IT’S NOT BUSINESS IT’S PERSONAL, BUSINESS OR NO BUSINESS, IT’S PERSONAL

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David Aaker (Prophet) writes for HBR The Real Reason Chinese Firms Have Weak Branding:

In a recent column for the New York Times, David Brooks posited that the U.S. has one clear advantage over Chinese competition: branding. He notes that U.S. firms are powered by “eccentric failed novelists” (presumably from agencies and consulting firms that are gifted at brand positioning and execution) and “visionary founders” (think Steve Jobs) who have created exceptional brands. This talent is lacking in the Chinese market where “executives tend to see business deals in transactional, not in relationship terms,” as Brooks says. This observation is important because there are Chinese firms that seem to have everything to win globally except for branding and marketing.

Speaking as a long-time observer of brands and brand strategy, I believe that Brooks is correct but his analysis is incomplete. China’s lack of people with brand instincts is not the only or even the main brand challenge of Chinese firms. Further, he does not address the big questions: How, and when, will they overcome this deficiency?

How Hubris Killed Nokia by Colvin Shaw (Beyond Philosophy.)

So what happened to the mobile phone giant [Nokia]? They had great phones. They had market share. They were perched atop the mobile phone world for nearly 10 years. How did it unravel so quickly, in just six short years?

A large part of the answer is they did not build any emotional loyalty to their product.

Emotional loyalty is key to branding. It helps you weather competition and hang on to your market share. It is the reason that when faced with a decision, consumers will choose your product without even fully understanding why they did it. Emotional loyalty is the difference between being a mobile phone juggernaut and being the featured brand on a segment of a TV show called ‘Where are they now?’

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ALGORITHMIC YES BOTS

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Algorithmic yes bots are lurking in your Google, supporting your ideas, reinforcing your beliefs, hiding things from you, and, perhaps, hindering your perspective and proper analyzation. See:  Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubble” (TED: 9:05) Standardized (Google, Facebook, YaHoo News, Huffington Post, Washington Post) no more. Is the personalization of “your filter bubble” creating a false confidence of what is really going on?

Buy The Filter Bubble from Amazon.

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CONSISTENT VS. COHERENT

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We suffer a bit over HOW MUCH in agreement we need to be to communicate a strong, cohesive Brand, and when localizing globally is part of branding efforts, things can really get interesting, as well as confusing.

When in doubt, go back to core and extended brand attributes, and make sure all are clearly communicated throughout the Brand no matter where, no matter when, no matter who. If all are absolutely, clearly understood, then the Brand is safe. So ask: 

Do efforts cohere with Brand attributes?  

Further, in the near term, are current objectives being clearly communicated throughout the Brand? Is everyone clear on where the Brand is leading? Is everyone supporting that position? those relationships? Core brand attributes lead extended attributes, which beget positions and relationships which lead objectives, that guide stewardship efforts. So ask: 

Are efforts being made that support or counter (and possibly confuse, and possibly dilute) Brand momentum? position? relationships?

If answers confirm a positively clear message and direction on all parts, a nervousness about “consistency” can overly tighten the Brand’s agility and responsiveness, and can actually create effects that counter Brand attributes and position. Too much consistency can also be boorish, dehumanizing and suffocating.

Think COHERENT.

 

WHO STEWARDS THE BRAND?

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This is a question I get asked quite often, and thought it might be useful to briefly answer, and to document that it is a common concern and often asked.

In the beginning, this is probably a shared task headed-up by the CEO, C-level Suit, Board, and implemented by anyone available to task, but by now, it’s probably time to choose someone.  This person can be the Brand Steward, or CBO, or Creative Director, Head of Design, Brand Officer, Head of Marketing, etc., but someone will need to take this most important role into the future.

Who this is, is largely dependent on how the organization is structured and what makes sense.  Is it a simple, centralized group?  Are there localization concerns?  Is it a decentralized structure with shared knowledge and interaction concerns?  And at what level is someone able to effectively implement change?

The skill set spans a liberal variety:  analytical, organizational development, financial, creative, etc., but the person also needs to be of a certain temperament and emotional intelligence.  Hard data needs to be analyzed, but also soft data needs to be interpreted from what users are saying.  (“Don’t listen to what they say, interpret what they mean.”)  So both quantitative and qualitative data needs to be understood and that person needs to be deeply empathetic to get it. 

Who stewards the brand is a diversely skilled and empowered, empathetic individual capable of interpreting both qualitative and quantitative information, and applying solid intuition to evidence. That person needn’t be a brooding, billionaire, playboy do-gooder with a gadget fetish who self-identifies with bats — but, close.