Ever since the word brand (a noun) was expanded to branding (a verb) interpretive misunderstandings about what “brand” and “branding” really are have multiplied. Various self-proclaimed gurus (consultants above criticism) have written about the sins of misguided “branding.” Unfortunately, too often, they themselves didn’t know what a brand or branding were either. So they just added to the confusion and the body of misconceptions masquerading as wisdom.
Simply stated, your “Brand” (the noun) can be defined as what you deliver and how you deliver it. The quality of your Brand is determined by how closely aligned the experiences of your customers are between what they expect vs. what they get.
Every single thing you, as an organization, do or don’t do factors into the equation of brand definition and brand strength. That goes way beyond advertising, marketing and sales.
Branding (the verb) is about two things:
- Spreading the word about who and what you are; getting and keeping your name out there. It creates name recognition, top of mind and back of mind awareness; and
- Making promises and creating expectations in the minds of your current and potential customers. It is supposed to increase sales (duh).
Advertising and ad campaigns do not strengthen brands.
They build awareness, they communicate promises and create expectations. They can be clever, cute, creative, entertaining, informational, confrontational, sexy and more. But they do not strengthen Brands. Brands are strengthened when the promises are kept, when peoples’ expectations are met or exceeded. Brand strengthening is experiential. Advertising is informational.
Enter Social Media. It presents a powerful opportunity. If you develop and execute a sound Social Media strategy you can cost effectively strengthen and support your Brand and improve the effectiveness of your Branding.
Here are some things to consider.
- Develop a comprehensive Social Media strategy. If you don’t have a well-thought out strategy, what you have is a hobby. The odds of achieving financial success with a hobby are similar to those for winning the lottery.
- • Your strategy should be broad and deep. In other words it must encompass more than building name recognition and trying to increase sales. Think about how you can use Social Media to engage your customers and prospects in meaningful discussions about what they want from you: your products; your product support; new products/services and new features. Enable your customers to tell you about their experiences with your “Brand:” what they like and what they don’t like. Listen. Respond. Do it publicly. Transparency is the path to trust. Use the information you get to improve, to fix what is broken and to build on what works well.
- • Determine whom you want to engage? What do you want to discuss and learn? What outcomes/results do you want to achieve?
- Coordinate and integrate Social Media with all other forms of marketing going on in your organization. Take into account the behavioral/cultural changes that you must effect in this process.
- Transition your culture to embrace transparency. This is much easier said than done. But consider that much of the information that for centuries was deemed confidential is now considered public. People want to be part of an ongoing dialog. They want to know what is happening. They want to participate in and help shape discussions, and more. If they don’t like where the conversation is going, they want the power to shift it. Let them – or they will leave. Social Media is not about pushing your message down the throats of your audience. It is about conversations. It is about you learning by listening.
- Choose your Social Media platforms and your communication programs and processes with all of the above in mind. Technology just provides the tools. Knowing which tools to use should come as a result of first determining all of the elements above. Don’t be seduced by the buzz of tech toys. Letting the hype about any particular piece of technology make your decisions for you is orchestrating frustration at best and disaster at worst.
Social Media should not replace or compete with anything you currently do that works effectively and profitably. Done well, it should enrich everything.