Just Because I Know You Doesn’t Mean I Like You

What marketing measure is overrated or outdated?

The authors of Wikibrands plot the evolutionary progression of branding like this: from the first registered trademark in 1860 as a mark of ownership (as in cattle) to something you can buy, then to something you would like to own, to something you trust, to something you prefer, to something you want, to something you love, to now, something you participate in. This progression mirrors the journey of the brand from one that is controlled by its maker to one that is now controlled by its users.

Awareness was the main goal from the beginning of branding and though still important, brand awareness has evolved in the same way brands have. Brand awareness matters, but just because people know your brand doesn’t mean they’ll love it. Familiarity often begets favorability; but in today’s world, awareness can be equally powerful for making people dislike your brand when it fails the sniff test for authenticity and relevance. This is why brand engagement has become far more meaningful than simple brand awareness.

Marketers haven’t always been good at incubating brand engagement, so it’s not surprising that many consumers doubt the sincerity of brands. Creating brand engagement requires different skill sets and an orientation to listen and talk as equal partners, with the brand being vitally and truly interested so that customers are not the objects of brand communication, but more like extensions with valuable insights and enthusiasms to share.

My personal feeling is that authentic brands (meaning brands that do not adopt a corporate pose) are more likely to not be seen as companies or even brands, but instead as the equivalent of neighbors “having a chat” over the backyard fence. Why should we feel that being on one side of the experience makes us different from the person on the other side? This is the strength of a brand like British food company Innocent. Their customers enjoy engaging with them. Innocent enjoys engaging with its customers. It comes naturally because the brand is just that way. Natural (as in genuine and unaffected) is its DNA. It’s sort of like the Tom Hanks of branding.

The social side of brand engagement

Brand engagement is also more accepted by those who embrace social networking. As the influence of its members grows and widens, so will digital activism across all age groups. When you take your young daughter out to buy new winter boots she will undoubtedly insist on the brand of her heart’s desire and will die if she doesn’t get the exact one; and you can then bet your own boots that if you buy her what she wants, all her friends will get a text message turning them green with envy, because when you indulge her dearest wishes it will be the brand they all covet. Sharing this kind of news over the digital backyard fence is now second nature to your daughter because she can tell a dozen (or more) friends all at once, and staying connected is “sort of like, I mean, you know” a matter of life and death.

Shared ownership

The most enlightened brands are even asking customers to have a hand in product innovation. Frito Lay has asked customers to recommend new flavors for Doritos, for example. If your invented flavor won the contest, you could have walked away with $25,000 and 1% of sales in perpetuity. The brand also invited customers to create TV commercials to air during the Super Bowl. Innocent invites its British customers to invent new recipes.

We’ve come a long way from the days when a brand was an image controlled through mass communications. The message of the brand is now bigger than convincing people of a benefit that makes your product better than anybody else’s as demonstrated in 30 seconds of TV. It’s now also concerned with questions of integrity, authenticity, candor, transparency, and the reliability of the brand’s word. The ability of the consumer to evaluate these qualities has never been more possible or more acute.

Creating relationships has taken over from creating image. The new benchmarks are participation and engagement. Do you remember the Four Ps of the old marketing: product, place, price, and promotion? They have gone to marketing heaven where they hopefully rest in peace. Surely, the one dimensional metric of brand awareness will not be far behind them.


Daryl Travis, Brandtrust

Throughout his extensive career Daryl Travis, CEO of Brandtrust, has advised many of the largest and best brands in the world. His book, How Does It Make You Feel?: Why Emotions Win the Battle of Brands, explores the new realities of building brands. Travis speaks frequently on the power of insights and the critical need for marketers to change the way they think about how people think. He explains how research can lead us astray or help us to gain a competitive edge. “Most research discloses what happens,” he says. “However, it often fails to reveal why it happens or the underlying emotional drivers that are critical in creating an effective strategy.” Travis and his wife, Donnita, are active members of Chicago’s philanthropic community, volunteering time and resources to support education and literacy programs for underprivileged children.

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