Why effective branding is about doing, not telling

Image: Absolut/Fader

I had the pleasure of speaking at the San Diego Ad Club last week after Dan Burrier, the Chief Innovation Officer at Ogilvy and my former boss on the Motorola account. Not only is Dan a friend and someone I greatly admire, but he said something that evening that struck me very deeply. He said that branding is now more about the “doing” than the “telling.”

I think Dan is absolutely right. For too long, branding as practiced by advertising agencies has been focused on the Big Idea that, well told, will connect emotionally with a customer and motivate them to buy a product or service. But in this new era of transparency, characterized by Wiki Leaks, the activities of Anonymous, and the revelations about corporate practices that have filled the newspapers over recent months, a brand can no longer afford to simply trade on an idea of what it stands for. Instead, in this era of radical transparency, a brand must be willing to tell the story of what it’s actually doing.

That’s why the purpose of a brand is so critical to its bottom line success in the social business marketplace. That purpose not only informs how leadership steers the company and the satisfaction of its employees, but it also defines what actions the brand takes to improve the lives of its customers. For if a company wants their customers to grow their business by buying its products and services, that company must be meaningful to its customers lives. Such meaningfulness is found in the concrete actions a brand is taking to better the lives of its customers and the world at large in alignment with its core values.

On the one hand this is a burden on companies, in that brands must work out what they stand for, communicating it with employees, and bring it to life through their actions. This is not a simple or quick process. Yet at the same time, once you’ve done it, storytelling becomes much easier. A brand simply needs to share the story of what it’s doing with its employees, products, services, and cause work to improve the well being of others. It will enable the brand to build a community of customers aligned around shared values and connected by social media that will be happy to amplify the brand’s message using their own social media channels.

So instead of fabricating the Big Idea, and living in fear of the rise of transparency, a brand can put its shoulder behind its purpose and simply tell the story of what it’s doing in the marketplace. It’s this connection between the “doing” and “telling” of a brand’s story that defines success in the new social media marketplace. So if brands want to capitalize on social media to build their bottom line, take Dan’s advice by focusing on what your brand is doing in alignment with its purpose and values and simply tell that story.

If you’re interested in your brand storytelling, I invite you to join us at the We First Social Branding Seminar on the 1st and 2nd of February in Los Angeles at the Marina Del Rey Marriott hotel. Every attendee will be walking through a Social Branding Blueprint that takes them from the definition of their brand purpose through to its social media expression, so you walk out with a Blueprint that offers real value to your business that you can act on. Plus, every attendee gets an extra ticket free to invite their favorite non-profit. This is the last week to register, so visit www.WeFirstSeminar.com now.