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Brand Experts

Your brand is vulnerable

There’s no doubt that technology has changed the way we do business, and while it has enabled consumers to seek out more brands than ever before, the other side of this double-edged sword is crippling the corporate-controlled message. We are exposed to thousands of advertising campaigns every day and this inundation of marketing messages has led to our desensitisation to them: ad recall has plummeted by 80 per cent over the last decade.

In this age of radical transparency, a single negative user comment has the potential to damage the perception potential customers have of your brand. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said, ‘A brand is what they say about you when you leave the room’.

In a world where customers can control your message, how is it possible to continue to drive demand and desire for your brand? I believe the answer lies in two things: having authentic stories and inspiring experiences.

What do I mean?
Every brand has a story. In the past, this story was told through advertising, and to a certain extent, it still is. But customers also tell the story through word-of-mouth – and with new technology and social networking platforms, word can spread farther and faster than ever before. With the right strategy, and an authentic brand experience, this can become one of your most powerful marketing tools. The challenge is to create a brand story that resonates with consumers on an emotional level and delivers distinctive interactions – experiences – that bring your brand to life. The most successful ‘experience’ brands use unique, brand-specific strategies to engage their customers in moments of pure delight. They create a powerful, emotive connection between brand and consumer, and establish the bonds of unbreakable loyalty.

How to craft a meaningful brand story
The most compelling brand stories are the ones where the brand becomes the ‘hero’, taking on an authentic personality and human dimensions. These brands help resolve a fundamental conflict that is relevant to consumers today – they help customers pursue a goal or mission that is about more than mere money.

For Dove, the conflict is fighting back against the superficial world of beauty products to discover your inner beauty. Nike conflict is self-doubt, with the goal of helping consumers defeat their self-imposed limitations and become and authentic athlete. Apple’s conflict is overcoming convention – the entire Apple experience is dedicated to unleashing creativity.

Won’t the story get stale?
Not the good ones. The best brand stories are based on a core truth that has the ability to stand the test of time. Kraft’s ‘Happy Little Vegemites’ and the ‘I love Aeroplane Jelly’ stories have retained the same core essence since they were first introduced in the 1920s, and VB’s ‘Hard-earned thirst’ is another of Australia’s longest-running brand stories. The story originated in the mid-1960s with an innovative television advertising campaign featuring a recording reminiscent of the theme from The Magnificent Seven, images of working-class Australians at work and play, and a voice-over by actor John Meillon – ‘For a hard-earned thirst, you need a big, cold beer, and the best cold beer is Vic, Victoria Bitter’.

How do stories and experiences work together?
A great example of this is BMW – a brand built on the story of performance obsession. The story is not just told through advertising, it’s conveyed through event sponsorships, racing, employee recruitment and training, dealership design and – of course – the cars themselves. In each of these interactions, the BMW experience is about more than just the features of a vehicle – it’s about the experience that has been built around BMW being the ‘ultimate driving machine’. The challenge BMW faces is that many aspects of its experience fall outside a marketer’s domain, resulting in a growing need to actively partner with functions such as human resources, proposition development and operations. Perceptions are shaped by both the sum of the messages and the sum of the experiences – that’s why it’s so vital to get both right at every touch point.

If you’re wondering whether it’s time to revisit or reinvent your brand story and experience, ask yourself this question: what are people saying about you when you leave the room?

Katie Selby