It may seem like it's yours, but it's not. It has a life of its own and you work for it—not the other way around. I'm talking about your brand.
You may have chosen the colors, the words, the price, the method of delivery—or any other aspect of your brand. You may have calculated how much marketing to spend on what channel, how your brand reacts or doesn't to the trends du jour, or any other number of things. But, sadly, and to many a begrudging marketer, no matter how much time, emotion, energy or intellectual property you invested, your brand is, in the end, mostly defined by those who spend money to consume it.
To make matters even trickier, that definition is also relative—it depends on a multitude of factors, from the creative that is delivered (what, when, how and to whom) to how it compared to what else is going on in the marketplace at that point in time, etc. And, of course, marketers must contend with the biggest variable of all: the evolving appetite of the ever-changing consumer.
Take a look at the state of customer care. It used to be that complaints all flowed to one of a few places: telephones, the store, or through snail mail. Back then, the message from brand to consumer could be controlled in a private setting. Answers could be mostly scripted, (those calling about problem X get response Y) and a decision tree could be put into place with semi-predictable results.
Now, with the proliferation of touchpoints has come an unwieldy matrix of scenarios by which a consumer can love you or leave you, praise or tarnish you—and, inevitably, help define you. The newly empowered consumer (complete with digital alter-egos) can now shout your mistakes from rooftops with the click of a button. And not just with words, but with a growing bevy of symbols, actions, or even pictures.
X “liked” this; so-and-so voted on that; this one DM'ed a question; and these people shared one thing while another segment of customers posted photos, and yet another chose to favorite something else. And each, of course, comes with a new language to decipher. And just because a consumer likes a brand, doesn't mean that person wants you to use their face to market your company to their friends. There are tricky questions to answer, hard behaviors to score, and a daunting new set of platforms to insert into the more traditional marketing mix.
Against that backdrop, marketers are expected to make decisions about launching, pushing, reintroducing, and selling a product or service that will resonate, be timely, relevant, and on brand, and move the needle for the organization—not just on budget, but with diminishing resources every quarter. Also expected are projections for 12, 18, and 24 months, when the truth is, the only thing that can be established these days is the fact of the ever-changing platforms, behaviors, and channels consumers use to research, buy, and recommend.
It's no wonder so many marketers need a drink after work! And like a diamond created from great pressure, it's also no wonder there is so much incredible innovation in the real-time marketing arsenal today. Despite the explosion of intangibles, marketing continues to be one of the most fascinating industries on the planet.
Brands can now listen across all those channels and build content clouds full of offers just waiting to be deployed against the perfect “social TV” + LOL + Twitter + desktop moment.
Reshape the brand? Control the message? Please. How about keeping up with consumers and just offer the best brand experiences possible. That, in the end, is how marketing will be defined in the future anyway.