A guest blog post by Jens Lundgaard of Brandworkz.
I have recently been in Silicon Valley and San Francisco meeting with a variety of CMOs and marketing directors, as well as many branding and marketing agencies.
Silicon Valley is incredibly dynamic and forward-thinking when it comes to software and technology across every industry sector. One of our own clients, Varian, is located there. They are at the forefront of life sciences, pioneering breakthrough proton-therapy equipment for cancer patients that enables 3-D targeting of tumors coupled with software-assisted dosage regulation.
All this innovative thinking is rubbing off on some marketers and agencies there. And it has highlighted in my mind what the main drivers of a strong brand strategy and good brand management will be in the coming years.
1. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)
Brands need to rethink where and how they interact with their consumers. Digital user experiences are rapidly taking over traditional brand touch points as the most important interfaces for brands with their customers.
Take banking, for example. I interact more often with my bank through its iPhone app and various personal and business Web applications than I do through the bank’s physical or paper-based touch points.
When my bank recently released a new version of its iPhone app with a massively improved UI/UX, which, by the way, is also very on-brand in terms of look and feel, my estimation of the bank went up—by more than it would have through any other brand- or marketing-related activity the bank could have undertaken.
What does this mean if you are a brand owner?
Before embarking on any brand or re-brand exercise, ask your existing customers—and potential ones—what the most important touch points with your organization are likely to be for them. Then rank them in terms of which ones will contribute the most to consumer satisfaction and which will attract potential customers most effectively.
Then decide if…
a.) you should go with a “traditional” branding agency that is strong on general positioning and creative—and then have a separate digital agency interpreting this output for your digital UX and UI
b.) digital user experiences are so important to your customers that this justifies choosing an agency that has UX as a core competency—but also understands and can develop a brand positioning
What does this mean if you are a branding agency?
If you don’t already have a strong digital UX and UI capability or you aren’t in the process of developing it, you need to start—now.
Many brand owners are already putting that capability at the top of the list when choosing a branding agency. These agencies will sooner rather than later become the agencies of record (or in UK terms, lead agency) because they are also picking up the traditional branding work, such as positioning, identity, communications, stationery, signage, brochures, and other marketing materials.
Analytics is becoming even more integral to good brand management. With an effective digital asset management system, businesses will soon be able to track where and how brand assets are being used online and their effectiveness and relevance.
In the case of material with a limited lifespan, such as specific campaigns, videos, or images, businesses can track where these are, so they can be replaced when appropriate. This is vital in the digital space where the interaction between brand and consumers is two-way.
If you are a brand owner, ask yourself the following questions.
- When your images and videos are used on third-party sites, should these be available from your brand-management site, so you can track their popularity and use, and change them if they become out of date?
- If you allow consumers or third parties to download your brand images and videos, can you track where they are used?
3. Differentiated Positioning and Visual Style
What I have also learned is that, while advances in technology are changing the face of brand management, a differentiated positioning and supporting visual style remain as important as ever—if not more so.
Most product categories are immensely crowded. Competition is now not just from your own country but from the whole world; consumers are switching their spending to the Internet.
To build a successful brand and business, you must have a product or service that is highly relevant to your target market and that you can differentiate from your competitors’ products or services. In addition, you must communicate this clearly and consistently, both visually and through your messaging in every communications channel you use.
Jens Lundgaard is founder and CEO of Brandworkz. He has been developing cloud-based brand and digital asset management technology since the 1990s for such companies as Eurostar, Bupa, and Sony Ericsson.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Future)