We combine competencies of a consulting company and a think tank operating in the area of Public Relations
First of all it is good to realise that the non-airtight reality, where anyone and anything can become a medium, affects not only consumer interest but also a broader spectrum of interests around our organisation. Rapid flow of negative information and breaking across long-lived stereotypes make us change products or service providers more easily. The world is no more a mystery even for a passive observer. We know the dark side of mass production. There is no doubt in our mind about what the Polish Game of Thrones is all about and the unthinkingly adopted archetypes of nobleness fail. We recently learned that soldiers on stabilisation mission use their boots to pay for sex and this adds to the long stream of similarly important media reports, which redefine the reality, created by correctness. The difference between today and yesterday is information, which has become widespread. The more we know about the world, the more the circulation of information is created in the grassroots, the more it affects the decisions we take.
From the point of view of relationship managers building a brand takes resources, time, money and involvement of talents. The challenge is anything but easy in times when the average product life is much shorter and the brands themselves produce many sub-categories, which also require attention. At the same time the fast life-cycle means there is little time to build relationships. Let us look at political parties – products for changing the quality of life. New ones emerge, tailored to all needs. Parties of the mutinous, parties of hard-working entrepreneurs, parties of the traditional ordinary and progressive extraordinary. The lifecycle, however different it may be, has accelerated markedly. I am naturally departing at this point from the social and economic context and talking about the phenomenon itself. We quickly adopt alternatives however in the absence of in-depth relationships we just as quickly abandon them. It is similar with products – everything starts and ends faster. Distribution of communication and greater activity of groups of interest affect how we must think about communication.
Against this backdrop the corporate brand is beginning to play and increasingly important role. In times of dynamic changes an organisation become a guarantor of the values it stand for. Even when managing a portfolio of expressive brands the organisation can play an important role. For example let us mention Sony with Xperia, Armani as the umbrella brand or the Courtyard hotels, supported by the parent brand. Such a connection has value; it is a guarantee of sorts. People take decisions based on their convictions, not a technical interpretation of facts – this is why investing in relationships long-term is needed. Let us imagine a situation, in which we are launching a completely new product category – something, which has not yet won general acclaim with consumers, may be harder to introduce if it is not favoured with major confidence.
Planning to build a stable communication platform it is a good idea to deliberately select the attributes that will follow. It is crucial, when considering the values we want to promote, to factor-in those, which are a value for our environment. Creating a brand with only our own aspirations in mind is a pretty risky strategy.
In the period when a brand is only starting it makes sense to mitigate the risk of no confidence. Putting the communication emphasis on heritage may be a safe bet. Origins or culture are among the simplest of solutions. You can draw on heritage in a number of ways. We readily reach for a bottle of New World wine, we appreciate Italian style or German craftsmanship. When we need to prove something we can always do it by reaching into our roots. The assets and particular features can also provide an interesting point of departure. For example restaurants do not always communicate in terms of unique cuisine; the narrative is often based on location (e.g. a unique view), interiors or a special atmosphere.
With the first bar measures in place it is a good idea to plan the next narrative step. People constitute an important adhesive factor in history. This takes on a special value for companies whose large component is based on contacts, service or skills. These are simple measures – if your staff operate in a culture, which is perceived as creating commitment, consumer focused, charging with positive energy, appreciating competencies – this will result in the corporation being thus perceived. Strong characters become mirrors of their organisation. Let us look at the narrative of Blikle. The first information reaching us says: the A. Blikle business was founded by Antoni Kazimierz Blikle on 11 September 1869 – this is where heritage appears in the narrative. For more than 140 years of its existence confectionary shops run by subsequent generations of the Blikle family were witnesses to and participants in the history of Warsaw and of Poland, offering sweets to customers in both happy as well as bitter moments – this is where people appear. This shows how universal in values this approach is.
Another variable in the equation is the essence of the brand, its values and priorities, which provide answers to following questions: what are we doing; why we are doing it and how do we operate. These are things to be sought at the roots of every organisation, deep in its DNA. Innovation is a valued differentiator, although building such a reputation is far from easy. Today most companies aspire to innovation. It must be remembered however that heavy spending on research and development as well as a multitude of patents, which do not lead to actual products, will not provide a basis for positioning as an innovator in any credible way. Innovation must be adequate to the actual contribution made. The change must show clearly that different (the new way) means better – creates value.
On the other hand brands, which exist close to people, are an interesting and very much up-to-date differentiator. Such brands stand out with their empathy and trustworthiness. The fact that we always keep promises and never fail has great value. To illustrate this point, this is e.g. consumer care – is the company really consumer focused, does it really care about its consumers and respect them. An important aspect of the corporate narrative can also be effectiveness of the organisation and the size of its operation. Consumers often perceive the size of a business as a guarantee of quality and support, resulting from its track record.
Looking into one’s organisation is a job, which takes self-commitment and fairness. Then why does it make sense to invest in a corporate brand? First of all because it has a certain particular feature: it represents both the organisation itself as well as the products it offers. As a value carrier it plays a supportive role – it may offer its blessing, make the difference, instil credibility, support brand building, provide a foundation for building relationships. There is one more important reason to build a strong corporate brand. Namely building relationships with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. While in brand relations it is natural to build bonds with consumers, professional circles will feel more natural in relations with a corporation. Such connections are most important in difficult and unforeseen situations. There is not future for a product without a stable stance of its manufacturer, irrespective of its category. Naturally every strategy involves not only opportunities but also challenges. We cannot forget about being credible and adapted to the world, in which we are discharging our mission. Slogans will not suffice if they are not implemented. Let us remember that it is not difficult to sustain brand narrative in times of prosperity, though in an uncomfortable situation. Making history is one thing; following its path is something completely different.