong branding campaign promoting a bad experience will only do the opposite, which is antagonize stakeholders who feel deceived. The experience defies the visual and verbal promises given to them.
One of my favorite influences in marketing, David Ogilvy said in Ogilvy on Advertising that a great ad campaign will do two things, make a great product sell, and make a poor one fail faster.
Experienced brands and marketers work diligently inside their organizations to make sure the brand promise or message meets the offering.
Let’s discuss what a manufactured representation of a brand really is. Boil down all of the visual branding hype, all of the industry personal brand jargon, and you get down to one simple thing: A promise from an organization/person to deliver an experience to its/their constituency.
Recent examples of brands who launched strong marketing campaigns with promises that didn’t meet the actual experience:
- BP and its oil spill clean up efforts
- Netflix in its price commitment, defied by the Qwikster fiasco
- Komen and its quest for the cure while pursuing business and political agendas
Understand Your Stakeholders
Image by Mr. Enjoy
You must be wondering if all of your marketing efforts are for naught at this point. They aren’t, but comprehend the importance of product marketing and development in the integrated marketing lifecycle.
Brands are communicated in three ways: Visually, verbally, and most importantly, through the actual experience of the constituent.
You have to understand how customers experience your brand. Much of their experience extends beyond a singular message or medium.
Thus one of market research’s primary goals is to sift through internal and external perceptions to comprehend a factual offering from the stakeholder’s perspective.
The facts are the cornerstone of a brand message. Taken into context with the constituency’s needs and wants, competitor offerings, recent market trends, and yes, bad spin that already exists, and you have all of the elements necessary to forge a brand.
Not everyone has the luxury of working with a great product. This means if your product or service is lacking, you have work to do inside the house.
Good companies will acknowledge flaws and work to correct them. Some don’t succeed.
Others won’t even try, and you may have to live with that. This is a challenge everyone who has more than five years of experience understands.
You can even use this knowledge to create a unique product. Kellogg’s did this in the UK with Crunchy Nut Bites, one of the case studies pen pal Gini Dietrich and I offer in Marketing in the Round.
The brand extension generated 11 million pounds in its first year of sales. Kellogg’s developed the Bites product based completely off of intensive market and product research.
Work to make your branding match your offering and vice versa. You want a great customer experience. In the end, great marketing only helps fuel strong brands, which are truly driven by word of mouth loyalty.