Brand marketers face an almost insurmountable problem: how to create a consistently engaging brand across a proliferation of different touchpoints, each with a unique recipe for success.
Delivering this mystical mix of products, services and free content to an increasingly diverse audience of prospects, customers and users, whose needs change hourly depending on where they are, the device they’re using to access it, and what they might be doing at the same time, would be impressive…
Doing it effectively over the long term requires something more. It requires, above all, that brands are consistent, relevant and, believe it or not, actually interesting.
A recent survey, published by Nestivity and conducted by the boffins at UCLA, analysed 739,000 tweets to rank the top 100 brands in terms of engagement. It showed that it’s not simply volume of activity that drives engagement.
While the most prolific brands posted every six to 20 minutes, none of them made the top 100 most engaged. Those that did included Disney, Sony PlayStation, Unicef, MTV and Chanel: brands that stand for excellence and inspire a passion among their respective audiences which is reflected across everything they do, whether that be a tweet, movie, email, store or theme park.
Reaching this level of excellence has implications for every area of the business. Branding today is not simply a veneer that can be applied to one-way outbound communications; it also manifests itself in the lives of most employees of a business. High-level brand architectures need to translate into simple, understandable actions for front-line staff as well as guides for the myriad agencies that face the challenge of producing campaigns, sites, 60-second spots, tweets and 48-sheets.
The danger is that, in guiding all this activity, brands stifle any spark of creativity, agility and inspiration. Evaluating every idea against an increasingly long list of criteria and through an endless round of management sign-offs can take them on an inexorable journey to brand mediocrity.
For brands to avoid this, the starting point must be the consumer. So, our recent work on the British Gas "me" brand and the refreshed Lloyds Bank brand both placed an emphasis on consumer understanding.
For Lloyds, market research was run over the past two years in parallel with our brand-development work. That allowed us to constantly validate our approach against the backdrop of key criteria affecting trust in banks, attitudes toward money, relevant customer experiences and what will drive standout from the competition.
For British Gas’ "me", meanwhile, we began with a deep understanding of how young, urban professionals want to interact with brands today and what stops them engaging more with energy providers (primarily time constraints and boredom). The resulting mobile-focused design is directly in line with insights from research, which is what makes it so powerful.
Critically, both these launches have driven internal engagement to enable the brands to "live and breathe" through everyone in the business. Core guidelines for all colleagues are supplemented by specific guidelines and training to inform engagement in-branch and ongoing digital development for Lloyds Bank. For British Gas, "me" represents a fundamental shift in the way in which it interacts with customers, acting, by definition, as a totem for change within the business.
The art of providing a fertile environment within which brands can live is one agencies need to champion and stand for every day. Too often we settle for what we know the client will buy; more often than not, it’s what they’ve bought before.
Looking at the balance of structure and freedom within which Nike agencies operate, and the inspiration that a "nothing to lose" brief can bring Old Spice, shows the power of the creative spark and a willingness to take a chance. Close collaboration with clients is fundamental to empower and engage all areas of client businesses to deliver against the vision.
Nobody needs another mediocre brand.
Adam Fulford, strategy and planning director, Rufus Leonard
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