In a previous post, Brand strategy: create your entire brand as a customer-focused application, I set forth the advantages of developing your brand as an application to move customers forward. In this FAQ I’ll answer some basic questions about this approach.
How does the application approach for brands differ from traditional brand approaches?
In the application approach the brand is a customer enabler. It incorporates dimensions of innovation that can move customers forward by making them better off. It does so as part of a joint venture with customers, an act of teaming rather than an act of selling. This is quite different from conventional brand approaches which treat brands as a structure of meaning to be communicated, or as a persuasion package to influence how customers feel and think.
Why is the application approach better?
The application approach incorporates a complete brand/customer strategy. The brand goal is to make customers better off through innovations that advance customers beyond the reach of competitors. Example: iPod and iTunes advanced customers beyond the CD, and beyond less integrated music players. They moved their customers to a new market space (category) where competitors couldn’t (easily) follow—and, where life was much, much better for customers.
The application approach also anchors the brand in company operations. We have one brand approach for company vision, values and operations that we leverage into the customer sphere. The brand is the backbone from the lowest employee to the highest customer.
What role do ad agencies play in the application approach?
They become app agencies.
Why must the brand be geared to innovation?
Gearing your brand to innovation can confer strategic advantage. Your brand helps deliver value that advances customers into new realms (markets) where competitors can’t follow. You make customers exclusively better off. If your brand can’t innovate, you are condemned to ad campaigns to make your brand “work” —while your customers are going nowhere. Eventually, the only way they can move forward is to leave.
Aren’t all brands applications of some sort?
Yes they are. Most brand programs are applications. Customer service is a common brand application. Community programs can be applications, too. These will be piecemeal and inefficient applications, however, unless the entire brand is developed as a focused application to move customers forward. The good news is that your existing brand infrastructure may facilitate the transition.
What about brand relationships?
In the application approach, a brand creates customer relationships through its structured customer interactions. These relationships become sustainable when the brand delivers value that moves customers forward. They are more strategic compared to relationships formed using the brand identity model, where what the brand “is” (or what it represents) forms the basis of relationships. Thus, a brand trying to become an “icon” is at a disadvantage to a brand developed as an application (other things being equal.) The icon is fixed. The application moves forward on customer feet. It can explore new types of brand relationships because it’s made to be iterative, collaborative and open to prototyping.
What about brand experience?
The application approach offers the best platform for creating strategic brand experiences. You will have a single, unified brand application that runs the business and makes customers better off.
Can the application approach scale the brand to new levels and new markets?
Yes. That is one of its primary benefits. It is designed to scale. And it can pivot.
Does the application approach entail a different definition of brand?
Yes. It defines the brand as a method of creating value. The brand goal is to create new forms of customer value that advance customers into new market spaces that competitors can’t reach. As a method for creating value, the brand equation is Company Potential X Customer Potential. The brand works as a single, integrated and systematic method to optimize company performance and customer performance. (A philosophical tenet of the application approach is that a company is only as good as its customers.)
Does the application approach change the context of the brand team?
Yes. The brand team acts more like developers than communicators. Instead of “building” a brand as a structure of meaning to be communicated, we develop it dynamically as an enabling platform, through strategic acts of innovation, in concert with customers. The brand team works shoulder to shoulder with product teams through product development and delivery. Ideally, the brand team leads product development. Through the brand team product development becomes customer development.