#FutureofBrands: Evolving brand through engagement

There is an ongoing revolution of what brands mean for consumers.

Part of this shift is a recognition that brand is not just a logo or identity, it’s also steeped in company culture, the experiences all external and internal stakeholders have with the brand, the summation of the personal brands of the executive leadership, and relationship engagement. Put succinctly, how stakeholders think and feel about a brand is the brand.

As brand becomes more than a notional asset of the company and more than just what’s on the letterhead and signage, it’s brand strategy that will be re-framed as synonymous with business strategy over time.

Intentional leadership won’t compartmentalise customer experiences, stakeholder engagement, marketing, corporate communications and content storytelling into an operational function – all stakeholders will need to be involved and participating as brand, strategy and culture converge.

Sales, customer service and customer-facing staff will be chief experience officers and deeply invested in by leadership.

For brands of the future, the sale of products, the delivery of services, leadership and adding value to stakeholders will be seen as a transference of brand and culture.

Evaluating, reacting and positioning for the future are activities which are now imperative for brands to achieve long-term success.

It can be difficult for leaders and companies to make a move – where does one even begin? Here are seven activities leaders can implement to evolve their brands for the future through engagement.

1. Evolve with intention

When brand is reduced to an identity, it’s easy to see why a brand refresh or a full-blown rebrand is undertaken. When brand is compartmentalised rather than infused throughout a organisation’s culture, products and services, and stakeholder engagement, refreshing a ‘tired’ or ‘outdated’ logo and colour palette is viewed as an attractive tactic to become more relevant in a contemporary times.

While changing the signage may have a positively-contributing effect, it’s the overall strategy of the brand that must precede any refreshes or rebrands.

Start with identifying business strategy and culture issues. Map out objectives which will provide direction and guidance over time. Be intentional.

2. Cast a wide net for audit and research

A brand audit can be an effective first step for leadership to understand positioning and opportunities. Independent research will help clarify where leadership may have a self-view of the brand’s reach and relevance in the market which may be misaligned with how the market views the brand.

Gathering meaningful and unbiased data from prospective and current customers, staff, media and competitors can provide deep insight in brand health and relevance. Regularly assessing customer and staff satisfaction, advocacy, and market landscape analysis will guideposts for strategic decision making.

Checking in with stakeholders is the start of regular and ongoing engagement with a focus on relationships.

3. Maintain sustainable momentum

Working on the business while already working in the business will always be a delicate balance.

When preparing brands for the future, and when the change is more than just updating signage, it’s important to ensure momentum is created with a recognition that transforming brand and culture takes time. Sustainable transitioning is paramount for teams to remain engaged and involved, with milestones, wins along the way, and an embrace of the journey by leadership.

Focus on creating buy-in from influencers and champions while implementing a collaborative and consultative process.

4. Continually collaborate and consult

The focus is engagement and trusted relationships.

There are a lot of variables and a wide variety of stakeholders which may be operating within internal and informal political structures, shifting needs and an ever-changing landscape. Allow for debate, but recognise that decisions will need to be made and committed to achieve objectives.

Taking a collaborative and consultative approach while communicating with clarity and simplicity can underpin trust.

5. Engage all audiences

Recognising the many varied audiences of brands, each with their own unique needs, means understanding what is important to them and how value can be added.

Engaging all audiences in the above collaboration and consultation can dramatically support the inclusive approach to achieving objectives.

Partner with HR and key influencers within the organisation. Work hard to identify the needs of staff to ensure issues are resolved or meaningful tools and support are provided when it comes to their customer interactions.

Communicate, engage in conversation, accept relevant feedback.

6. Continually measure and monitor

Continual check-ins and measurement against objectives will enable leaders to always have a finger on the pulse. Keep gathering data. Ask for feedback regularly from all stakeholders. Monitor conversations on social media to understand what is important to your audiences.

Be vigilant in tracking how you are progressing toward your objectives.

Listen, listen, listen.

7. Keep adapting

When it comes to business and brand strategy, it’s never a ‘set and forget’ approach.

Use the data from your monitoring to affect ongoing updates to implementation. As the aspirations of stakeholders will increasingly drive strategic decision making of brands, being “customer centric” will mean more as brands shift to become more fluid in engagement.

Stakeholders will increasingly set the terms for brands, demanding more pragmatism, seamlessly-integrated experiences online and offline, and brutal simplicity.

The future of brands will require continual adapting and agility as they add value to customers and stakeholders.

In what ways are you evaluating and positioning your brand for the future to achieve long-term success?