We wrote about the habits of great brand managers a few years ago. While great brands continue to endure, brand-management practices have changed a lot since then.
Just three years ago there was no Netflix original content. No Apple Watch. The acronyms IoT and AI were still terms for people in the know. And teens were just discovering Snapchat.
Given the pace of social and technological change, it’s time to revisit what great brand management takes.
1. Embrace technology – but be smart about it. Customer insight, strategy and creativity still drive great brand management. But these pillars of brand management alone aren’t enough any more. Technology now connects brands with consumers. It’s the device through which we experience brands, the platforms through which we evaluate products and, often, the channel through which we make purchases. And it’s the place where we share comments and look for support.
Marketers, as a result, rely on technology like never before. There are endless alternatives to help you do your job better, but you need to choose and use them wisely. Technology alone isn’t the answer. In fact, many marketers are now blaming technology for getting in the way. So start with the processes you want to support and carefully build technology to serve the way you want to work rather than the other way around.
Read Marketing Technology, Too Much of a Good Thing? for ideas on how to make better use of your marketing technology.
2. Know your customer. What was true in the 1950s at the dawn of brand management remains true today: Knowing your customer, more completely and more deeply than anyone else, is the key to success.
The best brand managers have always analyzed customer behavior data and used primary research for insights that lead to better products and communication. What has changed is the amount of information available, much of it in near-real time. This information gives brand managers access to critical moments of truth when customers are researching, considering, deciding and using your product. Piles of data combined with increasingly sophisticated analytics allow brand managers to know and engage their customers like never before, connecting with them across channels and touchpoints. Brand managers need to use this information to relate to – but not creep out – their customers.
3. Obsess about touchpoints. Customers are engaging with brands in more places and more times throughout the day than ever before. And new platforms are emerging all the time, giving marketers new ways to create satisfying customer experiences – and new ways to create disappointment.
These environments are all unique, and customers quickly become sophisticated in their use. Twitter, for example, wasn’t originally intended as a customer-service platform. But for many people it’s the first place they turn when they’re trying to get a brand’s attention. Brands nowadays must continuously study, experiment with and adapt to new customer touchpoints. Marketers must adroitly adjust to each of these channels without compromising the overall integrity of their brand.
Keeping up with a digitally distracted audience is easier said than done. This is the central topic in a white paper we published earlier this year called Mastering Brand Velocity.
4. Think mobile first. Smartphones are becoming our personal computers of choice. And why not? With processing power, storage and bandwidth increasing dramatically year over year, there are fewer and fewer things that require another platform. And smartphones are conveniently located in our pockets and purses all the time.
So it’s natural that people are increasingly making decisions using their smartphone. It makes sense to design your website and web experiences for mobile first rather than adapting them from a desktop-first approach. Think forward about the way people will use it. My kids, for example, never type out search terms. Everything starts with “Siri…” or “Hey Google…”
5. Kill the digital divide. The marketing department has become splintered. There’s a divide between traditional communication functions like advertising and PR and more digitally-driven areas like performance marketing and social. There may be a common strategy, but as that strategy is executed across channels and assignments are handed to agencies and partners, the final results are often hard to recognize as coming from the same source. Fractured brand experiences damage your brand.
Brand guidelines built with the realities of modern marketing in mind can help. Brand Management in the Digital Era is a guide for building brand standards that accommodate digital and traditional communication.