The sole purpose of a brand is to serve as a tool for distinguishing or differentiating a product, a service, a company, or an individual from other, similar entities, thus improving its competitive position and (ideally) enabling a premium price or a premium position. Or both. It does so by acting as a stand-in, a kind of shorthand for superior features, proprietary technology, history, philosophy, innovation, and personality that comprise the entity the brand is designed to represent. In fact, the concept of a brand has become so overarching it is often used as a generic substitute for the word “company,” “business,” or “organization.” As in, “the brand was forced to declare bankruptcy after three decades in business.”
A brand is a comprehensive, dynamic, and strategically important mix of factors that stretch from a boardroom to the living room. A brand is–or should be–the manifestation of a competitive strategy that theoretically influences every step in a value chain until it reaches the end user. Along the way, if everything falls into place, a brand will earn the loyalty of that user, along with millions of others, each with his or her own reasons for why it is relevant.
Communicating such a complex set of messages would be a pretty tall order in any age. Way back in the pre-digital era, TV and radio, newspapers and magazines, celebrity testimonials, promotional events and a far less cluttered media landscape combined to build brands, but required a great deal of time and a whole lot of cash to do so. That’s OK, back then we seemed to have plenty of both. Not so much now.
Today, thanks to a worldwide Internet, mobile platforms, social media and a profusion of content, people can actually market to themselves. Barriers between media and types of advertising are crumbling, leading to unprecedented opportunities for building brands via interactivity. Creating and building brands comes down to telling stories, and in today’s interactive world there are a limitless number of ways to create those stories, and more channels for delivering them than ever. Best of all digital channels can help build brands almost overnight and at a fraction of the cost of traditional media.
The power of telling a brand’s story is less about visually arresting websites, and more about engaging diverse audiences efficiently and cost-effectively, delivering high quality content on something close to an individual level and often in real time. Mass media long ago surrendered its pre-eminence to segmentation, customer knowledge and content. Digital technology offers unique and powerful new tools to support these forms of relationship building.
The opportunity is greater than ever. But the emphasis must be on integrating an organization’s activities and ability to deliver value according to individual preferences. That means you not only must have a firm grasp on technology and its power, but you must also know how to
1. articulate your brand’s value through relevant content creation,
2. engage audiences be developing your branded content in all appropriate channels and,
3. measure success at acquiring, converting and retaining customers.