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The State of Branding: A Reflection Part 2

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This is the continuation of a reflection piece. Catch up by reading the beginning here.

As we discussed, globalization and technological advances have enabled consumers to find the information they desire and share this information regardless of geographic location (Jai Beom, Yoori, & Ryun, 2009). The Internet has made foreign businesses more local, and has given the small local shops the chance to be more global. With this technology, businesses are also able to target markets outside their geographic locations and engage with them for better knowledge of the audience. With the understanding of a particular target market, a brand can select the appropriate tool(s) in which to reach and engage with them.

The Internet has changed the way brands build and maintain their image, improved methods of addressing customer service issues, has created opportunities to brand themselves through celebrities, has created the notion of personal brands, and has revolutionized integrated marketing communications. Review Part 1 here. Globalization and technological advances have enabled consumers to find the information they desire and share this information regardless of geographic location (Jai Beom, Yoori, & Ryun, 2009). The Internet has made foreign businesses more local, and has given the small local shops the chance to be more global. With this technology, businesses are also able to target markets outside their geographic locations and engage with them for better knowledge of the audience. With the understanding of a particular target market, a brand can select the appropriate tool(s) in which to reach and engage with them. The Internet has changed the way brands build and maintain their image, improved methods of addressing customer service issues, has created opportunities to brand themselves through celebrities, has created the notion of personal brands, and has revolutionized integrated marketing communications. Let’s continue with our exploration……..

Celebrity
A few years ago, singer Rhianna was described as being too sexy for the Nivea brand as a spokesperson. The campaign was halted by Nivea, who felt the singers dress, behavior, and relationships did not fit the image of the brand. Many brands are choosing to use celebrities as branding tools by having the celebrity appear in a commercial or even starting their own product line. Halonen-Knight and Hurmerinta (2010) believe celebrity endorsement to be one of the most popular forms of marketing, and should be utilized as a brand alliance. A brand alliance suggests value for both the brand and the celebrities’ personal brand. The identification of the right celebrity for the right product is an essential decision for a brand, and engaging in product endorsements is an essential decision for a celebrity (Halonen-Knight & Hurmerinta, 2010). Both the brand and the celebrity must also take into consideration the potential positive and negative effects endorsements could have on their brand image and brand equity.

Twitter & Instagram- Currently, celebrities Tweeting about certain products or services are being compensated for those tweets, known as sponsored tweets. A celebrity may have millions of loyal followers; for a brand to be mentioned on Twitter by a celebrity it could mean a large percentage of those followers saw the tweet. However, the life of a tweet is very short and may not have the power a long-term endorsement such as a print ad has. Instagram has also let consumers delve into the ives of celebrities. But how much of what we see is real?

Transparency- Brands and the celebrity should address transparency concerns before utilizing sponsored tweets. The more transparent the brand and the celebrity brand are on Twitter, the deeper the connection they will have with their audience. Issues with celebrities have made consumers skeptical about the brands and the celebrities paid to endorse them. Today’s market is impacted by technology and the speed by which news and information travels. Consider Tiger Wood’s situation with his wife and how quickly it appeared in the news and subsequently destroyed his brand. Today’s consumers have smart phones and Internet; therefore, celebrities are in the spot light more than ever. Brands must understand they cannot control the Internet. Using a celebrity for branding purposes requires the brand to be prepared to take on loss of control and individual risks.

Personal Branding

Traditionally branding referred to only corporate and individual product branding. Both types of branding aim to create name, icon, and emotional connections. In today’s society, more and more individuals are exploring personal branding brought made possible in part by social media. The individual brand must be positioned within the marketplace and must be continually reinvented. Differentiation among other individuals is essential in personal branding just as it is in product or service branding. By identifying what differentiates a personal brand, an individual can communicate that to the right audience with the right medium.

Digital Footprints– Blogs, micro blog, websites, and other social media platforms are now being used to illustrate competence and a love of the persons industry. Simply having a resume is somewhat dated in today’s workplace. Individuals are building their personal brands with blogs that they write on their own time for the love of what they do and to share with others. These individuals are also gathering followers who value the content they provide via blogs or micro blogs such as Twitter. These folks are building their networks via LinkedIn.com and branding themselves as professionals in their prospective industries.

Self Reflection– Personal branding encourages the individual to look inwardly to who they are and what they stand for to arrive at an authentic personal brand. The authentic personal branding is based on individual identity, vision, mission, values, self-knowledge, positive attributes, and self-management, rather than presenting an image or brand that you wish others to perceive.

Influence- In order to remain competitive, those building a personal brand must explore LinkedIn as a replacement for the traditional resume. More employees, employers, and recruiters are utilizing LinkedIn and the connections within to link positions with the right candidates. A users profile offers viewers more information about the individual that a resume can. Most profiles include job history, connections, skills, as well as hyperlinks to other sources of information and possible samples of work. With the emergence of personal branding, many employers value this online influence. Such influence, or clout, demonstrates soft skills such as writing, leadership, and organization. Individuals who have large and influential networks (via Twitter, blogs, and LinkedIn for example) have the potential to bring something of value to an organization: an audience and potential consumers.

Personal branding will continue to become more important as it separates the good from the great. It will uncover those who work simply for a paycheck and those who work because they have a passion for what they do, are thought leaders, and are influencers in their field. If nothing else, it allows the individual to take charge of their career and seek out connections and share relevant information rather than leave it to chance.

IMC
Technology has made a significant impact on integrated marketing communication (IMC). With the volume of messages presented to consumer sin the form of email, television, Internet ads, social media, and print, brands must ensure the relevancy of their messages. Additionally, brands must address budget issues and allocate the right amount of resources to the right communication to generate a significant return on investment.

Jai Beom, Yoori, and Ryun (2009) suggest the integration of online and offline has led to an increase in the number of touch points for customers both current and potential. Figure 3 illustrates how the core identity of a brand can influence consumers through the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Jai Beom, Yoori, and Ryun (2009) found that each touch point should appeal to each of the senses. Effective use of the various touch points is one way a brand can build a competitive advantage over the competition. With IMC, the brand can coordinate the touch points, the mediums, and the message to create a campaign that caters to all the senses, contributes to the building of a relationship, and ultimately translates into an increase in market share.

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-11-13-32-amJai Beom, Yoori, and Ryun (2009)

Social- Social media as part of an IMC is essential in today’s business environment. A brands target audience is divided among Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. A brand does not have to utilize every social touch point, but should research which tool would increase interaction with consumers. For example, crafts and home decorating audiences are often found on Pinterest, so a brand with similar targets would benefit from sharing their own images of products, services, or designs on the platform. Social media is a great medium to build brand awareness, solicit feedback, and engage with consumers.

Digital- A combination of on and offline tools such as social, brand website (SEO), print, television, and personal selling can make for a very effective IMC program. However, the target audience and budget play a key role in what strategy should be employed. Integrating these tools is a challenge, but necessary to ensure the right brand image is being perceived. All of the tools should send the same message about the brand to the same target audience. An interesting IMC program is the Nike PhotoiD campaign. It allowed users to design shoes based on color photographs taken by cell phone. Customers would contact Nike via text message and PhotoiD would analyze the photo, matching colors in the shots to the NikeiD palette. Then Nikeid would apply colors to a selected design. Consumers could then do a variety of things such as save the image, use it as computer desktop wallpaper, share it via social media, or purchase the shoe. This is also a great example of personalization, yet another trend in branding that has been made possible through technology.

Conclusion
Consumers now have a wealth of information about brands and their competition, making them a powerful force. Customers have so many more choices than ever before. This gives them the power to demand more from businesses. This same new technology that is enabling the consumer, is also giving businesses the capability of initiating multi-channel strategies for communicating with customers. These emerging, real-time platforms such as the Internet, Apps, and other social media channels place new strains on a network’s existing infrastructure. However, they also generate large amounts of data that contain valuable insight into customer behavior and preferences. Specifically, the use of mobile devices and social media is gathering enormous amounts of personal data that can be a real asset to businesses. Unfortunately, there are businesses not making the most of the data available and there are others not even utilizing the platforms to access this data (Rogers, 2012).

Brands must develop an infrastructure that allows for the sharing of information and effective communication. With the use of a variety of social media platforms (such as blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube etc.) brands have a direct line to the end consumer for communicating about their products or services. Consumers are online talking about the brands, and the brands need to listen. If businesses can identify unmet expectations and where the strongest expectations exist, they will be more likely to realize an increase in market share and profitability. In order to do this, they must know more about their customers. Brands must talk, listen, and interact with customers more often and with more relevancy in new and innovative ways. The use of social media platforms is one way to drive engagement and participation to create and nurture relationships with customers and potential customers. This is an exciting time for marketers with the technology available to manage customer information, data, trends, and relationships as well as the new social environment that creates a one-on-one marketing opportunity.

If you have enjoyed this 2 part series, I urge you to explore my past articles. While they are more informal, I think you will find value in the content as the posts speak to the themes within this 2 part series.


The State of Branding: A Reflection: Part 1

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Technology has brought upon many changes to the branding and marketing industries, specifically the Internet. Employing the Internet as a means of branding combines mass media’s reach with the personalization of two-way dialogue that was previously only possible through personal selling (Simons, 2007). Simons (2007) suggests the use if the Internet for branding could be described within four pillars: understanding customers; marketing communications; interactivity; and content.

Simmons, Thomas, and Truong (2010) identified several Internet tools that offer brands the opportunity to create brand equity for products categorized by experience, credence, and search characteristics. Internet tools such as social media, email, forums, video sharing, and webpages allow interaction between the brand and the consumer, and interactions between consumers themselves. This interaction is significant in that they can allow for real time dialog and can facilitate the exchange of experiences and preferences between consumers and to the brand as well. Should this dialogue take place on a brands webpage or blog, and include its products, the opportunity for creating and increasing brand equity is substantial. Another aspect of the Internet that has created opportunities for both the consumer and brands are hyperlinks. Such links offer consumers a road map of information that enables the consumer to navigate significant amounts of information and make evaluations and decisions in a very informed manner.

Globalization and technological advances have enabled consumers to find the information they desire and share this information regardless of geographic location (Jai Beom, Yoori, & Ryun, 2009). The Internet has made foreign businesses more local, and has given the small local shops the chance to be more global. With this technology, businesses are also able to target markets outside their geographic locations and engage with them for better knowledge of the audience. With the understanding of a particular target market, a brand can select the appropriate tool(s) in which to reach and engage with them.
The Internet has changed the way brands build and maintain their image, improved methods of addressing customer service issues, has created opportunities to brand themselves through celebrities, has created the notion of personal brands, and has revolutionized integrated marketing communications.

Maintaining Brand Image
The current marketplace is inundated with brands competing for the consumers’ attention. If a brands products or services do not have a perceived differentiation, failure is a real possibility. When trying to maintain a positive brand image, differentiation becomes just as important as it is when developing a new product or service. What differentiated a brand from the competition when it came on the market, may now have become commonplace, forcing the brand to consider news ways of differentiation. Differentiation among the competition in the future will require strategic planning and looking beyond functional benefits of products. Branding is not finite, it is a continuous process that should be strategically planned but also allow for some flexibility.

Evolution- Additionally, brands must change at the same rate as society or risk becoming obsolete. This does not imply re-branding excessively, but rather investing in new technologies that will help the brand to prevent falling behind. To maintain a positive brand image, a brand must decide what is the best method to keep a fresh image in a market with continually changing technology. Such technologies could be mobile applications or free downloads. As more consumers utilize mobile technologies and smart phones, these types of technologies are quickly becoming a mandatory component of any brand.

Consistent Messaging- There should be consistency between a brands vision, strategy, culture, and reputation in order to maintain a brands image. Hillestad, Xie and Haugland (2010) found that an organizations reputation saw positive gains when the integrated corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their business strategy. This suggests organizations influenced by CSR are differentiated between competitors, and ultimately the brand benefits. A reputation as an organization that embraces corporate social responsibility and is environmentally aware contributes to a brands value, equity, and competitive advantage. Such a favorable reputation is often difficult, or even impossible for competitors to imitate.

To maintain a brands image, the organization must start with a quality product or service. If a consumer does not view an offering as having adequate quality, there will not be a purchase. Ultimately, the consumers create successes through purchases and prevent failures due to repeat purchases. Brand loyalty is becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve and maintain with the volume of competing products and offers on the market. Rewarding loyalty and offering great customer service are great ways to keep consumers loyal while maintaining a positive band image.

Customer Satisfaction
O’Cass and Viet Ngo (2011) found that employing a strong service capability and encouraging customer involvement, by way of customer empowerment (in the marketing environment), is essential. Brands today have the ability to gain and understand consumers due to technological advances like dialogue through the Internet, and online satisfaction surveys or online focus groups. This enables brands to gather and analyze data, and with that data, formulate strategies and policies that enhance customer satisfaction.

However, customer satisfaction surveys can be flawed due to their ability to predict with accuracy the real strength of customer relationships and the brand equity they create. Often “satisfied” or “very satisfied” customers will leave a brand for a competitor when they become somewhat unhappy. Given the environment today of on demand information, consumers can find a competitor in a matter of moments or a few click of a mouse.

Loyalty-The value of a loyal customer can be infinite. A loyal customer is a patron to the brand over the long term even if at times they are not necessarily getting the best price. They are loyal to the brand, share their experiences, and tend to be more forgiving with the occasional service issue. A satisfied customer becomes a loyal customer for a brand through customer experiences with the brand. Meaning, improving customer experiences at each touch point influences the loyalty of a consumer. Customers interact with sales staff, customer service, web pages, email, and even through social media. Each of these interactions is an opportunity for a brand to improve the customer experience, create a relationship, and nurture a relationship. Conversely, these are also opportunities to create a negative experience and drive the customer away. By evaluating these touch points, a brand can identify what customers think about the brand, what they value about doing business with the brand, and ultimately build the foundation for a long term relationship. Brands must embrace a corporate culture that can close the gaps between actual and perceived performances continually.

Social Media- An alarming trend in social media is the large amounts of brands that have active Twitter or FaceBook accounts that do not respond to consumer interactions. Utilizing social media as a tool to learn more about consumers is becoming a real advantage to business. Those brands that choose not to reply to consumers are simply ignoring them, which is unacceptable. Whether the brand is using social media for customer service purposes, marketing, promotions, or the like, they need to be prepared before launching a social media endeavor. This means having the staff to address inquiries, pass them along to the right folks, and the know how to make the social media strategy effective.

Stay tuned for the continuation of this post… and conclusion(here).


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