Brandsparency: Who Builds Brands These Days?

Samantha Nottingham

  

Originally published in Brand Quarterly. Copyright © Brand Quarterly. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Brand Quarterly.

 

In this modern socially connected world, brands are more transparent than ever before, whether your company likes it or not.

 

Without doubt, brand identity has been the single most important factor for increasing sales and ensuring growth since the dawn of capitalism. But, a brand is not simply a name, symbol, logo, tagline, audio jingle, or even a combination of these. The meaning of brand goes much broader and deeper than that. A brand includes the essence or promise of what will be delivered and experienced, both functionally and emotionally, by the consumer/customer. It tells people who you are, what you want to be and what you stand for. But the brand also represents the perceptions and images of the product and services and the company behind it – it’s people, processes, values, and culture – and this is where brandsparency comes in.

 

A business can no longer operate thinking its inner workings will not be exposed to the external world. Thanks to our socially connected digital tools, that black box is now becoming transparent, and will become increasingly transparent as people exposed to an organization feel the need and ‘right’ to inform others. So now not only can all your employees, both current and future see inside, but so can your whole ecosystem of vendors, suppliers, partners, investors, complimentors, and even your competitors and the media. But perhaps most importantly your consumers and customers can also easily look inside. They can see your people and how they feel; your processes and whether they are modern and fair; your values and whether you ‘walk the walk’; and your culture – the good, bad and ugly.

 

So, if your brand is everything – every person, process, value, everything that happens, ever – what can you do about it? Firstly, start deep inside, with what your company’s purpose is in the world and build your brand from the inside out. But, you need to see your purpose in the world from your customers’ perspective by discovering the functional, emotional and social needs and benefits they seek to fulfil their jobs to be done. It’s all too easy to be a proxy to our customers by relying on what we think they need; so spend the time to truly get to know your customers, how they actually think and what they really care about.

 

Secondly, help your people, both internally and externally across your whole ecosystem, by enhancing your integrated experience through great tools, services, and processes that are driven by great values. Ultimately, this will ensure your brand serves your customers to the best of your ability.

 

Where does this fit into the traditional marketing models we were taught at business school? Very easily actually, it just requires a slightly different lens. Although the traditional marketing mix of the 4P’s – Product, Price, Place, Promotion – was originally aligned with products and the 7P’s with services, the effect of a brandsparency world means we should all consider the 7P’s to incorporate the additional 3P’s of People, Processes, and Physical-evidence. These additional 3P’s of People, Processes, and Physical-evidence are critical to ensuring your brand is consistent across all your customer touchpoints both the physical and digital, the managed and unmanaged.

 

I want to introduce an eighth P called Purpose as a core to the 7P’s. Purpose, as discussed above, is from your customer’s perspective which is central to your brand essence or promise and infuses through everything – your people, process, product, in fact, everything you say and do, internally and externally, forever.

 

 

So, getting back to your purpose – ‘your why’ – as the core of the golden circle and the eighth P! Remember, it’s no longer about your why, it’s about your customers why.  In a brandsparency world, it’s your customers that build your brand. How your customers perceive your brand and their expectations, both tangibles and intangibles, through every interaction, is what defines your brand, not you. Your customers will want to tell their story about who they are and what they stand for via the choices they make from the companies they see and choose from. Brand choices are no longer simply about what you do or sell but now more about who your company is and how it behaves. So, think deeper about your brand from a brandsparency perspective and rebuild it from the inside out to build consistency, durability, and, importantly, authenticity.

 

Don’t forget it’s a living brand. Just like your products, services and customers evolve over time, so does your brand need to. So how do you keep it alive and current? Your people, both internally and externally across your whole ecosystem, are full of ideas. But how do you empower them to freely express their ideas, and then, how will you capture, evaluate and implement those ideas? Unlock your people’s potential by building an insightful innovation system to also ensure your brand evolves by living and breathing through everything you say and do.

You can’t build a great brand anymore, instead you need to build a great company, all the way through, from the inside out and your customers will do the rest. 

 

Originally published in Brand Quarterly. Copyright © Brand Quarterly. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Brand Quarterly.

 

 

Samantha Nottingham

About the Author

Samantha is a Principal in the San Francisco office with over 15 years of consulting experience in business and strategy as well as organizational change enablement, marketing and communications. Samantha is passionate about helping clients understand their customer deeply and to see their purpose in the world from their customers’ perspectives by discovering the functional, emotional and social benefits and outcomes their customers seek to fulfill their jobs to be done.

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