How to Build the Follow-Me-Anywhere Brand

In today’s marketing world, brand authenticity involves a brave leap of faith to connect to a social purpose
By: 
Jay Handelman

The essentials

In this Insight TALKS presentation, Jay Handelman discusses how “authentic” brands can thrive in an age of consumer empowerment. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter give consumers the ability to shape corporate brands. Brands that successfully manage in this environment deliver both economic and social value, he says. They can stand out from competitors but also blend in with communities and align with societal expectations. The five characteristics of brand authenticity are: consistency across all dimensions; commitment to transparency; long-term focus; openness to mutual dialogue; and acceptance of criticism. Handelman is Associate Professor, Associate Dean of Research and PhD/MSc Programs, and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Marketing.

Video Highlights

0:40     Magnetic brands such as Apple, Google, and Coca-Cola not only have world-wide recognition but also legions of loyal followers. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can feed and amplify such brand loyalty but also undercut it. Understanding and dealing with the power of consumers to shape brands are central challenges for marketing professionals. Says Jay Handelman, “The tug of war between the desire of marketers to control the identity of their brands and the ability of consumers to challenge that identity and construct new identities stands at the heart of managing a brand in today’s context.”

3:50     Brands that successfully navigate this new terrain share two characteristics. One, they deliver both economic and social value. Their services or products are better than competitors’ offerings and the brands adhere to social, community, or cultural values or are responsible environmental stewards. Second, winning brands maintain a delicate balancing act of both standing out from competitors but also blending in with communities and aligning with societal expectations. 

5:55    There are four dimensions of a brand’s identity in the age of social media and consumer empowerment, says Handelman. The first is the ability to deliver economic value, the very “DNA of marketing.” The second involves traditional corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which are generally motivated by marketing goals rather than social good. “The problem is that traditional CSR is cut from same cloth as traditional social marketing,” says Handelman. “It’s ‘look at us’ not on the economic side but the social side.”

11:10     The other two dimensions of managing brand identity involve a much a greater leap of faith. The third dimension is rooted in corporate governance and involves honesty and transparency in corporate activities; it speaks to the integrity behind the brand. And the final dimension is authenticity: what is the social purpose of the company? “If the only answer is to make a profit, then what you’re doing is limiting the identity of your brand as a foundation on which customers can be loyal,” says Handelman. “Customers will not be loyal to manufactured stories produced by a marketing agency.” 

13:25     The five characteristics of brand authenticity are: consistency across all dimensions; commitment to transparency; long-term focus; openness to mutual dialogue; and acceptance of criticism.

Look for the next QSB Insight TALKS February 12, 2014: Kathryn Brohman on co-creating value with technology.

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