The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
This may sound like heresy but the term “brand” has been so over used in the marketing vocabulary that it’s meaning has become – meaningless. Ask a handful of people what a brand is and you’ll get a handful of different answers. Perhaps the word brand has outlived its usefulness?
With so many various definitions out there in brand land, it’s little wonder marketers tend to forget the dynamic aspects of relationship building with customers and consumers is not about branding at all – but shared values.
At the end of the day, we are all customers and consumers of something. As marketers, we tend to forget this and lose our empathy. As consumers and customers, we buy for deeper reasons beyond our needs. (By the way, the stuff we “need” is always purchased at the lowest price possible).
So much marketing simply talks at people. The idea of brand marketing being a real conversation with a beloved customer is still a lofty ideal in most organizations. For many marketing organizations, it’s still about selling something to somebody – commonly referred to in the parlance of our time as “brand engagement”. Call it what you will, the mission of marketing has always been to create demand and sell stuff.
As the saying goes, people hate to be sold but they love to buy. People aren’t lured into enduring relationships because you have a cool logo, make funny ads and offer coupons to convince them to buy your stuff. People (like you and me) want authenticity and trust in our relationships.
Before we allow brands into our world, we need to perceive them as just like us. Like a trusted and valued friend who has our well being at the heart of the relationship, your “idea of value” must represent a shared value not in abundant supply elsewhere.
The idea of value you bring to the marketplace must be genuinely based in the greater good of the community served, not in greater profit margins for your enterprise. (By the way, when an enterprise serves its community in this way, they command premium pricing from customers who are more than happy to pay).
When the idea of value is shared, vibrant communities will grow and flourish around it. If you’re just selling something, you’ll be playing a numbers game and all you will create is a halfway house of transient customers coming and going in a place where need and low price intersect.
It’s high time for marketers to stop branding and start contributing more and greater value to people. Doing real good is good business. The key to real customer connection, engagement, and loyalty lies in providing more use value to them than you take in cash value from them.
Shared values are the only path to competitive advantage.