Being the owner of a strong enduring, financially valuable brand is what “branding” and brand management should be all about. When it comes down to it however, most marketers place the emphasis of their brand building initiatives on the decorative aspects of branding – things like making logos, taglines, imagery, and marketing communications.
Marketers, at long last, need to stop, step back and adjust their thinking and approach to brand management as a means of delivering what customers expect and what customers experience. When brands deliver the goods, they become indispensable. When customers perceive brands as indispensable, they become transcendent brands and the brand’s owners reap the rewards of competitive advantage and enduring financial equity.
The wrong strategy and the wrong tactics.
Most marketers approach branding as a communications problem and spend many millions of dollars crafting messages to build brand awareness. Of course awareness is a critical component in marketing, but awareness of something is not the experience of something.
Building awareness is not strategy it’s a tactic. In many cases it’s the wrong strategy and the wrong tactic. It’s the cart before the horse. So much creative energy is placed on creating communications and promotional activities to build awareness that the communication itself becomes a surrogate for real brand experience. Just because your ads are cool, funny, or even memorable does not guarantee customers will engage with a brand in ways that make the brand indispensable to them.
Most media advertising is entertainment. While entertainment value may help build awareness, it does nothing for delivering long-term indispensable experiences customers crave from the brands they love.
So much branding is nothing more than flavor of the month. This is propagated by marketers throwing their advertising accounts up for review every year or so, seeking new “creative” ideas to “freshen” the brand and to get their brand name out there in ever more sticky ways. Ad agency business executives love these pitches. Most of this stuff is temporary rather than transcendent.
In our fragmented, media-obsessed culture, creating a transcendent indispensible brand requires a completely different approach to brand creation and brand management.
Creating a transcendent brand.
Transcendent brands focus on customers not communications, on purpose rather than promotion. The biggest ad budget is not a guarantee for creating a transcendent brand. Transcendent brands are always centered in the shared values of the user and the provider – where the needs of customers are aligned with the brand’s reason for being.
The mission of transcendent brands (beyond sales and money-making) is to add new value to customers rather than competing for the value that already exists. All transcendent brands focus on the creative plane rather than the competitive one.
Rather than asking what TV shows to sponsor, owners of transcendent brands are continuously asking deeply introspective questions like “do our customers tell us they live better lives as a result of our presence in the marketplace”? “What makes our brand uniquely capable of providing value our customers care about”? “If our brand disappeared, would customers we serve care”?
Experiences are more transcendent than promises.
Marketing is a discipline long on promises and short on experiences. So much of brand strategy is focused on getting the “brand promise” right. Because brands represent meanings as well as things, many marketers focus on what they desire their brand to mean to customers. However this is often disconnected from what customers want the brand to mean, or what their brand is even capable of meaning.
The big difference is customers experiencing what they love now, rather than hoping for what might be later. The promise of your brand is worth less to your customers than the experience of your brand. When your brand delivers experiences customers love, in ways that are aligned with your shared values, customers will celebrate your brand in ways no ad campaign ever will.
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