Brands drive attention and income off awareness, but they derive their real value from their ability to shift and sustain longer term sentiment.
It’s tempting to monitor brand value in real-time: for what’s popular, by who gets mentioned and by whom, in what those mentions do to a stock price in the moment. And doing that changes how brands react: they focus on a switching game based on keeping up with what’s trending; they absorb themselves in social media replies that ameliorate criticism or highlight praise; they push out more and more content in the hope that they can gain authority in a world bang full of marketing noise. And all of this keeps them busy. Very busy indeed.
In real-time, but beyond the moment
Many think that this is how they build brands. By marketing in the moment. By engaging in the to and fro of one smartass bringing it to another. Or the momentary triumph of a hashtag. They’re half right. Awareness and timeliness are important but they forget that, like journalism, much of what passes for marketing today is just news, just entertainment, just stuff to read and pass the time – and that its impact on commerce is passing, at best.
What long-term change in sentiment are you looking to achieve?
The strategic focus for every brand can’t just be on what everyone is chatting about or reacting to in the moment. It has to be how your brand will look to drive and direct a long-term change in sentiment in order to generate and leverage greater value. I say a change in sentiment because, just as economies don’t stand still, neither do inclinations, and therefore the demands on brands to excel change over time. Accuracy is a powerful driver, for example, until everyone is accurate. Then it becomes a hygiene factor. As needs change, so do hopes – and as hopes change, the opportunities to inspire and excite as a brand must also change to reflect what consumers value in that time.
The hard part here is knowing when to change sentiment, why and to what? That’s because the ceilings and walls that govern the need for changes in sentiment are glass. Brands can see through them, but at some point they will discover that they have plateau-ed with the sentiment they have and that they will need to change how they are perceived. A challenger brand can grow and grow … but at some point, if it succeeds, it must look to lead a shift in sentiment to authority or credibility. Challenging alone will only take it so far.
Brands happen at two speeds
Good repositioning takes time. Because it’s built on the understanding that while people react quickly, they change (behaviours, attitudes and preferences) slowly.
Hence the two-speed dilemma. Brands must transact money, goods, opinions and products now. But they also need to be actively planning to how they will be more and more valued over time, and how they will need to change in order to make that happen.
Here’s a simple way to frame that for the year (and years) ahead:
- Over the next three years we will need to become more and more …
- Our plans over the next 12 months are to do the following …
- This is how we’ll keep our customers’ attention over the year ahead …
- This is why doing that will get us one third of the way towards changing how our customers think of us and why they choose to value us more highly.