In the 20th Century, the most influential companies were measured by revenue figures and growth curves. It was the oil companies, the banks and, most recently, the tech giants. Most consumers bought products and services based on price tags and quality.
What about in the 21st Century?
There has been evidence recently that product and pricing based differentiation are dying out - the competition in every sector is so fierce that consumers have the luxury of making purchasing decisions based on factors other than simply product and price.
One such factor is customer service. In the last few years, thousands of companies have started using chat widgets on their homepage to deal with consumer concerns and questions in real time. Consumers can now expect instant customer service from any product or service provider.
Consumers also make purchasing decisions today based on brand, a word that has come to encompass a lot more than it used to a decade ago. This word doesn’t just mean what the provider’s logo looks like. This is about the provider’s overall mission, vision, values and practices.
For example, does the provider use animals in their product? What is the provider’s story? Does it make its product in this country? Does it have any green or charitable initiatives? How does it treat its staff?
Today’s providers must therefore make a conscious effort to be competitive in these new areas of differentiation, and this must flow down from management. Companies with a good customer service record are invariably those with a high employee satisfaction record. And companies with high employee satisfaction invariably have clarity around their company’s brand, values, practices, vision and overall mission.
Both customer service and brand-based differentiation must feed down from a company’s leadership, who must be able to provide clarity to their employees and consumers about what it is their company stands for. This is why a 21st Century company’s Brand Identity is more important than ever.
A company’s Brand Identity is often very clear to the founders and leaders of a company. But what about to everyone else? How are the leaders of a company articulating the company’s Brand Identity to their staff and to their clients?
Let us firstly think about why Brand Identity is so important for the employees of a company. The ease at which employees can now move jobs when they start to lose interest in the direction of their company is causing headaches for management teams, who can’t seem to hold on to staff for more than a couple of years. Employees who don’t understand what their company stands for are simply able to move on to companies with more clarity and direction.
An important part of reducing employee churn is to educate staff about the company’s Brand Identity, so that they feel like they are working for something more than just a paycheck.
Now let’s look at why Brand Identity is so important to a provider’s clients. As we have already mentioned, today’s consumers are making more and more buying decisions based on the mission and values of the provider, instead of simply the price tag or product. The provenance of a product, the green and charitable incentives and initiatives, the happiness of staff, the direction of a company, all these things are all having an impact on whether people buy a product. The companies who are able to articulate their Brand Identity most clearly to their customer base are most likely to win business in the most competitive business landscape of all time.
In this age where product differentiation is dead, pricing differentiation is almost dead, customer service is hotly competed, never has it been more important to understand and maintain one’s Brand Identity and share it with every corner of a company and client base.
So how does a company make sure its Brand Identity is clear and consistent, and that is grows with the company? To answer this, we must look at the “brand transactions” that describe the Brand Identity to outsiders, what these brand transactions are formed of, and the problems faced when building and using them.
Brand transactions include every single post on a marketing platform, every business card, flyer, advert, email, sales presentation. Essentially, every time some material is created that represents the company and is shared with an employee or a potential client, this is a brand transaction.
These transactions are usually constructed from a company’s brand assets - their logos, fonts, colours, stock images, boilerplate copy, brand guidelines.
If used properly and designed correctly, the right brand assets in brand transactions can go a long way to communicating a company’s Brand Identity to staff and consumers. But in so many companies, this is not the case.
On account of today’s competitive landscape and the ‘content race’, marketing teams are very busy indeed.
In Gabriel Weinberg’s and Justin Mares’ book Traction, they describe 19 channels for market traction. These are viral marketing, PR, unconventional PR, SEM, social and display ads, offline ads, SEO, content marketing, email marketing, engineering as marketing, target market blogs, Business Development, sales, affiliate programs, existing platforms, trade shows, offline events, speaking engagements and community building.
In order to market your business on even just a handful of these different marketing channels, today’s marketing team must produce more content in less time on more touchpoints at a higher quality.
This four dimensional squeeze (quantity, time, # of touchpoints, quality) means that only those teams that are fully aware of the problems they face and the brand message they are trying to portray (and have put in place measures to prevent them) will triumph.
Suddenly, a company’s “brand footprint” is spread out across myriad different touchpoints, each managed by different sub-teams, as the company tries to compete over smaller and more niche crowds. An overarching strategy that is controlled and consistent can easily be lost as the diversity of brand transactions scales.
Many marketing platforms will only display a post for a matter of hours. This means teams are having to constantly find new ideas and new content to keep their presence on the platform active. This can result in a decline in the quality and consistency of their output.
This isn’t altogether independent of the previous section, but with less time between posts going out it is so important to have structure, process and software in place to ensure that posts and content can go out as quickly and smoothly as possible.
To stand out on marketing platforms, the quality of the marketing material is paramount. There is so much content being shared everyday, that any failure to meet certain quality thresholds will mean that the content will struggle to make an impression online and may even have a negative effect on the brand.
When a company has lost control of its brand identity, when it is struggling to compete, they often reach for the design team or even for brand agencies to fix the problem. Now this can often reverse the fortunes of a struggling, disorganised or tired brand, but not without a concerted effort to adhere to the Brand Identity and brand guidelines as set out by the design team or the brand agency.
A company’s brand identity has to be understood, looked after, maintained and interacted with on a daily basis.
This is problematic for brand agencies when they haven’t ‘onboarded’ or ‘handed-off’ the new brand identity to their client in a way that the client can understand and interact with. Often the users of a brand identity, those building the brand transactions, do not understand the brand identity in the same way as the agency or designer who made it.
In many cases, once a brand agency or designer has completed their brief, much less attention is paid to the change management and brand identity understanding in their clients’ offices.
Often, they simply handover work to clients as a file full of brand assets svgs and pdfs, just another folder in the filing system, and change is slow if at all. It is apparent that brand asset svg's and brand guidelines pdf's can be difficult to use and disseminate effectively in fast paced marketing team. And often this loops back round to the brand agency who spend their time resending or updating files at the whim of their clients.
Now, some brand agencies don’t mind this confusion loop. Some even charge for this service under the name of ‘brand guardianship’. Others like to have their clients keep in touch anyway, so that they remain in touch with their clients.
However, neither of these solutions are serving the best interests of the client who simply want a way to have clarity over how to use their brand identity, and a way to do so quickly.
Providers are competing on brand for winning new business
Marketing teams struggle to create enough high quality branded material to satisfy the unquenchable needs of marketing platforms.
Brand agencies often leave clients confused as to how to use their brand, and which assets are the latest ones.
Based on the above three problems, we have created a tool for marketers to interact with their brand identity, helping them to understand it, and implement it when creating marketing material.
Pilcro is a tool where you can store, manage and share Brand “Artboards” - a brand asset management software tool. A Pilcro Brand Artboard contains all the brand assets you always need when pulling together on-brand marketing material. Logos, links, colours, fonts, key pieces of copy and then guidelines on how to use all of these assets.
For example, which colour is the main company colour, and what percentage of the screen should it occupy? What is the current one-liner to use to describe the company or this project?
This means no more “which is the latest logo?”or “What is the exact colour we use?” emails.
Pilcro offers marketing teams a way to create marketing material without confusion and without delay.
For Brand Agencies, Pilcro is a tool to maximise understanding and consistency when you hand over and manage those brand assets. It gives brand agencies a way of differentiating themselves from their competitors by providing a manageable solution instead of just a handover.
Returning to the four dimensional squeeze on marketing teams, let us now look at how Pilcro can help with each one.
Quantity of posts on each marketing touchpoint: Pilcro provides the ingredients for branding any marketing material. This can give you the ingredients with which the posts are created.
Time to create marketing material: Pilcro’s menu bar app gives you instant access to the latest brand assets so that
Number of touchpoints to manage: By starting your work with brand elements in your company’s Pilcro Artboard, consistency can be maintained across all of the different marketing touchpoints, giving consumers a coherent picture of your brand identity and values.
Quality of marketing material created: With brand consistency and clarity and time saved, comes quality.
Please check out our blog for more information on Pilcro and some other interesting thoughts.
Pilcro offers free brand management software for G-Suite. You can find out more here.