Is Your Marketing Brand Changing?
As marketing managers have become brand managers and marketing communication managers are becoming “content marketing managers,” are corporate communications executives soon to become the CIBBO (chief internal brand building officer)? I am not trying to conjure up some sort of Dilbert-esque cynicism about job title inflation that might be taking place in the marketing profession. To the contrary I think these new titles are good indicators of how the marketing profession is upping its game and stepping up in the way it is contributing to their organization’s success. The way marketing professionals manage brands has changed and continues to improve. In most cases the title changes are a true reflection of a higher level of marketing competency. We no longer market products; we build brands. We don’t just communicate about our products; we create and manage relevant conversations. We don’t just build brands with external audiences; we use them to engage internal audiences, perpetuating long-term brand building. Marketing managers have become brand managers There is any number of changes that justify the promotion of the marketing manager title to brand manager. One of the fundamental shifts I have observed is the product versus brand perspective. What I mean is that marketers used to think about their products in the context of the traditional product life cycle. Their marketing strategies and passion seemed to start out strong with the introduction of a new product or service and wane as the product languished in the “mature” part of the life cycle. Essentially the product life had a beginning and an end. Product life cycles are finite and come to an eventual end. A brand-based perspective is the antithesis of the old school product life cycle view of marketing. Properly managed brands don’t have life cycles; their time horizon is infinite. When you manage a brand you don’t plan for the next new product with a new name. You plan for brand extensions to nourish the brand, helping it to get better with age, like a great bottle of wine. Brand managers define brands as behaviors or usage occasions, not products defined by their physical characteristics or technology phase. Brand managers think strategically about how they can consolidate all of the existing product identities that satisfy similar consumer behaviors or usage occasions to more effectively build a stronger brand. A single brand that has more impact on a consumer is destined to be a much stronger brand. Consumers with more interactions and receiving more value from a brand have a greater affinity with it. I have noticed today’s brand managers make much more use of market research data, defining market segments with the clinical detail of a highly skilled surgeon. In a similar way, brand managers today are obsessed with measurements and the calculations that create the numbers, maybe to their own peril, sometimes fixated on the transactional, to the detriment of understanding the humanity that is at the core of enduring brand relationships. Becoming content marketing managers Marketing communication professionals are in the midst of a professional transition. At the risk of over-generalizing, marketing communication professionals focus on telling their target audience about their company’s product and services. The challenge in the past was presenting an integrated, consistent message across a mix of advertising, promotion, sales collateral and events. Marketing communicators reached out to their target audiences when they decided that it was time for their target audiences to learn something new about the company or a new product. Today the challenge is to establish and maintain a relevant, engaging conversation. Content marketing is not just marketing communications on a digital platform, it’s using the power of digital and social to create a conversation that has value for the consumer. Marketing communications was a sales tool. Content marketing is a relationship building commitment. It’s a conversation about the category or the broader context of the behaviors that define the category, helping the consumer become smarter. A proficient marketing communicator created awareness and instigated trial usage. A true sign of a highly skilled content marketing manager is when their brand becomes consumers’ “search engine” on the topic or behavior. Think of it as their brand becomes the browser on the topic. Content marketing managers today are being challenged by the demands of creating enough content to be a relevant part of the on-going conversation and keeping up with where the conversation is taking place. Some marketing communications professionals are making the transition, but not all of them. Content marketing is creating a new type of communicator – part journalist, part marketer and contributing to the conversation even though you have nothing to sell. Will there be a new breed of marketing communication professional, a content marketing manager with a new set of skills and energy that re-defines the role of marketing communications? Who will take the lead on internal brand building? Internal brand building is the new frontier of building stronger brands. Who inside an organization will take charge of internal brand building? Will the corporate communications executive take the helm as the internal brand leader? If internal brand building is the new euphemism for internal communications then we know Dilbert is alive and well. But limiting internal brand building to communications is like suggesting that marketing is advertising and the other “P’s” don’t matter to the whole mix. Effective internal brand building takes a broader set of competencies – part organizational development, part communications and part human capital development. In truth internal brand building is most effectively accomplished with collaboration between marketing, corporate communications and HR. Like all effective collaborations, internal brand building needs a leader – the internal brand-building officer, so to speak. Will it be the corporate communications executive? Is internal brand building the platform for elevating corporate communications to a more strategic level making them a critical part of an organization’s brand building competency? Based upon our firm’s internal brand building practice we are seeing internal brand building leadership coming from a number of different positions. In many cases the CMO is taking charge and extending their influence by connecting their external and internal brand building strategies. In other cases we have seen CEO’s or business unit leaders use internal brand building as the change process to engage employees in their new leadership strategies. In a smaller number of cases we have observed corporate communications take an active role in internal brand building initiatives. Curiously enough in almost all cases HR has taken on a role of support competency leading the functional implementation. The variability in where leadership resides is not surprising given the formative nature of the development of the internal brand-building competency. Whether you believe job titles lead or lag a profession’s core competency, it’s good to see marketing professionals evolve their role as leaders inside their organizations and brand building is becoming the new standard for the marketing profession.