The Changing Role of Chief Brand Officer
Philosopher and coachThe task of brand management is changing. The role used to be relatively easy to define: writing the brand strategy, achieving consistency in the branding work, policing every piece of design, and tracking the brand’s performance. But the scope of branding in many organisations is much less clear-cut than it was twenty years ago. At one moment, big long-term questions of meaning and purpose are central to the CEO, while at the next moment, the pressure shifts to short-term results, and branding is little more than a sales gadget. Brand managers therefore increasingly have to hold the high ground, to remind their CEO of the long-term value to be derived from investing in the brand. They argue for the importance of values, meanings and ideas in the minds of consumers – and of employees too. Often it’s the head of brand who’s reminding the organisation’s leaders how critical it is to building purpose, confidence, conviction and unity among employees. Their current keyword is ‘purpose’, which has more currency for many chief executives than ‘brand’. As the champions of meaning and purpose, and the posers of ‘why’ questions, brand managers are almost the philosophers of their organisations. At the same time, the reach of brand managers is widening. When branding was essentially about communicating, the job could be done within the brand department. But increasingly, customers believe deeds not words: the whole customer experience, rather than the latest advertising campaign. And this means influencing colleagues in many other departments, including product design, engineering and customer service. Many organisations, as we’ve seen, are keen to build the right brand in the minds of employees, just as much among consumers. They use branding to change how employees think, feel and act. Often, they produce a set of guidelines for how employees should behave – even in meetings that no consumer will ever see. So the brand manager’s task becomes an educational one. In some cases, this means teaching the whole organisation to collectively deliver the best possible customer experience, in order to build the right brand for consumers. In others, it goes even further, and means building the right brand for employees too, getting them to ‘live the brand’. To control communications, brand managers used to deploy brand manuals and guidelines. Now, they’re much more likely to talk about practical tools and online learning. The brand manager has become, in effect, organisation’s coach – its teacher and trainer – using an array of educational media and practical toolkits.
Scientist and creative directorToday, brand managers are also learning the habits of the scientist. This is because CEOs increasingly demand ‘scientific’ data from their marketing people – not just impressions and instincts but evidence and quantification – to justify their budgets. Brand managers are therefore getting interested in a range of new scientific disciplines. Consumer neuroscience is still too young to be of much practical use. There’s an emerging science called computational aesthetics, which aims to be able to predict which designs will work best just by measuring their features (line widths, curve angles, colours, brightnesses and so on) – but that’s still a long way behind the effectiveness of the human eye. But another kind of data – often described as ‘big data’ – now plays a central role in branding. Much of what a company does in the market – communicating, selling and delivering its product or service – now happens online, which means it gets tracked, which means there’s data about it. Big data can tell a brand manager which online campaigns get most clicks, which tweets get most retweets, which discounts work best, which sales channels are most efficient, who the customers are, where they are, what else they like, how much they use your product, and what they say about it on Facebook.
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The Secret Power of Brands
The Secret Power of Brands
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