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January 28, 2015

ITEXPO Panelists Discuss What's in a Brand

By Carrie Majewski (née Schmelkin), Director of Content Marketing, Content Boost

Have you ever wondered how to maintain your brand message in an increasingly digital, connected world? When your customers hear your company name, what images and thoughts do you suppose come to their mind? Do you even know how to define the phrase “brand?” Such were the questions that were explored during a riveting marketing and branding discussion today at ITEXPO (News - Alert) titled “Technology and the Evolving Brand Experience.”

It’s well understood that honing brand messaging is incredibly important. After all, 62 percent of the most effective marketers pay attention to best-in-class marketing strategies “very closely,” according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B benchmark study.

So where do you need to start when it comes to fine-tuning your brand message?

“Understand who you are as a company—and that has to come from a C-level position,” Kathleen Reed, Sangoma Technologies (News - Alert) Director of Marketing, said during the panel. “If you don’t know who you are, you are in trouble.”

Take a company in the customer service space, for example. If this business is trying to emerge as a leader in best-of-breed customer service but its agents and sales reps are characterized as abrasive, abrupt and disrespectful, you have a branding problem. Specifically, your brand messaging isn’t consistent with your actual business processes.

When looking to implement marketing best practices, the panelists urged audience members to start by understanding the actual definition of “brand” so they can better touch their customers.

“People think the phrase ‘brand’ refers to a logo or slogan but your brand refers to how people perceive you in the market,” Kerry Garrison, Teliax (News - Alert) VP of Retail Operations, said. “It’s about defining yourself as a company and defining how you want to be perceived and then finding the right tools to leverage that.”

As you look to define your brand, realize that the phrase touches all employees at every level; therefore you need company buy-in as it relates to your central messaging. At the executive level, for example, the C-suite can define a company’s core values and brand meaning while at the mid-manager level team members can focus on how to weave facets of that messaging into existing business processes.

It also means that companies have to pay particular attention to their recruiting efforts to make sure they are on-boarding individuals who support the company’s overall branding goals. In other words, hire for the right fit for your brand from a culture perspective.

To unify your brand, the panelists suggested having regular company-wide meetings so that all employees remain current on the company’s roadmaps, recent milestones and current obstacles.

“At least quarterly we have company meetings called all-hands meetings and all senior executives explain what is going on in their departments and reinforce the brand message,” Reed said. “It’s challenging because we are constantly acquiring new companies and bringing new companies into the mix… but it’s important to us to repeat the culture.”

Echoed Garrison, “Make sure people understand your company’s goals so everyone stays excited and understands the direction of the company.”

So how do you staff appropriately to manage your brand in this new world?

Well it truly depends on the size of your company, the panelists argued.

“You might not have time to hire a full-time marketing person so branding might run to your sales manager,” Garrison said. “But regardless, somebody needs to understand how to use the tools, how to work with them, how to create pages and how to assess the analytics. It’s a skill set someone has to pick up if they don’t already have it, and it’s quite a bit of work to figure it all out.”

Edited by Alisen Downey
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