Brand Communications

This piece was written as a ‘Tips from the Top’ article for The Marketer.  The overall article dealt with the challenge of managing brand communications in today’s environment.

For overworked, unappreciated corporate communication executives everywhere, here are a handful of tips that I hope might be useful:

  • Strategy: Brand, product and communications planning must work together as part of a cohesive whole. Seems so obvious, yet they’re so often the responsibility of separate teams that don’t talk enough.  A unifying strategy and joint approach to planning are critical to driving cost effective, integrated communications.
  • Research: Communications activity can so often look great but miss the target.   Wrong tone, language, imagery, media etc.  The corner stone of relevant, impactful communications is insight, derived from careful, rigorous research. Yet frequently this is the first part of the budget to be cut. In my view a massive mistake – after all, without insight where’s the competitive edge coming from?
  • Consistency: Balancing brand consistency with market relevance is a major challenge, especially across international boundaries.  In my experience one-size-fits-all solutions based on home market assumptions just don’t work. The key is getting reliable, in-market advice from someone who really understands the culture and language. Beware the perils of in-house translations by local colleagues!
  • Control: Maintaining brand discipline across markets, languages and outlets is tough. An efficient online resource or library is a pre-requisite, centrally controlled, interactive and really easy to use.  And as a general principle, keep brand rules and regulations stripped out and simple.  It’s better for colleagues to abide by 10 ‘must haves’ rules rather than ignore 20 ‘like to haves’.
  • Flexibility: With a seemingly unending variety of media available, understanding the relevance of each channel to different consumers and different occasions is vital. Planning content and creative to work powerfully in each channel is critical.
  • Engagement: We wouldn’t expect a dinner date to go too well if our partner was expected to listen but not allowed to express a view, now would we? So why is so much of our corporate communications designed to work this way?  In an age of social media, dialogue and engagement, we often seem stuck in a one way street.  It’s time to shift into listening mode and embrace interaction and transparency as more than just an afterthoughts handled by the web team.  Customers are talking about our brands all the time – it’s time to join the conversation and embrace social media as a planned and integrated part of our corporate conversation at all levels.     

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