Brands are more fluid now than ever before. Customer expectations are constantly shifting, and a company’s branding is no longer a static identity that gets refreshed or redone every three, five or 10 years. Brands must evolve alongside their customers to stay relevant, provide personalized experiences and project their authentic identities if they want to be successful.
Certainly some brand elements, like a logo, a tagline, imagery, spokespeople and typeface, should remain in place for some period of time. They require consistency for consumers to associate them with the brand. But, there are deeper considerations that CMOs must evaluate if they are to remain preferred and loved by consumers into the future.
Is your brand communicating authentically?
Just as fake news is a growing threat to consumers, it’s also a threat to brands affected by misinformation or misunderstanding. Leveraging your customers’ voice in your brand communications is a great way to avoid any misunderstanding in how customers view your brand. Create a hashtag and @ mention campaign to gather user-generated content. Ask customers how they use the product, at various touchpoints, like over social media, on e-commerce sites, through owned content, in the store – wherever you can! For example, NYX Cosmetics asked its fan base for UGC images that show how real customers use its products, and created a library of imagery for use on its websites and in its stores. Involving customers in how you communicate with them will increase engagement and loyalty, and ultimately project to the world that your brand truly understands customers. Tracking your brand’s authenticity at each customer touchpoint is more critical than ever.
When it comes to brand consistency, are you thinking globally?
Brand consistency goes far beyond making sure your logo looks the same everywhere it appears (although that is of course very important). It’s about working to achieve a cohesive and consistent identity across all customer touchpoints – everywhere in the world. This means activating assets that align with brand values and aesthetic, no matter the region or languages where the brand appears. Sony for example leverages a single typeface that covers almost 100 languages so that its ads, apps, websites, packaging, product manuals and more look the same no matter where customers buy and use its products. This approach allows brand fidelity can be delivered to all touchpoints, quickly and at scale.
Are the right technology tools in place?
Each passing year seems to deliver some new technological advancement that promises to “transform” how marketers do their jobs, but few have held as much promise as artificial intelligence (AI). AI can help automate at least some of the manual and labor-intensive tasks involved with marketing, and once you are comfortable with its contribution to the marketing strategy, you may even unlock more AI capabilities. For example, machine learning can help your support team identify common issues with a product based on feedback it receives. Start by looking for some low-level ways that AI tools could make your team’s life easier. It might free up a lot of bandwidth.
Is your treatment of data aligned with your brand’s values?
Many marketers spent much of 2018 adjusting or overhauling the way they handle customer data as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) went into effect in Europe. Ripples were felt around the world as brands grappled with the impact that changing privacy regulations would have on how they use customer data. It’s not enough for a brand to say that it adheres to privacy rules, it needs to tell – and show – its customers how it’s leveraging customer data in a transparent way. Customers will appreciate the openness, as well as the opportunity to direct how their information is being used.
Does the customer experience align with expectations?
All of this work is for naught if it isn’t easy for customers to engage with and buy from your brand. Your customer journey could be a relatively straightforward path, or a road with multiple starts and stops along the way, where departments like sales, finance, legal and support get involved. It’s the CMO’s job to ensure that road is as free of potholes, speed bumps, detours and traffic jams as possible. A delay or disruption creates friction, and can push a customer off-track (and into the arms of a competitor). No customer wants to deal with roadkill.
Future-proofing a brand is a constant effort, one that requires CMOs to dig deeper, ask tough questions about the nuts and bolts of a brand identity, and work hard to remain aligned with customer expectations. The result, however, is a brand that is well-positioned to meet tomorrow’s challenges head on, confident in the fact that it is maintaining a strong relationship with customers by meeting their most important needs.