24 feb. 2009

Gabriel Rossi on branding

Here's a great interview with Gabriel Rossi, branding strategist from Brazil and a social media ace (If you don't know him yet, be sure to check-out his Twitter page):

1. Please name a few companies who are effectively branding right now and why would you call their branding effective?

A. The Marketing Store: They are one of the world’s largest integrated marketing communications companies. Martins Vieira Jr (Their CEO in Brazil) is a dear friend of mine and someone who really believes in the importance of internal transparency and solid bonds with his team. What’s the result of emotional connections with your employees? The brand delivers on its promise with outstanding performance. The Marketing Store doesn’t put lipstick on a pig. They fulfill high expectations. That’s why I like the brand.

B. McDonald’s: I must confess that my consumer side sometimes gets very critical about their customer service. It’s also true that McDonald’s needs to improve its online posture (more friendly and accessible feedback platforms, for example). However, the giant made a very smart move by coming back to the basics. Instead of blindly relying on growth, they focused on what made them so strong during all these years, better exploiting ‘the infant’ archetype as well as starting to pay more attention to things like quality, cleanliness etc..

C. Hyundai: The brand understands the vital importance of creativity when facing tough times. Hyundai’s recent Assurance program was very smart and a sign of truly consumer centric approach.

2. If a company wants to rebrand itself, what are a few things it should consider?
Rebranding is a bit more than changing the design of your logo. Rebranding is a long process (usually takes years) and always requires an inside-out response. You need to craft your brand again from the inside-out. It can be quite challenging, tricky and dangerous. Do it quietly and patiently… I advise companies to invest time in sorting internal issues out first of all. Ask your employees what the company represents to them. Do they understand its story and ambitions? What kind of dreams do they have for the future? Where does your organization want to go taking into consideration the current market place?

3. Is the process individuals use for personal branding different from the one companies use?
The concept of ‘Personal Branding’ was introduced by Tom Peters over a decade ago. It’s a pity that it’s so misused and banalized by self-aclaimed ‘leading experts’ and gurus. Me me me me… Your brand is a lot more than what you want to generate by the color of your blackberry or the price of your suit… Your brand is about who you really are inside people’s minds and hearts. It’s not about me, it’s about THEM. A personal brand is what they are going to say about you when you turn your computer off…
On one hand, we are considering people’s gut feelings about an organization or its products or services. On the other, we are talking about people’s feelings about you as a human being. Have you performed a self-assessment of your strengths, weaknesses and ambitions? Are you an authentic and happy person? Have you let people down?

4. What is the compelling sales benefit for a branding investment in this economy?
I’m a marketer. I’m a huge believer in profit. If a brand doesn’t serve the sales force, it’s like putting the cart before the horse.
“…. Profit is not the primary goal, but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence” - Peter Drucker

5. Who should participate in branding a company?
A Brand is a collaborative process. In other words, a Brand is generally made by strong relationships with all its stakeholders. It takes not only the marketing department, but also the internal force, communities, media, investors, in some cases Government or even the local Church.

6. How does a business owner know whether she has effectively branded her company?
I think quality Branding coupled with a solid and competitive business plan should define whether a company will survive or not in this ‘new digital era.’ We (consumers) need shortcuts that help us simplify our choices. Clutter gets worse every day and we lack time. Decreased price sensitivity, increase of profitability and market share are just some examples of the power of a strong brand.

7. Should companies think differently about branding when it comes to twitter?
The basic principles of branding in Social Media are very much the same. Lessons that guys like Drucker, Levitt and Al Ries taught us have shown to be immutable. For example, listening and talking to your consumers are still vital things to do before starting any Branding effort. Allen Adamson makes a really good point on his new book ‘Brand Digital’:

“… Given that the primary objective of any organization should be to get a better understanding of human thought and behavior in order to serve people’s unmet needs, the magnifying power of digital is a very good thing, if it is used in this manner. It is a good thing if an organization uses it as it should ne used to gain meaningful insights about its core audience and its primary competitors…”

I would go further and say that good Branding Professionals go outside their offices and come back with their hands full of dirt, brains fueled by consumer’s stories and their feet in need of recovery. No brand has any value without market validation. Powerful Brands in the digital world don’t rise from mirrored offices. Go outside and remove the illusion of separation between you and your consumer. Digital Branding is not about us. It’s about THEM! It’s a symbiotic process that has only any value if it fulfills needs and expectations. Windows instead of mirrors always folks.

8. Can you recommend a few articles that help a small to medium sized business understand branding?
Marketing Myopia‘ by Theodore Levitt
In Praise of Marketing‘ by John Quelch (one of the best articles about Modern Marketing I’ve read in ages)

‘Building Strong Brands’ by David Aaker.
‘Corporate Religion’ Jesper Kunde and B.J. Cunningham
‘Brand Digital’ and ‘Brand Simple’ both by Allen Adamson
‘Brand Aid’ by Brad VanAuken
'Authenticity’ by James Gilmore
‘Zag’, ‘The Brand Gap’ and ‘The Designful Company’ by Marty Neumeier
Positioning by Ries and Trout (One of the most important books in the history of Marketing & Branding)
‘The Practice of Management’ by Peter Drucker (Chapter 5 is responsible for what we call Modern Marketing today)
‘A Clear Eye’ by Tom Asacker
‘The Brand Bubble’ by John Gerzema and Ed Lebar
‘Taking Brand Initiative’ by Hatch and Schultz
‘Surviving is Not Enough’ by Seth Godin
‘The Open Brand’ by Kelly Mooney
‘Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World’ by Pete Blackshaw