Marketing and selling a product is a whole lot easier than getting customers hooked to your brand. They’ll drink the kool-aid without delving too deep into the merits of the product if they like and trust the underlying brand and feel a connection to it.That’s why everyone is doing integrated brand communication (IBC) instead of integrated marketing and product placements. IBC combines and leverages everything from advertising to public relations in service of your brand and branding.
In order to do this, it’s important to start looking at a brand as a solid asset with a measurable and finite value, rather than an intangible concept or perception of your company. You need to find out what drivers cause your brand value to rise and fall, and deploy your resources to push on these drivers.
How does it work?
It’s pretty simple really. All you need to do is change what people think about the brand. You don’t want to effect any real changes in the company or product. You need to reach people and influence them into thinking your brand is actually pretty good, or at least not half as bad as they thought it was.
One good way is to focus on brand placement instead of product placement. For example, ads placed by Hilton Hotels in airline magazines and ads placed by American Airlines on hotel websites are far less effective than being depicted as the high-flying George Clooney’s choice of hotel and airline in “Up in the Air.”
That one movie firmly positioned Hilton as the preferred choice for high-end luxury travelers looking for unmatched service and loyalty club membership benefits.
Before its merger, American Airlines was taking hit after hit of bad publicity because of its precarious finances and management-labor issues. Not to mention an aging fleet that was losing badly to Southwest and other recovering airlines. But the movie gave them a respite and some positive press for a change.
It created a new perception about AA as a brand, and they could have milked it a lot more by focusing attention on the brand value of “American Airlines.”
Anyway, the point is that this is the kind of branding that can be done by pulling out all the stops and deploying everything from the ad budget to public relations staff and getting them all to work on increasing the brand value.
It also needs a perceptible message shift
Under normal circumstances, a company’s communications and messaging systems are geared to push their products and collect feedback on how they’re doing in terms of marketing campaign metrics and service issues. Shifting this to push the brand is harder because it’s not about the product, but about the messenger.
For example, an ordinary marketing campaign may seek to reach out to potential customers directly through a variety of channels including television, print, online and email campaigns.
But a brand marketing campaign would reach out to celebrities and influential people and get them to talk up the brand, endorse it and use it. This leads to the buyers being influenced into thinking more positively about the brand because someone they look up to and adore is using it, and that makes it the “in” thing.
If people love the AA brand, it wouldn’t matter how many employees they lay off, how big a loss they rack up every year, or how many cities get cut from flight routes. It’s still the best airline because George Clooney is flying AA.
Image Courtesy: Background Image from “Up in the Air” Movie banner