The 'Verbing' of Brands


Given the intense economic pressures that are challenging the ROI of every marketing decision, changing consumer perceptions of a brand is good, but changing consumer behavior is better. I like to think of it as a shift from the nouning of brands to the verbing of brands.

It wasn't too long ago that we preoccupied ourselves with what the brand is, obsessing over the USP and actually trying to cement a brand's position. But today a brand's success is determined more by how it enhances the consumers' world through its behavior, which makes it very much a verb.

After all, why would you just deliver a message when you can deliver an experience? A service experience, an entertainment experience, an educational experience, a useful experience. What is a brand doing, not saying, to keep itself relevant, connected, alive?

Interestingly, the most famous new brands to achieve universal awareness and popularity in this decade have always acted as verbs. Brands like Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, Google and Zappos all went from non-existence to household names in record time because they were so useful and readily adopted into the daily lives of consumers.

Part of this shift in perspective from perception to behavior derives from the many new possibilities technology has enabled that turn consumers from passive to active participants in the brand experience. The fact is that there are so many new ways a brand can act to provide consumers a utility, a service or an experience that simply did not exist before.

Here's an interesting one: Mail Goggles. Mail Goggles is a feature on Google's Gmail program to help prevent the embarrassment and regret that can come from late-night e-mailing under the influence. If you enable the function, the e-mails you try to send past 10 p.m. will not leave your outbox unless you are first able to perform five simple math problems in 60 seconds. It's undoubtedly making the world a better place for those who typically pursue passion over reason.

In a world where lean-backwards media such as TV are no longer enough to break through and reach consumers where they work, live and play, consumer engagement has become the dominant paradigm. But, like any paradigm, it's also a terrible cliché. How many times have we resorted to launching a social network, putting up videos on YouTube or doing clever stunts in Times Square? The fact is, marketing brands as verbs requires a strong strategic approach, just as was required to uncover those USPs of old.

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