Are you creating brands or consumers? – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: The second day of Star FLOW — The Change Festival, an initiative by The Times of India — opened with the session ‘The New Brand Model — Are you creating Brands or Consumers?’ by Marty Neumeier, director of CEO Branding at Liquid Agency, redefining branding for marketers.
“I changed it from being a logo, or a message or a campaign or a product to being something else. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about the product, service or company,” said Neumeier.
The best-selling author said a brand is not what a company thinks it is but rather what a customer thinks it is. “You have to look at it from the other way round, which is really hard. Companies have difficulty in seeing their brands from the point of view of the customer. But that’s the main trick,” said Neumeier, who wrote several books, including ‘The Brand Gap’ and ‘ZAG’.
Power has shifted from companies to customers because of the internet and social media, he said, while explaining that in the new-age brand model, companies create customers first. “For instance, you co-design a product or service with a specific set of customers you want to work for. They help you create it. They keep telling people about this great product they are involved with. They build a tribe.”

Neumeier told marketers that people are not focused on products as much they mean. “Customers buy products to build their identities, they hate being sold, but they love to buy, they buy in tribes to feel safe and successful. And, the company with the strongest tribe wins.”
How brands and new business models create sustainable growth
A dive into how companies can make consumers active participants in value creation
Erich Joachimsthaler, the founder and CEO of Vivaldi Group, a New York-headquartered 150-person independent strategy, brand, and innovation marketing consulting firm, opened his session by dividing branding into two parts — brand strategy and brand architecture.
While strategy is what a company is or aspires to be, architecture combines all things such as products and strategy, said Joachimsthaler. Talking about evolution of branding, he said the clamour around technology started about a quarter of a century ago with ecommerce and search algorithm, followed by social media. Currently, people are talking about AI, IoT and Blockchain.
“While earlier the brand architecture was confined to a world of walls characterised by production, marketing, design, and research, now it is more about the world of web characterised by producers and consumers,” said Joachimsthaler.
He quoted the example of Lego and how the company aced the brand strategy. “Lego reached out to its customers and asked them to build designs with old Lego sets and put them online. If the design won more than 10,000 votes, it would be mass-produced by Lego.”
He said through this process, they involved customers in value creation. This led to people talking about the brand in their circles and created powerful branding.
He said while in earlier days, branding was about extracting premium, currently it is about engaging with the customers. Elaborating about how to build a strong brand, he listed three things — network effect, learning effect and viral effect. The network effect talks about how a product becomes more valuable as more and more people talk about it. The learning effect happens as the company applies human knowledge and artificial intelligence to make its brand better. And, the viral effect kicks in when consumers become advocates of a brand and encourage others to use these products and services.
Trust is the world’s biggest economic power
How companies can use it to their advantage
Philipp Kristian Deikhoner, author of the book, The Trust Economy, said marketers and brands across the world have had to cope up with shifts in generations, from baby boomers to Gen X, millennials and Gen Z and tweak their strategies. With the rise of the Zen Z, one of the most important avenues for the brands to tap is the ‘Trust Economy’.
The Trust Economy deals with trust being the most impactful economic power. Deikhoner said Trust Economy is driven by Gen Z and Gen Y, enabled by data, technology and digital platforms and it values factors, such as, speed, flexibility, agility and convenience.
Deikhoner said the experience inside an organisation mirrors the experience outside and hence building trust within the organisation is the first step in that direction. “Work environment in most organisations isn’t conducive to innovation, as there isn’t enough trust between the people. When organisations hire young people, they need to trust them and enable them to innovate.”
Once the trust has been established within the organisation, it would further help in building trust among customers. “The brands need to weave stories and then make the customers trust their stories,” said Deikhoner, adding, it is however important that these stories are authentic and honest, especially in case of a controversial product, such as a cigarette or an alcohol brand.
Talking about the ways brands can salvage trust after having had a breach, he said that it depends on number of breaches that have taken place and the history of the brand. If the brand has had a long reputable history, a couple of breaches are manageable. However, even in this case, it is important that the brands are honest. “The best strategy in case of a breach is to be upfront, accept the mistake, instead of trying to put it away and manipulate customers.” He gave the example of an oil spill by a company, saying that the involvement was very high, the customers forgot about the breach in a very short time, hence the customer’s involvement with the brand is also a very important factor in handling such breaches.
While maintaining trust on their part, brands also have to be careful that they do not give customers a window of opportunity to break the trust. “For instance, if an e-commerce company is getting customers through frequent discounts, the trust they are generating is transactional in nature and hence once the discount goes away, the customer moves to break the trust,” said Deikhoner. He added that companies tend to seem too needy and desperate when they offer too many discounts or promotions.
Innovation pays most when uncertainty peaks
How marketers can anticipate change, prepare for it and enjoy it
From showing images of the garage where computer maker Hewlett-Packard (HP) was founded to charting the routes of Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus on a giant map, Charles Leadbeater, author and leading authority on innovation and creativity, revealed how uncertainty can lead to new possibilities.
Leadbeater urged marketers to look beyond the mainstream into the margins and ask radically different questions without assuming that one knows.
“Be curious not only about your existing customers but about people who might become your customers.”
Leadbeater spoke about how the mountain bike was created by modifying cruiser bicycles and why sitting in office for long hours is not a good idea because meeting similar people is not the right way to come up with an innovative idea. Quoting the example of Jaipur Foot as a pathbreaking innovation, he advised marketers and companies to seek out a community because the real unit of innovation is a creative community with a cause.





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