If building a corporate brand was ever a no-muss, no-fuss, “ivory tower” sort of exercise, where a marketer’s primary tasks were two — push out high-minded awareness messaging, and take pains to treat the logo consistently across all other marketing touch points — it’s pretty much not that anymore.
Two pieces of research, and one personal shopping experience, brought this to the forefront recently for me.
– WPP’s Millward Brown announced its latest Brand Z rankings, highlighted in this AdvertisingAge article. As Jack Neff’s piece points out, the Brand Z rankings are among a handful of different (and often conflicting) methods currently being tried to place financial value on, and then publish rankings of, the most valuable corporate brands.
Neff quotes execs from some of the different brand-rankings publishers on how their methodologies differ. He also notes that the Marketing Accountability Standards Board has been working to develop an industry-standard valuation system.
To say brand valuation is a work in progress would be an understatement. In fact, after reading Neff’s article, @hwmarketing felt prompted to publish this alliterative tweet: “Is there any rhyme, reason or relevance to these rankings?”
– The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed new data, summarized in this eMarketer article, which shows just how “real time” consumers are becoming in using smart phones to seek information, solve problems and manage their lives. In the 30 days prior:
- Half of all U.S. smart phone owners said they used the devices to coordinate a gathering.
- 49 percent used their phones to decide whether to visit a business (e.g., a restaurant).
- 47 percent used their phones to “solve an unexpected problem,” while 46 percent “looked up some information in order to settle an argument.”
– I bought two shirts at a store inside Boston Logan airport. Reluctant shopper that I am, but with some time to kill and noticing a “sale” sign on a rack of shirts, I tried on a few and picked out a pair. The store associate (is “clerk” still an acceptable term?) offered to have them drop-shipped to my home, saving me the trouble of carrying them on the plane.
When I received the package, one shirt was missing a button. Straight away I went online to find a customer service number, then used my mobile phone to call and explain the problem.
This had all the makings of a brand moment of truth: I’d either get the run-around, or the person I spoke with (assuming I reached a real person) would pleasantly attempt to help solve my missing-button issue. Fortunately, a real person told me to either ship the shirt back for a replacement at no charge, or go to my nearest store and exchange it. “No problem.” I’ll make that trek to the store this weekend. Ideally, “no problem” will truly prove to be no problem.
Is Brand Value Macro or Microeconomic?
So what’s it all mean?
If according to someone’s rankings the brand from which I bought the shirt had a high valuation, that value would have gone to zero in the mind of this consumer if I’d gotten unreasonable resistance when I called to report the problem with my purchase.
That’s one reason why the true value of a brand is so relative, subjective, ethereal — and ultimately incalculable?
A brand, especially enterprise brands, comprise hundreds and thousands of interactions, experiences and information exchanges, happening every day, across multiple touch points. The website. Social media. The sales force. In-store experience. The monthly billing statement. The customer service operators. Oh yeah, and the product. Buttons or no.
Presumably brand marketers know that where their brands rank on a list of valuation calculations is not really the point. Good for temporary bragging rights? OK. A macro measure of a brand’s strength among consumers, at least relative to other brands? Maybe. Sort of.
But how a brand performs in the micro — when someone picks up their phone or clicks through from their tablet, looking for answers and reasons to believe or buy — that’s still where brand value ultimately gets determined. Isn’t it?
The good and bad news for marketers?
According to Pew Research, these brief, fleeting opportunities to either demonstrate brand value, or diminish it, are likely to be coming our way more and more as time and mobile technology march on.
Are you putting much stock in brand valuation rankings? How important is it to have a common, agreed-upon brand valuation methodology? Comments and discussion welcome.
This post, originally published on Hanley Wood Marketing’s Content Is Marketing blog, is cross-posted here for subscribers to Touch Point City. For more marketing ideas and insights from my colleagues at HWM, be sure and subscribe to Content Is Marketing.