16.6 Branding

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    “Your brand is no stronger than your reputation, and will increasingly depend on what comes up when you are Googled.” (Alan Jenkins)

    There are many fascinating written works about branding (the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design). I believe there are three basic elements: brand experience, brand image, and brand engagement.

    David Polinchock of the American Brand Experience Lab has come up with a great definition:

    “It’s simple. Everything you do is a part of your brand experience. From how you answer your phones, to how your employees look, to the physical experience of your environment, it all needs to play together into one cohesive narrative experience in order to win over the hearts of jaded consumers. Your brand experience should incorporate a 360° point of view.”

    The brand experience transforms into a brand image: a collection of observations and experiences concerning a service or product, composed in the mind of the consumer. The “experience” and the “image” should create brand engagement with stakeholders as a connection with your service or product. It is that engagement that makes your stakeholders willing to co-create with your organization.

    In his book, Personality Not Included, Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy even calls it the “personality of the brand”: “Personality is the unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about.” The large advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi has even traded in the term “brand” in exchange for “lovemark.”

    In this context, the basic principles in this area are:
    – I’m not the owner of my brand experience. The ownership of my brand experience lies exclusively with my stakeholders.
    – My brand no longer covers just my product or service. It is about the whole process that a stakeholder experiences in all contacts with my organization.
    – There are stories going around about my organization, our people, our products, our services, our customers, and these stories cannot be controlled.
    – I can only attempt to influence the stories when I am in contact with my stakeholders.

    So, it is good practice for organizations to optimize the moments of contact with their stakeholders (also known as touch points or moments of truth). Because it is only during a touch point that our organization is able to have the full attention (even if it is for a moment) of any stakeholder in question. Making some noise via mass media is no longer sufficient; people no longer listen to you. But the Internet is a completely different medium. In the past, it took a number of years to build a brand name, but on the information superhighway, it happens incredibly fast.

    I have, therefore, defined branding as:

    “The range of activities to create, facilitate, manage, and evaluate contact opportunities (touch points) and event-driven communications with stakeholders, resulting in unique and consistent stakeholder transformations, thus optimizing the process of the organization’s stakeholders meeting, connecting, and engaging.“