Like It or Not, This Is Branded

Now that you’re approaching the halfway point of the first sentence, we’d like to ask a few questions about your experience of this column. Would you say that this sentence makes you more or less favorable to the Nick Moore brand of column? Would you recommend it to your colleagues and associates? Does the halo effect of this Nick Moore column make you more or less receptive to the brand in that ad next to this editorial content?

Perhaps these questions are a little premature, not to mention ridiculous. But they illustrate an interesting point.

It’s currently somewhat fashionable for the “marketing classes” to talk about branded experience as though it was something we could turn on or off at will. But the reality is that every experience is a branded experience — whether we like it or not.

If we don’t like it, turning off the branded nature of the experience is about as easy as turning off the Internet. Just ask any brand team that has fallen afoul of a group of bloggers. Or ask anyone who has tried to mitigate the brand approval effects of offshoring a customer services center.

If we accept that every event builds toward an experiential understanding of the brand, then it’s up to us to put the brand idea into each and every event that we can affect. And that has interesting implications. For a start, it means you must have a clear sense of brand purpose — and we can all name a few brands where that purpose has, to put it kindly, lost momentum. It also means that it’s not just the “brand work” that has a brand effect. 

There’s an interesting challenge for some conventional wisdom. Consider these statements, all of which I have heard since the dawning of the new decade: 

“That’s not brand work. It’s demand generation.” 

“The brand needs to change when you go online.”

“No, we don’t show the ads to the call center folks.”

You can see where these people were coming from. But they live in a compartmentalized world. A world that has more to do with company organizational charts and process flows than getting customers to hand over dollars for product.

I’m not advocating the matching luggage approach to creating communication. Making everything identical simply means that you are missing out on all the opportunity offered by different media channels. Instead, I am suggesting a more considered, more deliberate behavior. 

Everything has to breathe the brand whether it is a 30-second spot, a social media intervention or the CEO’s speech. All of these activities will add to an individual customer’s cumulative experience of the brand. This is important because in many sectors products change quickly, but strong brands evolve at a more measured rate. A brand’s continuity and coherent sense of purpose are the elements that prospects buy into and to which customers remain loyal.

Perhaps we would do well to borrow from the physicists and remember that every action has an equal reaction.

Nick Moore is evp, CCO of Wunderman New York. He can be reached at nick.moore@wunderman.com.