We ordered lunch today, and instead of just getting a salad, I got a little reminder of the difference between brand and BRAND.
You see, our delivery guy came bounding up to the door, sweating from what appeared to be a great deal of running around and trying to find the building’s front door—with bright lime green hair and matching shoelaces on his sneakers.
After explaining that he was hot because he was wearing a couple of different t-shirts, he proudly showed me the three different delivery brands he toggles between, saying that he finds it easier to wear all three shirts so he can just “flip the order of shirts” based on who he was delivering for in the moment. When I told him his hair was probably enough to let people know he was coming, he proudly pointed at both his hair and his shoes and announced, “Yup…green. It’s my brand now. You know…what everyone knows me for.”
I couldn’t resist. I asked, “Oh, your brand. So what value do you think that brand relates? How does it represent you and what you bring to the table?”
Without skipping a beat, our merry green delivery guy said, “Oh that’s not what brands do. Brands just look gooooood.”
Lesson 1: Our people may not have the same levels of reverence and respect for our brands that we do when we picture our teams out there in the world, covered in branded merch and paving the way for a customer’s memorable experience. Our marketer-in-training never stopped to think that the brands he works for wouldn’t want to be considered one of a multitude of options, nor did they want me, the customer, to think that their people were just the same as the average delivery team.
Lesson 2: Everyone thinks they know what marketing does. I often ask our dinner attendees what their families think they do for a living. From “professional conference call participant” to “grocery store clerk” to “tv commercial director,” nobody really ever says, “Oh, my family believes I leverage my knowledge about the customer and my expertise in crafting stories and driving brand value to boost the bottom line and deliver profitable experiences.” (And for the record, it is my family that once asked if marketing meant that I worked at the “market”—e.g., grocery store—as a special buyer). I can’t blame this kid for thinking he had created a brand. After all, our marketing brand has been created by every show from Bewitched (thanks to Larry and Darren, who spent their days trying to dupe clients into approving ads while dodging a nose twitch) to Mad Men (could Don Draper just pour me a drink and go home for crying out loud?).
Lesson 3: Don’t ask the question unless you are willing to hear the answer and at least attempt to do something about it. I didn’t need to ask about the hair; I didn’t need to ask why he called his shoelaces a brand. But I did. And what I could hear between the lines of his misguided explanation was that being unique was his brand. He believes that neon lime green is his brand when, in reality, being unique and unafraid to stand out is his brand. The neon green is just the palette that the art director chose for this current iteration.
This is how marketing has evolved over time. We have stopped calling our brands the strokes, hues and pixels used to represent us and have redefined our brands to be the very connective tissue tying our company, products and services to the customers that buy from us. The brand is that ever-evolving yet continuous point of truth that tethers a customer to the value that our brand provides.
It isn’t the shade. It is the promise.
And yes, in today’s digital age, that brand is shaped by data, intelligence and the contextual circumstances of each individual that chooses to engage. This is why today’s CMO must also be on a quest to redefine what the brand CMO means for us and for our businesses. Today, it is the engine that drives sales and transactions, improving revenue and bottom line advancement. But tomorrow, it will need to evolve into something else. Just as we have already evolved from branding and art into the artistry of engagement, we will need to turn another corner and make this craft of storytelling supremely profitable.
In the spirit of this evolution, the CMO Council has once again partnered with the CMO team at Deloitte to investigate where and how the CMO is adapting to and evolving the role of organizational growth driver. Over the next several weeks, a series of papers and reports will be released to outline the results of an online survey and some in-depth interviews that we have completed with marketers in high-growth and fast-growth companies, and it will all culminate in a growth-driver’s playbook that will showcase the insights that these leaders have specifically shared as peer-powered advice.
Keep your eyes open for announcements about our latest releases in your inbox soon! Meanwhile, have a good laugh knowing that somewhere, there is a food delivery driver sweating through branded merchandise in a quest to further his own personal brand, thinking that he just imparted some wisdom on a company he dubbed the “Cool Medicine Officer Council…you know, like a cool doctor’s club thing.” And I just let him ride with it. After all, according to my aunt, I have shelves to stock.