Marketing Executives Need To Fear Brand Companies no More
By Tom Dougherty
It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but the simple fact is that marketing directors and vice presidents of marketing often feel threatened by brand development firms.
That’s because when you hire a brand firm like Stealing Share, you are saying that you need help, the marketing isn’t working and much of what you currently do must change. That’s a tough admission, but the rewards are great.
Facing that challenge takes marketing leaders who are willing to get out of their own way, and view their roles as having more influence than simply communicating a message.
Indeed, they can transform a company.
To accomplish that, a marketing director must understand not only the difference between branding issues and marketing, but also embrace a brand that provides direction and focus to everything they and the company do. You must identify the brand barriers and address them.
What Brand Does for a Marketing Department and What are those Branding Barriers?
Brand positions the marketing department as something other than the toy department within a company because it also begins with the transformation of the marketing department itself.
The first thing brand does is provide focus. Too many times we have all seen marketing that is “off brand,” but even that concept is often misunderstood. Many think it means a marketing message that contradicts the brand. (Promoting high fashion, for example, when your brand is about the workingman.)
Being “off brand” is more than that, and the consequences are dire. This is the biggest branding issue — bar none. Any marketing that is not about the brand is off-brand, because not being on brand is as damaging as contradicting it. Being off brand makes the brand less believable to target audiences, and the brand then feels more like an overly clever marketing tool.
What generally happens is this: Instead of putting the brand front and center, product benefits are marketed as the reasons for preference. As though it is the benefit that is the reason to choose and brand is simply thought of as a logo and color palette, with a message about what the company is about.
Brand is intended to be persuasive, and often presents the only reason for target audiences to choose. Brand is a reflection of your target audience, not you. It’s a failure many brands make, yet Apple (“Think Different”) and Nike (“Just Do It”) are two of the most successful brands of all time with brand themes that describe the customer, not the product or company.
And both have transformed their categories without marketing a whiff of product benefits.
Stop What You are Doing Now
Product benefits do not move the needle. From the perspective of the target audience, products are all basically the same. They provide the same function and most product differentiation, what little there is, falls on deaf ears.
In many cases, the players within a category all say the same things, which leave audiences without a reason to choose. Money is wasted on marketing product benefits because often marketers are advertising benefits audiences believe they already have.
If, for example, you market safety, the only ones that will switch will be those who think they are using products that are unsafe. Who believes that? It’s akin to promoting “great taste” to beer drinkers, thinking that there are those who believe their preferred beer tastes awful.
We only switch for things we don’t have. What most markets lack for the customer is an aspirational self-reflection.
Once that focus has been established, then the hard work begins for both the marketing team and the entire company as well. The direction of the marketing no longer becomes aimless and the creative work becomes strategic, as well motivating the members of your creative team to work within a strategic structure.
Brand, however, is more than marketing, even if marketing takes the lead in empowering your company with it. Brand represents a cultural shift, thereby empowering marketing directors to become stewards of a company’s success.
Developing a brand
In developing a brand, the highest emotional intensity in the market must be uncovered through research, then competitors are examined to see if any have claimed it. If not, then claim and own it with all your might because it becomes the key to your success.
Fulfilling the brand promise is not easy because it requires change and leadership. Everything from how the company answers the phone to the development of new products begins a metamorphosis, even if there are equities to be leveraged.
By the time training has taken place with employees and sales staff, the company has been defined completely by the brand and audiences see a self-reflection in your brand so completely they crave being a part of it.
As a marketing director, the problems you are solving are the ones that affect the entire company. Your job is to make sure the marketing does more than just present a pretty picture or a humorous spot. It is your job to make sure the marketing is persuasive and, to do that, it must be strategic.
Instead of being threatened by brand, marketing executives should embrace it. It’s what makes marketing executives great. It’s what separates those that merely toe the line to those that steal market share. (Read about Stealing Share’s rebranding process here)