I happened across a great post this evening about the State of Branding. I don’t disagree at all with the author, Brad VanAuken, but I did want to add a few points. It’s been a couple years since I formally worked as and along side brand managers, but I want to make a key point that may be obvious but needs stated.
While in the newspaper industry over the last decade, I saw the growing decline in the ability to control or manage the brand. Visually, it was still quite simple… the colors, the logos, and the product didn’t change. However, the brand did. The brand changed from the outside in.
Our message and vision were consistent. However, the medium through which people received the brand was changing from us to the people, through the Internet, through our delivery people, through our customer service people, through our customers, through our online competition, etc.
It was business as usual. We all waved and smiled and pointed our fingers as these mediums said and did things that were destroying us, and we did nothing. As a result, the brand began to fail – and they are still failing. I saw it, I screamed, and I was shown the exit (thankfully).
Sometimes it’s not as quick in other industries, but we are seeing this transition everywhere. At issue is whether or not the managers of your brand are doing something about it. How are your brand managers effectively communicating what message it is that your company is trying to convey to its customers through these new mediums? Do all of your employees now realize that they are managing the brand? Are they held responsible for it? How are they trained to deal with this? What do their blogs say about your brand?
Now louder than your brand manager is the quality of the company itself. I believe Mr. VanAuken does a great job of explaining this. Magnifying the issue is choice. Consumers are exposed to new choices as quickly as they hear the bad news about your brand. Case in point, the other night I posted about Swapagift.com. After posting, I came across a forum that was speaking about the service and found another service referenced in a better light… CardAvenue. Within minutes I found a great product (NOT through it’s marketing) and found an alternative provider of that same product (NOT through their marketing)!
It’s amazing how fast bad news will travel and the competition will arise. More than ever, your Brand Manager needs to put as much effort communicating internally as he or she does externally. They need to be the evangelist and coach for all of your employees. Your service, your product, and most of all, your people are your greatest medium to communicate your brand. How are they doing?