“Branding gets personal” is the tagline behind The Myndset. A few people have asked why do I use this tagline? I would like to use this post to discuss, at least partially, why it is so important for me.
Being Client Centred. The starting point for “Branding Gets Personal” is an obsession with being client centred. So very often I hear or read about a “client-centric strategy” that seems too far off base to succeed, not to say centred on itself. And with the sway of the internet putting the power closer to the hands of the customer, many “faux” client-centric companies are being outted and, presumably, will see their market share suffer. In the past, companies were taught to focus on the 4 p’s (product, price, place and promotion) as studiously proposed by Philip Kotler (and pioneered by Jerome McCarthy). The emphasis so often remains on the product, its performance, packaging, pricing and publicity — all part of a hardcore left brain (i.e. super rational) affair, with no room for fun or out of the box thinking. While marketing teams must continue to plot their 4 p’s, the real action is in words (i.e. accompanied by the authentic acts) that begin with an e, the marketing of the 5e’s:
emotion, engagement, experience,
exchange & essence
These 5 e’s come on top of the 4 p’s, not in replacement thereof. The task is more complex, rendered all the more so by the rich media multi-channel world in which brands need to communicate. The performance of the product is, of course, vital, but consumers are not satisfied merely with excellent performance and innovation. The “social” component of the product is taking a far greater place, whereby customers are scrutinising the ‘green’ labels, evaluating the ethics of the brand and looking for meaning and signs of humanity. Social Media takes on its full sense in this context as brands learn to develop relationship or conversational marketing. We move from worrying about building and mining the database, to work on building the [customer] fanbase. In short, we have moved from the left-brain Perfection of the 4 p’s to the whole brain Imperfection of the 5 e’s, where typos and lower grade YouTube videos are acceptable providing the message is entertaining, enlightening, surprising or engaging.
The Personal Touch. The common factor that runs through the 5 e’s is their personal nature. For a customer to experience the brand, wish to exchange, garner true engagement (all the way up to evangelism), feel the essence of the brand or enjoy the emotion of a wonderful surprise, the customer needs to interface with the brand on a personal level. And, this means that the brand must be setting forth a personal message, imbued with a personal touch and bringing to life its personality. The authenticity of this personality then becomes a factor and, as I have written before, transparency becomes a considered trait.
The personnel wants to be personal, too. Inspired presumably by the youthful Generation Y, a growing number of employees are similarly interested in the emotion, ethics and meaning. When one sees the extreme ease with which the “Facebook” generation is exposing their personal life on line, there is often a major disconnect within a corporation (and its senior management) that is too bent on its image, its professionalism and its quest for perfection. Just as some of the younger generation need to reaffirm the boundary between that which is private and personal, managers need to accept to move from a strictly professional stance to more a personal culture. Brands need to consider seducing, surprising and educating their own staff — particularly if the same staff are to create exceptional experiences for the brand’s customers. As I have written in the past, a strong level of transparency within the company is essential to accompany this “personal” flavoured culture.
In this context, I firmly believe that the Employee is the Brand. He/she is best able to incarnate the values of the brand, to listen to its customers and to transmit the personality of the brand. And even if the current polemic over the levels of privacy (including the internet’s memory) will likely remain a contentious subject for the foreseeable future, there is no reason that brands should not get more personal. The customer is waiting for it. The employees are keen for it. A winning combination if a brand [and its upper management] can figure out how to let go, become a living, breathing organism, comfortable to experiment, make mistakes, live and learn.
What do you think about brands getting personal?
Cartoon Credit: By Marc Beaudet, published in Journal de Québec, Jan 2008