The Future of Branding isn't just IT... it's HR

A lot has been written about how marketing and IT are coming closer together.  With social media, customer behavior can be tracked, vast quantities of data can be mined for patterns and correlation, and marketing can become more of a science than it has ever been.  This is both welcome and undeniable.  Quant rules! But wait.  There is a corollary to this change.  And it, too, is based on the rapid adoption of social media.  And, ironically, it is almost the opposite of "Quant rules!"   It's about the soft stuff.  Yes... the future of brand management is one much more co-mingled with human resources.  Yes, HR.

mercedes-benz-left-brain-right-brain-einsteinWhy?

Because, with social media comes much greater transparency. And, in a world of increasing transparency, more touchpoints.  More employees are now in a position to engage directly with customers.  Brand impressions increase exponentially.  And managing these impressions becomes increasingly complex.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Real-time brand experiences - Like contact centers, social media engagement is creating impressions in real-time. More ‘real-time’ translates to less controllable and more instinctive.  Hiring for consistent personality types will become more important than training.
  • Deeper engagement - As the number  of employees with direct customer access expands, so does the toolkit made available to each of these employees by IT.  What might begin as a webclick can easily migrate to a webchat, to a direct conversation and perhaps even a videoconference.  Each level requires more competency and certainly more subtle training in order to keep the engagement a positive one.
  • More third-party impressions - Of course, social media adoption has already expanded the gross impressions generated about your brand.  The challenge is that most of this growth has come in the area of others talking about you.  How can you better influence things that are happening or being discussed outside your walls?

Managing your brand moves from managing marketing materials to managing employee behaviors.  Ultimately, brand management will be about hiring, promoting and incenting the right types of people to deliver the right experiences consistent with your brand.  In short, managing your brand will be about managing your culture.

Implications for marketing going forward:

  • Monitoring and managing employee engagement will be a critical leading indicator of brand success
  • Customer service training will go well beyond message management to include examination of verbal and visual cues and eventually behavioral and psychological training
  • Attracting and keeping the right people will become as important to brand management than training and incentives

Can you think of some companies that are already behaving this way?  Are you already moving in this direction?  If so, what are you doing?  What's working... and what hasn't worked?