A New Way of Thinking to Build Strong Brands
I brushed off an old, favourite book of mine – Building Strong Brands by David A. Aaker – the brand guru who told us years ago to focus less on product attributes and more on the emotional and self-expressive benefits of a product or service. The goal was first to manage the image of the brand through advertising, and then manage customer interactions to create a positive experience – every time.
It was Aaker who offered encouragement and a road map to controlling the new ‘out-of-the-box’ brand. As I skimmed through the highlighted and dog-eared pages of my book, I noticed a couple of intriguing passages, for example, “Firms that are good at developing strong brands usually have a strong brand-building culture”(p.342), and this one, “The culture of an organization, more than procedures or structures, is ultimately what drives the attainment of sustainable advantage” (p.343).
It’s interesting; at this point in the history of branding Professor Aaker already recognized that a successful brand was undeniably connected to the employees and culture of an organization.
He flagged for us then the fundamental notion that companies that talk the talk of brand values must also walk the walk to create a sustainable competitive edge. Brilliant!
Now, if we fast forward to 2009, Professor Aaker’s belief has since evolved into a new and progressive way of thinking. It is called, ‘Corporate Branding’ (Fisher-Buttinger, Vallaster, Connective Branding, 2008). It represents a view that the brand experience is more holistic, and connects internal employee engagement strategies to external brand value.
Consumers are now analyzing the ‘company’ behind the brand to affirm their loyalty; it’s not only about features and emotional touchpoints anymore.
The world in which we ‘brand’ in has changed dramatically. Today, it is complex and capricious. It brings a new reality to the old saying, ‘know your audience’ because the focus is about connecting your brand to multiple audiences, such as employees, customers, investors, partners, suppliers, distributors, and special interest groups.
Of course, the added layer of complexity arose with the creation of the Internet. Brands are no longer simply managed through clever advertising campaigns, but now require strong strategic communications to ensure a coherent brand message connects with key stakeholders with context, continuity and consistency.
My trusted Professor espoused this wisdom all those years ago, but today I find there are more and more organizations walking the talk and building strong brands ; they are indeed embracing the concept of ‘living the brand’ internally.