I try to make every fifth blog post about positioning. That means I write about positioning quite a bit. Not too long ago, a reader commented that I hadn’t innovated anything new. He pointed out that Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote the book on positioning, with the apt title, Positioning, back in the sixties. […]
To build a brand, one has to, first, determine what your market expects of your enterprise and, then, align the presentation of your products and services to match those expectations. For most existing enterprises – businesses, nonprofits, etc. – the alignment can be relatively easy to accomplish because, presumably, they’ve already been more or less meeting expectations for some time. Very often, all that’s required is a brand refresh, sort of like when a married couple renews its vows. Sometimes, however, existing companies allow their brands to become so neglected they lose all value and power. These companies reduce themselves to commodities and, if they are to try to rebuild their brand, they have to start at the very beginning, as if they were brand new.
There’s plenty of innovation going on at research labs all across the globe. In space, in pharmaceuticals, in renewable energy, and countless other fields, people are working day and night to find breakthroughs and discoveries. But it’s brands that are doing the most deliberate innovation right now. Why? Because consumers are demanding it. Ecommerce is booming because people want the convenience of shopping from home. Retail is going all out to create experiences that consumers will find compelling enough to bring them out to the mall. Consumer products are constantly re-inventing themselves to be greener, more sustainable or less damaging to the environment. Financial services are competing to make banking and investing easier, safer, more secure and socially responsible. Sports and entertainment events are aiming to be ever more spectacular. All this is driven by consumer demand. Marketing has always been concerned with meeting customer needs, of course. But today’s world moves at the speed of a mouse click. So competitive brands are forced to follow the rule of A-B-I – Always Be Innovating.
Our motto here at Boardwalk is “A brand is a promise kept.” Meaning, first, you have to know your optimum brand promise. Second, you need to make your brand promise to your market. And, finally, you have to keep that brand promise; you have to deliver as expected. If you do these three things, you will be rewarded with brand loyalty. Sussing out your optimum brand promise requires you to don your strategic thinking cap. Making the brand promise is marketing communications. And delivering on it is operations. Strategy, marketing, operations – it takes the whole company to build the brand. This blog post is going to focus on the marketing communications, the making of the promise. It’s a common mistake to conflate communication with advertising. But advertising is only one form of communication, a one-way, one-to-many format. Today, we know that true communication is a two-way conversation that can be personalized. We see how, through interactive, online channels, markets can influence the behavior of business. But even those who have mastered every form of external communication sometimes forget that brand promises need to be communicated internally as well.
In the ancient, old pre-internet days, only a few brands were able to use sound as part of their brand-building efforts. They all had to be either on TV or up on the silver screen. I’m thinking of sound signatures like the roar of the MGM lion, the Avon-calling doorbell or NBC’s three-note chime. Advertisers made frequent use of jingles. “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” just popped into mind. It has to be about 40 years since I last heard it but I remember it well. (Kinda scary.) In today’s world every business is on a screen somewhere. So there’s really no excuse to overlook sound as an important part of any brand identity system. Sound signatures, music, even background noises can all be used to augment a visual identity system and boost memorability. It’s a fun and mostly inexpensive way to build and maintain brand awareness, keeping the brand at the top of its market’s collective mind. Moreover, these sonic tools are not even on the radar of most businesses. So they can serve as very effective differentiators. That is, until everybody starts doing it. But by that time, your signature sound will be as memorable to your market as those old jingles are to me. Let me share one example of how it can work.
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