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E-Commerce Link : Brand as Behavior

Restructuring multichannel marketing to drive results

March 2009 By Jeff Molander
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From the utility of instant communications to the search box’s boundless sense of discovery, “always-on” consumers are busy entertaining and informing themselves. Spending is taking a back seat to experiencing. Now what? Successful multichannel brands are redefining the practice of branding themselves, and leading marketers are becoming publishers—driving a continuous stream of experiences and, ultimately, purchase behavior. Here’s how they’re doing it and how you can, too.

A New Premise
The definition of branding is seldom agreed upon, yet “brand equity” is considered a measure of success. As a result, brand-focused marketing pros often feel misunderstood. Smart, capable operational executives can’t accept that the ultimate value of brands cannot be measured like every other function of the business.

The opportunity now is to redefine brands in terms that marketers and operational executives alike can embrace. That emergent definition is to base brands on the objectively measurable, real-time aggregation of everything marketers and their customers do together. That’s different from the old-school definition of focusing on awareness and influencing how customers feel.

Experts like author Jonathan Salem Baskin say branding is evolving away from artsy strategies that create “mental states” toward a behavior-based science. It’s all about creating measurable, valuable experiences.

Think of campaigns that prompt customer behavior—like when T-Mobile launched its myFaves campaign in 2007. The company prompted customers to call their top five numbers for free. It also prompted customers to think about who those five people were in their lives. It made people do something. Contrast this example with Verizon’s “It’s the network” campaign (which doesn’t prompt customers).

Baskin is steeped in brand advertising (Nissan, Limited Brands) yet questions the central tenants of traditional practices. He recently spoke on the subject at the Direct Marketing Association’s Leaders’ Forum and authored the book “Branding Only Works on Cattle.”

“After 26 years fighting that good fight, it occurred to me that maybe all those operational execs weren’t stupid; maybe it was we marketers who had the wrong idea about brands,” Baskin admits.

Success isn’t about “outbranding” the competition by making customers feel differently. Winning is about measurable, behavioral change. Baskin suggests the substance of customers’ behavior is far more important to a brand than anything marketers create.



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