“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” –Steve Forbes
Brand is misunderstood, underappreciated and very often underutilized. When brand comes up in conversation, it often carries different meanings to different people. And many executives speak the language of brand the way some of us speak a foreign language: with a limited vocabulary and a rotten accent. While being fluent in another language is helpful, not understanding the definition, and differentiating value and places to deploy it properly can be highly problematic. Despite the excellent books, many courses, and conferences dedicated to brand there’s still confusion surrounding its meaning and how it should be operationalized even within the most sophisticated companies.
Brand isn’t a marketing exercise. It’s an exercise for the entire organization. Businesses that align marketing with customer success can create significant brand loyalty, producing meaningful interactions, engaging touchpoints and authentic customer experiences.
So how do you make the shift to align brand, customer acquisition and customer success? And how can customer success be achieved by marketing teams working together to build brand advocates?
We had the opportunity to speak with Bernie Borges, Marketing Strategist and Founder of Find and Convert, to share his insights on the topic. He discusses how the two segments complement and where they collide.
Brand is a promise. Marketing must deliver on that promise.
Borges says a brand is what the customer expects of the company, the promise it makes to its customers. The customer experience is the ultimate delivery of this promise. Therefore, marketing must be in alignment with the brand’s promise to its customers at large.
Alignment must be carried throughout every aspect of the brand—from the logo to social media engagement, to the employees delivering the customer experience. Alignment should be in place throughout the customer journey from awareness through post-purchase support.
When the marketing comes from both the logo and the employees and they align with the promise of the brand, that’s where the brand comes together to create a true connection with its customers.
A great B2C example of this is Southwest Airlines. Flying with them is easy and transparent. Their advertising and employees deliver their brand promise in a consistent and impactful way. A great B2B example of brand alignment is Avery Dennison. Among their 25,000 employees there is a concerted effort to share the company’s values through storytelling, made possible by their Get Social program.
How can leaders be more effective when linking brand and marketing?
Leaders have to live it.
If there isn’t buy-in at the cultural level of the organization, that typically means that leaders aren’t bought into the vision says Borges. Alignment of brand promise with the customer experience cannot be a marketing-only strategy. It must be in the DNA of the company. No marketing program can completely succeed in brand and customer alignment without authentic leadership participation.
Leaders of any organization (in every department) must be living and breathing examples of the brand experience. When leaders exemplify the brand promise, they inspire employees and everyone they touch. The employees then are more likely to be inspired to deliver on the brand promise. Then, and only then, can the marketing communication that’s intended to reinforce the brand promise succeed.
Consider HubSpot’s culture. They deliver their SaaS product in a light and fun way. Even their product’s user interface and experience is an example of how a brand can convey its promise from the top down—serious about its functionality, yet fun and personable.
Defining what the customer experience is for your brand.
Borges advocates social business and defines it this way: A social business is a company in any industry of any size, including non-profits, that understands that we live in a world where content plays a significant role in the way people experience the brand. And, the company embraces the culture and technology of social media to share content through social channels across the buyer’s journey. But it’s much more than marketing. Brands that adopt a social business mindset understand that the culture and technology of social is something that must be implemented across the entire organization, both internally and externally. In fact, in most cases a company cannot become a social business with the external market until it masters what it means to be social internally.
Borges suggests a few ways to achieve social business success:
1) Empower employees to be ears, eyes and mouthpieces for the brand. Give employees a platform and guardrails that they can harness through social channels. Consider these examples; giving employees a special column in the newsletter, a podcast series or video channel hosted by employees on specific areas of the business, or empower employees to create livestream videos through Periscope or Facebook, or alternate employee hosts on the company’s Snapchat account. Harness the advocacy potential of your strongest thought-leaders to work for your brand.
2) Integrate social into the sales process. Teach the sales team how to engage with customers and prospects through social channels with a focus on relationship building to engage in sales opportunities. Be sure to teach best practices to avoid the worst practice scenario of aggressive selling on social media.
3) Create unique ways for employees to get involved. Leverage social to encourage employees to join your brand’s advocacy for a charitable causes by integrating it into your mission or promise. Encourage employees to capture moments of community involvement through pictures, livestream video, blogging, etc. Empower employees to share those moments on social.
4) Consider social as a channel to deliver customer service. Talk to your customers where they want to be spoken to including social media channels. Leverage the rapid communication methods available through Twitter, email, Facebook, instant message, phone, etc. Engage with customers in a one-on-one way to deliver on your brand’s promise.
5) Technology can bring brand and marketing together. Embrace the culture and technology of social across the entire business, by operating as a social business. Internal social collaboration is a huge way for mid to large brands to accelerate adoption of the social business mindset. The Enterprise Social Network (ESN) can leverage the experience of your employee population through cross-functioning teams, leveraging talent within an internal collaborative system. The ESN can be much more efficient than email and much more collaborative too.
Brand has evolved from what the marketing department used to define it as in years past, to what the customer says it is today. The potential for the marketing department to harness its full value requires a strategy that spans the entire company, beginning with top leadership and flowing throughout the entire employee population.