By Minter Dial & Eric Mellet
The world of branding has, over a very condensed period of time, undergone a virtual and very real revolution as far as both the consumer and the employee are concerned. The challenge that companies are now facing is how to adapt effectively and efficiently to severalconvergent paradigm shifts. This white paper reviews some of the major changes and raises questions about the implications for today’s leaders. This paper’s position is that, more than ever before, companies need to evolve into Learning Organizations (endnote I) and that instituting a company-wide Brand University can offer a compelling way to accompany such a change.
Building a successful brand isa more complex task
In today’s marketplace and, certainly, going forward, creating a sustainably successful brand has become a different and more complex task than in, even, the near past. The main factors that have brought about this shift are threefold: (1) the plethora of brands with the onslaught of new product launches; (2) the digital world (internet and mobility) with its ability todiffuse the power of traditional marketing and distribution; and (3) the latent lack of trust between the consumer and the brand, layered in with the lack of trust between employee and employer.
The consumer – certainly impacted by the economic pressures -- has pulled back from buying brands blindly. The luxury market, for example, has been distinctly hit, as there has been more scrutiny of theintrinsic value in the upscale prices. As Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing said in their 2009 study on the luxury market, “[a]ffluent consumers are redefining, reassessing and re-evaluating their lives and their lifestyles. This is happening across the culture, not just among a small segment of the affluent market and it will mean major shifts to how luxury brands can market their goods in thenew economy.” (endnote II)
The paradigm shifts are on many levels
Yet, the phenomenon of questioning the value of brands goes much further. In the current environment, with manifold uncertainties produced by the lingering threat of terrorism, global warming and economic recession, the consumer has been re-evaluating his/her relationship with money and the purchase decision in search ofgreater meaning. In order to rise above the strictly functional performance of a given product, the brand will need to demonstrate its “added value”, whereby the consumer finds significance in -- and identifies with – the brand’s values. And a large part of the challenge is in being able to communicate that value effectively and fluidly.
Brands have to fight through the clutter of crowded,confusing and disparate communication channels to reach an audience that no longer takes as the gospel the marketing messages. Broad and dislocated access to information – especially on price, performance and location – has empowered the consumer. With the so-called “left brain” (endnote III) messaging driven to its logical extreme, the new world order belongs increasingly to the “right brain” whereimage, emotion and experience are privileged – if only unconsciously -- by the consumer in their purchase decision. In this context, companies need to evaluate whether their employees are tapping into their more creative and conceptual side. In his book, “A Whole New Mind,” (endnote IV) Dan Pink forcefully speaks to the value of a balanced mind, combining the rational and analytical components withthe more imaginative, artistic sides of the brain. And such is the need inside the new organization, which could be better described as a living organism, capable of learning, growing and adapting to the new environment and demands of the marketplace. As Peter Senge said, “[i]n the long run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is [the] organization’s ability to learn faster...