The digital age has brought to an end the era of centrally controlled brands. As the digital media empowers humans to connect and interact on a much wider scale with higher speed, artificial brand images and empty promises are easily unmasked. Strong brands are no longer simply created by ensuring a consistent messaging and visual appearance. It‘s the quality of experiences, determined by interfaces and interactions that drive brand strengths nowadays. Brand management has to replace consistency with coherence; empowering employees to act and react in an empathic and relevant fashion with customers.
The „advertising guys“ and the „guideline police“ have to become moderators of conversations and drivers of organizational collaboration. They have to live by their own credo of „brand driven business“ and overcome organizational silos, functions and paradigms in order to innovate and enforce change. Don‘t get me wrong, adapting to the digital age does not mean tossing every „pre-digital“ technique, measure or paradigm overboard. Basics such as positioning, differentiation, recognition, identity, authenticity will always be relevant – in the digital as well as post-digital age. It‘s always about the products, services and culture, guided by a mission and positioning strategy. It‘s less the „what“ and more the „how“ that has to change.
As much as old school brand management was about creating attractive locations by styling the in- and outside, the new school is about designing factories or workshops. A nice atmosphere is still beneficial, but won‘t do without machines, tools, tutorials, assistance etc. It‘s not just about the atmosphere, but the processes and interactions as well. It‘s no longer about creating an exhibition venue, but about providing a space people like visit to „get something done“.
In that sense, the toolbox of digital age marketing is bigger and better equipped than the „Mad Men“ one . Sure, we still find hammers, screwdrivers, brushes and paint in this toolbox. But we also find all of the precision engineering and electronic stuff, which we need to plan and build machines and tools. There are things in this toolbox that we don‘t even see as a tool today. Things we have to interact with in order to understand their handling and value for our tasks.
If brand management does not want to become a niche contributor for „consistent interior and storefront design“ it has to embrace its new tools, envision what to do with them and teach itself how to handle them. Painting the machines other departments have constructed and built, putting a logo on them and writing guidelines on how to paint other machines is not the change we‘re talking about … And by the way, a logo on a machine that does not work properly is awkward.
Take-out? As brands are determined by the quality of experiences they provide, the management of interfaces and interactions becomes crucial. Instead of enforcing consistency, brand management has to adapt to the digital age by transforming itself into a moderator of conversations and facilitator of cross-silo collaboration.