For years, classic brand strategy has always been about the creation of a single message that can be used with all of your constituents; investors, employees, senior management and customers about who you are and what value your company provides. Brand managers tend to write it up and paste it on every wall and train every new recruit in it. It's a classic approach to command and control brand messaging which then gets deployed via all the traditional media and used in every communications channel.
But these days you hear a lot of discussions about the explosion of new media types and formats like RSS feeds, blogs, podcasts, video, communities, micro-blogging and other emerging forms of social media. And it is causing plenty of concern that this disruption of media is eroding the traditional command and control branding that has become such common place for marketers.
Well, I say hallelujah and good riddance!
I believe that there is a very compelling argument that media doesn't have to be fragmented while at the same time the message need not be command and control anymore. It is only a matter of knowing how to orchestrate it.
This is why a recent BusinessWeek article on Ford surprised me so much. Ford hired a very talented marketer away from Toyota named James Farley (FYI - cousin of the late Chris Farley). Farley has been doing a masterful job on several levels: he has built/is building a dream team of marketers, making product managers be wholly accountable for individual product launches (like the new Flex) and then building the kind of consensus around a new brand message that some of us can only dream of, bringing in key dealership owners to help with the final message selection. But in the end he came away with a new brand message of -- Ford: Drive One.
Nice but ... It's a one way message, like Nike: Just do it. There is no conversation in there. How can I have a conversation with a brand that is ordering me to drive one of their vehicles?
In agonizing about our new brand message - New Thinking for a Changing World. I knew I could build content and harness the power of the organization around it. I never would have felt comfortable going to the market with a message like BearingPoint: Just do it!
So here is the secret.
First, the brand manager needs to architect a single theme that can be used across all media traditional or otherwise. Notice here I didn't say command and control at all - just to create a theme that is broad enough to use across every aspect of your media plan and "invite" customers and prospects to "engage" with it.
Next, you need to give your customers and prospects the digital tools to comment, to interact, and to add to the conversation. Then you add in more traditional elements of a media plan that all point to the online conversation and you will end up supercharging your media plan!
The bottom line is your customers and prospects are perhaps the most savvy engaged technology users of any buyer in any industry. You can't expect to reach them with just traditional media only anymore, you need to deliver your message in a way that is targeted to their exact interests. So why not get out there where they talking about your product or service, and give them a conversation starter along with the permission to start a dialog with your brand!
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