I just saw a question about branding from the inside-out on LinkedIn‘s Future Trends group, and I felt compelled to submit my two cents into the dialog. I’m including here for any who are not in that group.
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Inside-out branding is the only way.
It all starts with identity — the core identity — of the organization. What is its reason for being. Because every company ships its culture. And culture is built from a shared identity and vision. Otherwise, why would a company exist? It is a group with a shared set of operating assumptions (i.e. values and identity) rallied around a common cause (i.e. a vision). When that identity and vision captures the imagination of anyone outside the company, a brand is born.
I think consumers today are craving authenticity in branding, but they are not getting it much. I think they are in places like TOMS Shoes or charity: water or Every Monday Matters, but they are not getting from the P&G‘s of the world and you are seeing subtle rumblings today that are going to trigger a tsunami at some point in the near future. But when a company knows who they are and where they are going, then they have a great chance.
Of course, there are tons of market dynamics that need to be overlaid onto this regarding consumer needs, attitudes and behavior. Then there’s competitive issues regarding the category the brand is entering. But these are technical issues and secondary to Identity and Vision.
The problem with the practice of branding is that the practice of branding today spends too much time on consumer and category dynamics and ignores Identity and Vision. In fact, it thinks of Identity purely in terms of logo and collateral design. Those are secondary. Get the foundation right, and the house has a better chance of standing.
It is interesting to see how many people are responding to the LinkedIn question with answers about Social Media. Granted, most of them are social media consultants who are looking for a way to promote their business. But this kind of student body left thinking is what the Adjective Marketing business is all about. Bring out a new book – everyone follows. Here comes a new media vehicle – everybody jumps on-board.
Social Media is a sets of sites and tools that empower anyone to listen and engage in conversations with an audience. Brand-building is a discipline born out of the Identity and Vision of an organization. These are not the same thing. I guess the marketing profession will keep answering every question with social media until something new comes along.