Most companies try to operate in a command and control mode when it came to their brands. They believe that customer communication is one-way from the company to the customer via salesmen, advertising and marketing collateral. Historically there was little access to independent product information so corporate brands were crafted by advertising agencies and marketers.
A lot has changed. Social media and online consumer reviews give the public a voice it never had and has changed the dynamics of branding forever.
Today brands are ultimately owned by the public in the marketplace. Businesses can direct and influence the narrative but they no longer control it. This has been a shock to the business world and some companies have adapted better than others.
The reality is that branding now happens through strategic behavior, communication and keeping promises.
Research shows that people want to know four things about a company’s products or services:
- Did they do what they said they would
- Did they have annoying or important flaws
- How many problems did people have
- When there was a problem how were they handled
The implications are striking. Taking a traditional marketing approach of over-promising and under-delivering will cost you dearly in the market. Flaws are not tolerated by the public so hoping that you can just out run complaints is a recipe for disaster. Lastly, when you treat customers poorly they have a vehicle to tell anyone and everyone.
To survive, brands need to rethink their relationship to the customer. Not only do they have to deliver on their promises but they must respond quickly and effectively to bumps in the road as well as shifting markets.
Branding is best thought of as crowd-sourced and companies attempting to build a brand should give great consideration to creating a collaborative branding environment. This does not imply that companies have no control over their brands. Instead it means that smart well implemented strategies will reflect the two way relationship between buyers and sellers. While difficult, this opens the door to opportunity for brands and companies to deliver what consumers what. No guesswork needed.