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Brands and the challenge of consistency in the digital era

That Zimbabwe, like any other country under the sun, has entered the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the subsequent internet revolution is no longer a speculative proposition but the sinking reality. The runaway internet revolution has transformed the ways in which brands communicate and interact with the customers, drifting from the control centric focus on brand management towards business-customers co-branding. Yet this remains the most complex process in the era of brand multiple touch points with the customer and companies’ quest for competitive advantage.

marketing insights with TABANI MOYO

Alpha Media Holdings staff celebrate The Standard at 20 recently. Employees must always carry themselves as brand ambassadors of organisations they work.
Alpha Media Holdings staff celebrate The Standard at 20 recently. Employees must always carry themselves as brand ambassadors of organisations they work.

In this highly competitive environment of intense competition, the brand promise and brand experience become the defining differentiators. This entails that the only guarantee that leverages the brand existence is its ability to be consistent in its promise and somewhat exceeding the customer expectations in the delivery of the brand experience. This requires that companies operating in the digital age embrace the truism of a total marketing organisation, where there is a marriage between the internal and external marketing effort to marshal repeated purchase through a brand promise that exceeds the expectations of the customers, thereby building a ring-fence of loyal customer base whose needs are satisfied profitably.

In the majority of instances, companies spend the bulk of their marketing effort targeting the external stakeholders such as the customers and how best to shred competition in the battle for brand space in the customer’s mind. There is definitely a need for the calibration of the marketing effort to focus on both the internal and external stakeholders.

Brand experience is a responsibility of every person

In doing so, there is therefore need to build internal branding mechanisms that enable the employees, top management and the directors of the company to be brand ambassadors that facilitate for the unlocking of customer experience in line with the communicated brand promise. It should therefore be noted that brand experience is the responsibility of every person in the organisation as they are the brand experience enablers.

This is even more pressing and demanding in the 21st century given the brand clutter in the different brand categories. Customers are faced with confusion in choosing brands in any category and rely on previous experiences they had with different brand touch points such as the employees and communication channels. The employees as brand ambassadors have a critical say on whether a customer is going to repeat a purchase or not.

The process of helping us understand the importance of employees in the branding process is best understood using the Brand Alignment Framework. The model locates a complex relationship among the internal teams (employees); the marketing effort (brand visionaries) and the customers (brand believers). The marketing effort should focus on employees through education initiatives and aligning the internal stakeholders behind the brand promise. The marketing effort will also express the brand promise externally and create the brand experience. The employees on the other hand will be geared towards co-creating the brand experience and delivering on the brand promise with the customers.  

It is therefore critical for the marketing teams to create the enabling branding materials for both the external and internal stakeholders to fulfil the positioned brand promise. If the employees as brand drivers and ambassadors do not have the correct mix of support branding materials, they will end up improvising and in the process compromise on the brand promise and experience. It is this experience that unlocks repeated purchase and loyalty, which drives the company’s positive revenue performance.

In this digital era, corporate reputation and brand position have become indispensible assets.

It then reminds me of the recent internal meeting at our company when my colleague, who was leading the training, brought the banners with the company’s old logo for the training. These were the banners developed before we rebranded, due to lack of an aggressive internal marketing effort, he insisted that, “its better to erect them than continuing with the meeting without banners…” I swiftly jumped in to pull them down. If such actions are allowed to go ahead, they will develop into an internal habit; then culture and without knowing it; the corporate personality; to the identity and image and full-blown reputation. In the digital era of our existence, corporate reputation and brand position have become indispensible assets, which sets companies’ revenue performance ahead of competing offerings.

Taking notes from Google offices in South Africa

Internal employee buy-in to the brand is highly critical and more important that a logo, colour, or slogans but one of the most valuable assets for competitive advantage which is hard for competitors to replicate. In 2015, I visited the Google offices in South Africa. All the brand touch points I encountered from entry to exit reinforced the brand promise of Google through an affectionate and competent pool of employees that delivers on the brand promise of organising information for a better world. That experience I had at the Google offices has become the viral message that I affirm to the world, basing on the experience that I got when I interacted with the employees at their offices. The experience in the brick and mortar lives is consistent with the virtual contact with the brand which has made it my preferred choice since 2015.

The brand experience is that harmonious marriage between the brand promise and the customer experience. This is the interaction that customers have with the brand at every touch point, be it in the virtual space or brick and mortar, it should contribute towards a unique experience throughout the customer’s decision-making journey. The delicate gap that frequently exists between the brand promise and experience is the brand perception. Remember in the branding world, perception becomes the living reality!

Companies should, therefore, realise that a brand is more than a logo, corporate colours, or slogan. It is rather the most valuable asset at the business’s disposal. It is the competitive advantage, which is the most difficult for competing forces to replicate. This is so because; brands that are self-conscious of their net worthy are by their own nature, a relationship between the company and the customer through the value proposition exceeding the customer expectations.

In conclusion, one has to argue that the digital era has opened the floodgates for brands and companies to either succeed or fall through unlimited exposure. My argument is that there is need for building the marketing effort from “inside — outside” proposition to build a colossal brand that is able to exert its promise and experience to the customer competitively, thereby building a league of loyal customers whose repeated purchase catapult the company’s revenue performance way ahead of competing offerings.

*Tabani Moyo is a chartered marketer and communications asset based in Harare. He can be contacted at moyojz@gmail.com. He writes extensively on brand management through his blog www.tabanimoyoblog.wordpress.com (MBA, MCIM, Chartered Post Grad Marketing (CIM — UK), BBA Marketing (IMM), BA Media Studies, Dip Marketing (IMM) & Dip Journalism (CCOSA)

This article was contributed on behalf the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, a leading body of marketing professionals promoting professionalism to the highest standards for the benefit of the industry and the economy at large. For any further information kindly contact mazmembership@mazim.co.zw or visit the website on www.maz.co.zw.

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