In a conversation I had with Employer Brand maestro, Simon Barrow, we talked about the different between employer brand management and employer branding. Similarly, for brands as a whole, there is a radical rift between branding and brand building. The former is found in the actions and activities (including communication) that a brand undertakes in an effort to create a brand. But, not all branding activities are really building brand, and even less for marketing activities.
I have been trumpeting the need for a revision of marketing mindset and vocabulary on this blog for quite some time. And, today, I wanted to invoke my fetish band, the Grateful Dead, to illustrate yet again how brilliant they were in creating a brand. Yet, one can safely say, that not one of the band members ever had a single fiber of “marketing” as we typically think of it. In this post I wrote about how the Grateful Dead incarnated the 5E’s concept.
Most of a marketer’s time is concentrated on activities that drive sales over the next promotional cycle. It’s a normal state of affairs. But, these promotional activities rarely do much for the brand itself. Barely anyone has time (or money) for institutional messages. Advertising messages that are “on brand” are generally brushed aside by consumers because (a) there is no hook; and (b) institutional messages are bound to be mistrusted. Even if the ad might be signed with the right logo in the right pantone colour, etc., the truth of the matter is that most marketing activities are not genuinely contributing to the brand.
Building An Ingrained Brand
The biggest issue is that most brands have not spent the time to figure who they are and what they stand for. Too often, employees — much less customers — will have a diffused idea of what the brand is. Brand activation internally — and externally — will systematically play second fiddle to sales activation. To build a brand versus carrying out “branding” means having a deeper understanding and connection. The way it works with the 5Es, is that 4 of them (experience, exchange, emotion and engagement) contribute to building the the 5th: ESSENCE of the brand. That is when the values and sense of the brand are shared inside and outside with a certain set of customers and partners.
Branding and Brand
When do you know you have a brand? The easiest way to illustrate this is with music. In the music business, way back, the model was to release new albums every year, get played on radio stations and do an obligatory, money-losing tour to promote the album. Those branding efforts, driven by record labels, pushed bands like products. The following year, it was on to the next product. A few bands had longevity and, for many of these (not all), the shared genetic composition that drove that brand was the experience of going to see them live. Perfect examples are the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. But, you can’t always see the band live. So, the real bands — with a veritable brand — were those where the fans listened to their music on their own time. Like fog in a forest, their music wafts in and out of their living room, earphones (walkman => ipod => smartphone) and their mind. There is an ongoing sense of enjoyment, value reinforcement. This certainly happens for me when I put on one or other bootleg of a Dead show I attended those many years back.
Brands whose products generate that kind of ongoing sensation are genuine brands, that don’t need to spend as much on branding. What is your brand doing to build that fog in the forest?