Insights on Marketing & Technology

Branding matters more than ever

The digitalisation of the buying process and customer experience has fundamentally changed how companies see their brand. Some pundits state that brands are now formed and owned by customers. Some even believe that branding is put to rest by the complete transparency of the digital age. I disagree. I believe that articulating and ‘living the brand’ is as important as it has always been.

  • By: Mikkel Bach Andersen
  • Published: 22-04-2015

Becoming and maintaining brand equity has become more challenging as the customer experience and channel landscape continues to atomise. But strong brands still perform. They deliver superior financial returns, charge a price premium and have a higher probability of purchase – also on digital channels.

Why branding matters more than ever?
10 years ago many reduced it to nothing more than big billboards with flashing visuals for the airport. But there has been much water under the bridge since, and changing customer behaviour and other forces has challenged this mind-set and reigniting the need to have a strong brand story.

Here are some pointers to remember:

1. The rise of the empowered customer
Due to digitalisation, traditional one-way corporate communication channels are losing credibility. Now people seek out third party sources of information such as blogs, news sites, review sites, social channels and forums. Consumers and decision makers have become more empowered and thus demand to be met by a strong, consistent and differentiating narrative.

2. Growth is back on the agenda
Before the recession, many companies trod a treacherous path. They expanded beyond their core activities with geared acquisitions, increased their product-range and entered new markets. Slammed by the downfall of the economy they reacted by consolidating their portfolios and cutting costs. Now it’s time for them to start beating a path towards growth again.

3. Employees lack purpose
Employees demand purpose. Surveys indicate that the number of employees who actually feel engaged in their work hovers around 20% – and the rest? They have difficulty understanding why they show up to work every day. They’re looking for a sense of purpose and want a job that makes a difference to the world.

All in all many companies and executives are starting to ask themselves the “why” questions. “Why are we different?”, “Why should our customer care?”, “Why do our employees go to work everyday day?”. And if companies can’t offer a consistent and compelling answer to those questions, their brand-story might be halting.

What to remember when defining the brand story
Even though some of the most compelling and long-lived brand stories seem simple, uncovering and articulating it can be a very daunting task. Our experience is that it requires rigor, curiosity and a lot of hard work.

Here are some pointers:

1. Build a process
Even though living defining a brand story often is about uncovering what has been lost more than actually finding something new, it still requires quiet a lot of rigor: A formalised process can help you get the organisational buy-in you need to make the brand formulation and launch successful.

2. Do not make it a boardroom brainstorm
Executives can be a gold mine, when it comes to understating the full-picture and the thoughts behind corporate strategy. But the nuggets and stories that create authentic and sustainable brands often come from the frontline; talk to service and sales people – talk to clients and non-clients.

3. Think beyond the pay-off and logo
Working as a consultant you sometimes stumble upon long brand presentations with a lot of nice words but without any practical application. To overcome such mistake articulate what your brand story means visually, copy-wise, in interaction with customers, on social media and during sales presentations. You need a full-fledged story, which can be lived from the bottom to the top of the organisation and across touch-points.

4. Have executive support beyond marketing
Securing that there’s support among the rank and file, sometimes demands that the senior leadership team clearly shows that it’s important to the business. If the branding project is seen as a “marketing exercise” it won’t have the impact needed.

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Mikkel Bach Andersen

Mikkel Bach Andersen
Mikkel is Group Account Director at Kunde & Co. For more than 5 years he has helped primarily international companies use marketing and branding as business drivers.

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