Time to Start Living Our Brand Values
Up for a fun exercise? Let’s say you’re not currently in a committed relationship but are thinking you’d like to be. So, a mutual friend sets you up on a blind date with someone else she thinks you’ll like. She says you seem to have a lot in common and thinks you might have just what this other person is looking for.
So, you make plans to have a casual cup of coffee and everything starts off great. Then, about ten minutes in, this person starts asking about your stance on a variety of volatile political and social issues – along with a request for tangible proof of what you’ve done to prove your commitment to solving these problems.
Not what you may have expected, is it? Sounds a little intimidating, doesn’t it? Welcome to marketing in the 21st Century. Digital technology can match you up with millions of people who are looking for what you have, but most of those consumers are looking much deeper into the brands they bring into their lives. They’ve moved on from companies that simply offer a good value to those that demonstrate the right values.
Believe it or not, there was a time when we didn’t expect Proctor & Gamble to have a plan for saving the world or solving our social problems. We just wanted them to make a laundry detergent that would get our socks clean. That time expired the minute the first internet store opened its virtual doors. In a global economy where almost every product or service is viewed as a commodity, your company is no longer evaluated solely on the basis of features and benefits. It’s what’s going on inside your organization that matters.
Remember those Brand Values near the front of the employee handbook? Probably not. They were just another fun exercise that made you feel like “real” marketers. Well, it’s time to dust off that handbook, decide if those values really fit you, and if you can actually prove it.
As Modern Impact CEO, Michael Priem, pointed out in a recent editorial, today’s consumer culture and social climate are more volatile than ever, and increased transparency courtesy of the worldwide web makes even the most respected companies suspect.
Just ask media darlings, Apple and Disney. In the wake of the George Floyd tragedy, both issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter – and were swiftly ridiculed after a quick investigation of their track record on human rights. It’s not enough to just memorize those brand values. Consumers now hold companies accountable for actually acting on them.
As the old saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” so even well-intentioned brands are still vulnerable. In fact, stating your intentions in today’s marketing environment is little more than an invitation for scrutiny. There’s a troll waiting in every corner, hoping for a chance to attack those careless enough to make a mistake, and preparing to exact the reputational toll that must be paid.
So, what’s the answer? How can today’s brands market themselves more confidently and effectively? In case you couldn’t guess, I believe the first step involves an organization-wide commitment to the growing demand for transparency. One that includes reassessing the true values of the brand and creating practical, actionable, visible steps that clearly express that commitment.
Fortunately, today’s programmatic media technology (like Modern Impact’s Intelligent Pixel® platform) allows you to create, position, measure and revise hyper-targeted messages that engage individual prospects on a far more personal level. You know what’s working and what’s not – in real time – so you can avoid those marketing disasters and advance positive conversation.
Of course, such technology also forwards further propagation of a marketplace where each of us only learns of new ideas, possibilities, companies or products that fit our already-narrow world view. So, at the same time, I hope this post might also serve as a clarion to all who can hear it to start speaking greater truth to our customers. To start working for meaningful change by avoiding disingenuous opportunism disguised as momentary social consciousness and encouraging honest dialogue that lays bare our true brand values.
Only in doing so can today’s brands influence tomorrow’s consumers, and produce prospects who are more ideologically resilient, willing to give us the benefit of the doubt, and ready to try new things.
Until then, be careful out there.