by Melinda Scruggs Gales, Gales Network
When America’s reigning music couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, walked across the basketball court to meet Great Britain’s Kate Middleton and Prince William at the Brooklyn Nets game in early December, was it a marketing move or brand building? Might be an easy call, since no slogan or merchandise was attached to the stroll, but brand building was the name of the game.
Why? By demonstrating their humility, positive audience perception increased for Beyoncé and Jay-Z and even non-music fans paid attention. Making that spontaneous walk, when fans usually throng to kiss their rings, created an intangible cha-ching in their brand equity bank. The media went wild. Few marketing campaigns could have scored that fast and potent ROI.
How does this example relate to your enterprise? The minute you invite others to look at you, your product or your service, you begin the process of brand building. Indeed, everything your brand does that is seen, felt or heard by others builds positive brand value or erodes it. So are you making brand development a priority?
It’s January and your 2015 budget is likely already approved. You may have set aside new dollars for marketing automation, a new CRM, big data analytics and/or social. Those may be appropriate investments, but don’t rush to the new best thing at the expense of foundational needs. Here are five fundamental brand principles to consider as you make your decisions in the New Year.
Customers Always Come First: You are only a brand if people have an opinion about you. It is not enough to analyze visits, likes and shares or automate your blogs for the month. Set aside resources to listen to what your customers are saying and adapt as needed. Just look at Zappos, Lands’ End and Nordstrom and continuously ask, “What does the customer need today that our brand can deliver like no one else?” Enough good opinions = belief.
Brand Clarity Before Marketing: A good brand framework articulates what makes you different (and better) than your competitors. Your brand persona and story are glue that binds your purpose, mission, values, positioning, essence and messaging throughout daily business execution. Keep brand consistently integrated in every marketing message, activity and tool to increase sales and build loyalty.
Unified Culture Produces Better Brands: Spend time refreshing seasoned team members and provide solid orientation for new ones on your brand components, so your internal culture is inspired and focused. You’ll have less staff turnover and, research indicates, higher team productivity.
Brand Requires Investment: Investment in the strenuous and ongoing effort to build deep emotional ties with your audience produces long-term value. These costs won’t always tie back to a product launch or tool, such as a new website. Marketing is short-term = buy now. Brand is long-term = make believers. Believers spread the word.
Stay Relevant: Just like any relationship, a brand evolves with time and changes in its audience. Because you spent time outlining your brand components when you started your company doesn’t mean that framework is completely relevant today. How many companies out there still have a mission statement that is 4 paragraphs long and full of jargon? Take time to evaluate your brand and be sure it resonates today.
One last lesson to learn from Bey and Z. Be spontaneous when opportunity arises to cross the court and pay respect to bigger brands. You might learn a thing or two and your brand account will thank you for it.
Melinda Scruggs Gales is Chief Strategist for Nashville-based brand consultancy GALES NETWORK, a proven catalyst for brand clarity, strategy and effective action for clients in entertainment, healthcare and technology. Join the Gales Network newsletter, here.