Changing the World from the Inside Out: Engaging employees via Corporate Citizenship Interbrand | Pg. a I’ll Be Your Mirror Reflecting and connecting with your audience
Interbrand | Pg. 1I’ll Be Your MirrorReflecting and connecting with your audienceby Nora GeissPeople like to see themselves reflected in the “I use this channel to...”world around them.It’s why we choose friends who share oursense of fun. It’s why we seek careers thatfeed our interests, and align ourselves withcauses that represent our values. We want Keep up with friends See, try & buyto feel connected to the world. and familyThis desire for connection is no lesspowerful when it comes to brands. Thebrands we choose – especially those we Engage specialkeep coming back to, that we talk about in interests Give expert adviceprofessional circles, and that we recommendto our friends and family – resonate in animportant way with who we are and whatwe hold dear. Scope out Get on-the-spot tipsBrand personality ... is arguablybecoming the most important Navigate thebrand element Build a public shopping experience personaFrom “I want” to “I am” Of course this need to make an internal Linked in Connect to opportunitiesassociation with the values of your audienceis a fundamental tenet of branding. But Search local businessesin recent years, in large part due to theexpansion of the internet, the explosion of Catalogue creativitymobile apps, and the broad impact socialmedia has had on the relationship betweenbrands and their audiences, the value ofdeveloping internal association with theaudience has grown. As opportunities fordynamic dialogue between business andconsumer have multiplied exponentially,
I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflecting and connecting with your audience Interbrand | Pg. 2The organizations that are reaching peopleare responding to a subtle but powerful shiftin people’s decision making: from “I want”to “I am.”organizations are pushing to find ways individual channels, but about in what way And yet, while the creation of a successfulto engage and elevate their associative they intersect, and the relative value each brand personality is a huge challenge forvalue. Brands that get it right go beyond channel adds to the overarching experience any brand, it is arguably becoming theappealing to material needs; they transcend we want to craft for our audience. most important brand element. It is whatthe superficial back-and-forth to engage unifies expression, enables cross-channelwith audiences not just around what To understand the greater engagement, and ultimately sparks thepeople seek in a material sense, but on a narrative of your target association of “I am.”deeper and more personal level. Simply audience, context is the key So how do you ensure you are makingput, individuals are now more empowered Building a connection to the “I am” mentality the most of your investment, and seizingin the marketplace. And the organizations is necessary to keep brands relevant, the opportunities?that are reaching people are responding to asubtle but powerful shift in people’s decision valuable, and alive in an age of dynamic Finding the right narrative thread inmaking: from “I want” to “I am.” The “I am” media. It opens up significant opportunities the noise of the netmentality means that decision making isn’t to align closely with passionate people who “To be successful,” Alex Bogusky andjust about purchase anymore. It’s also about will engage, co-create for greater value, John Winsor write in their book Baked In,the choices individuals make to incorporate and spread your brand message with the “a brand’s story must connect with a largera brand into their online profiles, as a way to influence of peer-to-peer authenticity. conversation that’s happening in thebring more personal depth and dimension But building that connection also culture.” They rightly point out that peopleto their public personas. It’s about the fact demands – more than ever – that branding connect best with brands that communicatethat which brands you follow on Twitter professionals know “who” their brand is, so through storytelling – people relate to asays as much about you as who follows you. they can more credibly flex its personality story that specifically resonates with theIt’s about the decision individuals make to across multiple touchpoints. This represents human experience, and is relevant to theinclude certain brands in happy-hour small a significant investment and requires a way people touch the brand. The trick istalk – to drive home a point, or to show off a willingness to embrace complexity. tapping into the cultural narrative of theparticular sense of personal style. It’s about Developing and expressing brand audience you want to reach in order to tellthe choice individuals make to drive the personality is undeniably an art form, and the right story. The complexity of the mediaextra three miles from one store to another, can be the most difficult part of brand landscape can make this difficult for brandbecause the first “doesn’t have my brand.” development, for a variety of reasons. First, managers and communicators. It raises it can be challenging to demonstrate its questions like “What behaviors should I lookClearly, the rise of the “I am” mentality value to corporate leadership, yet it can’t be at?” “What conversations should I listen to?”complicates the media landscape that executed without understanding, buy-in, “What metrics should I measure?”brands navigate today. It requires brandingprofessionals to know a lot more about how and allocation of resources. Second, the In truth, it takes a holistic view to connecttheir audience makes associations, where development of a brand personality requires the dots between a back-and-forththey are making these associations, and strong internal engagement, but internal Twitter conversation, a spike in traffic towhy. It requires that we think not just about culture is the hardest thing to change.
I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflecting and connecting with your audience Interbrand | Pg. 3Reflecting the needs and desires of theaudience does not mean falsely inhabitingtheir lingo and shrugging into their trendydress code.your website, and someone cashing in a Unlike just another analytics tool, Brand The focus is on quality, not just quantity,Foursquare deal on-site. To understand the Playback is a holistic solution – a way of here. While it’s important to know howgreater narrative of your target audience, looking at and understanding the profound much volume of functional conversationcontext is the key: grasping not only what conversations and behaviors of a brand’s you might have to balance with emotionalpeople are talking about, but why; knowing audience, and using a consultative analysis messaging, don’t assume that you can onlynot only where people are coming from, but to shape how the brand can respond to tap into the functional to be successful – awhere they’re going; seeing the contrast deliver greater value. mistake many brands make. Conversationbetween what people like, and what around the Quaker brand may be relatively Brand Playback helps you to...they dislike. low in comparison to competitors, but the Listen conversation almost always circles aroundIn other words, seeing the forest and Conversation tells us what topics have quality-driven attributes such as “delicious,”the trees. momentum – what captures attention, “healthy,” and “life-saving convenience.” That’sInterbrand’s approach to this conundrum is what captures the imagination; what powerful stuff. Quantity can be addressed,called Brand Playback. Brand Playback offers we want to share and what we want our but quality is much harder to achieve anda way to find out what interests and engages community to react to. To find the true deserves more attention.your audience, and enables brands to craft thread of conversation, you have to look Lookmessages and platforms that “play it back” to at what people are saying across channels, Behavior shows us how key themes ofthem, putting your audience at the center of wherever genuine, candid conversation conversations take root to motivatethe experience you create. More specifically, can be had: social networks like Facebook, engagement, and how the narrative playsit allows brands to: social microblogs like Twitter, across the out in our everyday actions. This is where blogosphere, in forums, and chat rooms.• Listen to the high-level themes of the spark of association can be seen, conversation to find out what an When it comes to these channels, context indicating potential for building a long-term- audience connects to emotionally is the key to finding the right themes. value relationship. and functionally. For example, listening for conversation For brands, this means it is important to about “breakfast” reveals a strong theme• Look at the behaviors that show what reward associative behaviors to show that around the emotional value of “quality motivates people to engage and you are paying attention and willing to time.” A search for “General Mills” and build association. engage. One brand that does this well is “breakfast” reveals lots of talk among moms VitaminWater, which makes a tremendous• Take action to seize the right sharing cereal coupons and money-saving effort to engage its audience in the creation opportunities – and consistently strategies. By listening for how people talk of every part of its products, as evidenced by measure your actions against audience about your brand in the context of how your its co-creation of the Connect flavor with its reactions, so you can optimize your product actually fits within their lives, you Facebook fans. The flavor, the name, and the connection to them over time. can learn what people really care about, design were all up for grabs – and the design and find the right balance of emotional and functional messages to deliver at which key points along the customer journey.
I’ll Be Your Mirror: Reflecting and connecting with your audience Interbrand | Pg. 4was rewarded with a US $5,000 prize. This your audience spends time? Are you thereindicates a significant amount of trust and to help them when it comes to makingcommitment between brand and audience, decisions related to your product category?and builds a quality experience that goes Keep in mind that it’s not always all aboutbeyond just a product. you. IBM made a smart move by takingThink about the associative behaviors you “Smarter Planet” to Tumblr and usingwant to encourage when it comes to your the community blog platform to curatebrand – is it a Facebook “Like” that grants conversations about the people, technology,your brand badge status on an individual’s processes, and policies that make for apage? Is it a Foursquare check-in that Smarter Planet. It recognized that itsbroadcasts an individual’s association with current audience, such as engineers, alreadyyour brand to their personal network? Is it had a strong reason to spend time with IBMa comment on your blog that builds value in its forums, but reaching new thought-for your community through collective leaders on the subject required it to branchthought leadership? How do these behaviors out beyond its own website.resonate with the core idea of your brand? Mom said it bestBy creating meaningful ways to reward “Always be yourself.” Go ahead: Indulge inthese behaviors, you begin to participate in a that eye-roll. But it can’t be said enoughnatural dialogue with shared value. that knowing what it means to “be yourself ”Take Action as a brand is critical to success in the age ofOpportunities become clear when we see dynamic dialogue. Going through a robustalignment between genuine conversations process like this can be an uncomfortableand behaviors happening among the people process of self-discovery – it’s extremelywe want to reach and the core values and revealing of a brand’s strengths andattributes we want to stand for. When you weaknesses; it shows us where we meetknow what your audience cares about, expectations, but it also calls out where wewhere they spend their time, and how they fail. It can inspire a very real temptation todemonstrate association, you can step back try to address the most immediate noise, orand examine what defines your brand at its to conform to the demands of our loudestcore. You can also figure out how to bridge audience. However, reflecting the needsthe gap between what your audience talks and desires of the audience does not meanabout and where you naturally intersect falsely inhabiting their lingo and shruggingwith that conversation. into their trendy dress code. It means that we hear and understand what peopleLook at your brand messages. Do they want – and find the most authentic way tospeak to the interests your audience voices connect with them through our own wayin their online conversation? Listen to your of being.brand voice. Does it use the language thatfits with how your audience speaks? Do you So listen, observe, and find thesound like one of them? Review your brand opportunities to build a deeper connectiontouchpoints. Do you have a presence where with your audience – in the ways that truly reflect the essence of your brand. ■
Starbucks: Reconnecting with itscore audience to regain its footingStarbucks, despite the difficult selfrediscovery work it has undertaken over thepast couple of years, is a shining exampleof getting it right. The very fact that itrecognized the need to do this shows thatit was listening; and the actions it tookto correct for what it heard has paid offin a customer base even more fiercelyloyal, more engaged, and more personallyconnected to the brand than ever before.Its success hits on every point of thekey steps outlined above. Listening toconversation around Starbucks today showsthat its increased focus on customizationand personalization is paying off in genuinepositive traction for the brand. And by listening, observing, and taking action to transform the brand around the needs and desires of its audience, Starbucks has rebounded from a disconnect with its core audience —compounded by a difficult recession — to regain its footing and maintain its premium price point. Most importantly, individual association toThe platforms Starbucks created engage Starbucks is among the highest a brand canpeople where they want to be heard achieve, holding strong as the brand withand deliver on that engagement with a the most Facebook fans in the world.meaningful response. Overall, by listening, That goes to show what you can achieve –observing, and taking action to transform and overcome – when you focus on buildingthe brand around the needs and desires of your brand with the people you serve at theits audience, Starbucks has rebounded...it center of the experience.created engage people where they want tobe heard and deliver on that engagementwith a meaningful response.
Nora GeissNora Geiss is a creative strategist, digitalspecialist, innovator, and super nerd. Shewas born with a passion for logic andlanguage, and leverages a background inpublic relations, marketing and creativewriting to develop distinct verbal assetsfor brands across a variety of categories.She is a certified ideation facilitator, anddevelops creative techniques that makethe most of both client and internalbrainstorming sessions.As an associate director for InterbrandsVerbal Identity department, she has createdbrand strategies, names, messaging, brandvoice, and engagement strategies for greatbrands across a broad range of industries,including AT&T, Feeding America, NCR,Frito-Lay, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.She is the co-founder and head of the BrandPlayback practice, helping brands close thegap between what their audience wantsand what they deliver. Creating and managinginterbrand.com brand value TM