The future of branding roundtable: Recap + resources

by Margaret Molloy, Kiley Gasparovic

Recently, I hosted a lunch in Chicago, convening marketing leaders for a roundtable discussion around “The Future of Branding.” The conversation was both broad and rich, with branding experts weighing in from Motorola, Optum, Sears, McDonalds, Hearst Magazines, Monitor Liability Managers and Transunion, to name a few. Each shared their experiences and insights on the changing marketing landscape.

Our discussion centered around seven key challenges marketers face today, a time when brand is more important than ever. I thought it’d be useful to recap the challenges and equip marketing leaders with pithy resources to address these challenges head on. Here are the challenges we discussed and select resources:

  1. All employees represent the brand. How do we ensure employees across the organization are living the brand? Employees must be aligned around a core purpose, whether they are customer service representatives, c-level leaders, or behind the scenes team members. The aim is to avoid a deviation from the desired brand experience anywhere along the customer journey. Employees need to remember why they get out of bed in the morning, and customers need to see what makes your brand stand out.
    Identify what makes a great brand purpose by watching Brand Matters video series featuring Jason Cieslak. He shares the three pillars of a strong purpose.
  2. Marketing strategies are often customer-centric, but the importance of employee engagement is being stressed now more than ever. How do we tackle the internal component? A key to employee engagement is the collaboration between marketing and HR. Employees are a company’s greatest asset, and attracting and retaining talent is vital for any company to thrive. There are many employee touchpoints that should be strategically approached including hiring, onboarding, town halls, internal communications, training, social strategy, evaluations, etc. Brand has so much to do with company culture, so deep marketing and HR collaboration can help ensure the two are aligned. Learn the 5 secrets to better employee engagement in this article by Thom Wyatt.
  3. Growth too often creates complexity. What can be done to simplify and what can we learn from disruptors? Brands must identify the most painful parts of the customer journey and uncover the confusion to create a seamless customer experience. The most disruptive brands are those that simplify. A simple brand has clarity, utility, and elegance.
    So, how do you create a brand that is remarkably clear and unexpectedly fresh? And where have we seen success from simplification? In this Marketing Profs article, I highlight how brands embrace simplicity to be the ultimate disrupters.
  4. Companies must evolve to grow. How do you decide where to focus innovation? A strong brand platform is a vital asset that may dictate your innovation potential. It serves as a powerful framework for validation and decision making: Does this initiative support our purpose? Is it aligned with what we’ve promised our customers? Does it stay true to our values? Brand should act as a guide through the evolution of an organization. Is being associated with innovation actually affecting the bottom line? Dr. Rolf Wulfsberg explainshis findings on which industries are most strongly impacted by the perception of being innovative.
  5. B2B buyers are people too. How do B2B brand stay relevant in a world where buyers crave connection? Savvy B2B brands are now recognizing that all buyers are people and must be marketed to accordingly. The opportunity is to communicate authentically and simplify relentlessly. The most relevant B2B brands make their impact tangible; foster customer-centric cultures of innovation, generate demand through cohesive brand experiences, and use simplified design to clarify their offerings. Brian Rafferty shares findings from the “B2B Now” study, and provides four steps brands can take to be more human oriented.
  6. Customers are demanding deeper information on the products they consume. How do brands show who they really are? The demand for more information forces marketers to think proportionately less about the final product, and more about the process. Authenticity is dependent on full disclosure of information, which can come in many forms. For example, think calorie counts on menus, head shots to show the friendly face on the other end of the phone, or even factory tours. Now is the time to reveal all your cards, and to make sure there are no skeletons in the closet! Even when bad PR hits, authenticity is a way to win back the deterred. Own up, and show the human side behind the brand. Kevin Grady highlights companies exemplifying authenticity by embracing information in “Moving behind the curtain
  7. Getting buy-in to invest in branding can be challenging. How do we frame the value of branding initiatives? Brand can still be enigmatic for some stakeholders. The value of brand stewardship must be evangelized across an organization in order to gain the momentum and support necessary for the appropriate resource allocation. There are a few techniques to help gain support. One way is to tweak the way you frame “brand.” Consider framing it as “reputation.” Research is also a strong tool to reveal the value and impact brand can have. David Srere, Co-CEO, shares his insights on CMOs who succeed in proving the importance of brand.

Judging by the energy and enthusiasm in the room, the future of branding is a rich topic for discussion.

Margaret Molloy is chief marketing officer at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy

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