Brand Engagement

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By Emmanuel Obeta

Brand Engagement is another key parameter that determines the success or failure of brands. Brands can be inanimate objects or can be made to have a life of their own. This process of enduing life to the brand such that it does not only have relevance to the lives of the consumers but something that they can engage with is the sole essence of brand management. To engage with the brand therefore, the brand must first of all have assumed a life of its own. Without such a life and personality of its own people cannot engage with the brand.

A brand like Wimbledon has assumed a larger than life attitude on its own that in some people’s calendar it is a must attend event every year. Same for our teeming population that has developed an avid followership of Premier league such that life over any weekend without premiership soccer is like death sentence.

Brand engagement is therefore the process of forming an emotional or rational attachment between a consumer and a brand. Brand adoption among consumers generally evolves from the stage of lack of awareness to the point of rejection or brand advocates or ambassadors.

Brand engagement is basically at two levels; one at the level of the employees and internal stakeholders and at the point of the external stakeholders and customers/ consumers.

To successfully engage your staff and internal stakeholders, the key is in ensuring that the entire promise of the image created in the minds of the employees – the employee brand is delivered on the joining of the employees. If the promise made is not kept that will lead to dissatisfaction, disaffection, lack of trust and employee turn over among the employees. You cannot expect employees who are not satisfied with the brand to be advocates of the brand and not to de market or bad mouth the brand.

This is so important because your employees are the main interface of the brand with the external stakeholders and customers/ consumers. If they do not believe or strongly advocate for the brand and are passionate about the brand you cannot expect the customers and consumers who interface with them to be passionate of actively engaged with your brand.

To build your brand engagement platform you also need to ensure that employees and close stakeholders of an organization completely understand the organization’s brand, and what it stands for. This will ensure that their activities on a day-to-day basis are contributing towards expressing that brand through the customer experience they create or facilitate for the customer.

The second aspect of the brand engagement is the customers/ consumers and other external stakeholders. Brand engagement like we said earlier represents a relationship between a brand and its consumers, and that relationship is driven by interactions.

Marshal Carper outlined seven levels of brand engagement; consuming content, making small shows of support. Participating in conversations, championing the brand, being physically present and creating brand contents. The seventh level, buying a product is a given as one cannot go through the outlined levels without buying or patronizing the product.

A very good example of top-notch brand engagement is Harley Davidson where the fans have their own fan page, organize regular events and even have regular roadshows on their own. People are prepared to pay and wait for months for the brand to be delivered to them. Brand engagement is built on conversations and activities so if your brands are not talking or engaging your customers in a conversation then it is failing in its main responsibilities. Higher levels of engagement are synonymous or correlate with increases in revenue

Another essential ingredient in the success or failure of a brand is its consistency or lack of it. Consistency means the steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form etc. It refers to an agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing. The confusion about consistency is the erroneous impression that it is opposed to dynamism or that consistency is inflexible and unwavering as well as opposed to change.

Consistency first identifies the core and essential elements of the brand, the brand essence that cannot change without altering the DNA of the brand. Once these core elements are identified, the peripherals or outer part of the brand, which are not so germane in defining the personality of the brand, will also be identified. The brand cannot compromise or afford to be inconsistent with its brand essence else it will lose its meaning and value in the market place. For example the brand logo and typography, fonts etc. cannot be compromised because any atom of inconsistency in these and other key elements of the brand will lead to a distrust and suspicion among the consumers or customers.

Brand consistency therefore is the practice of always delivering messages that are in line with the identity and values of your brand. Consistency here means that your target audience is being exposed to the same core messages repeatedly. Because the more consistent your messaging, the more consistent your branding.

Consistence in the core messaging is hugely important because overtime and with consistent exposure brands get associated with key elements and character traits just like an individual such like any deviation in such messaging will be inconsistent with the character traits and personae thereby leading to a confusion as to the true nature, behavior and characteristics of the brands.

Brands engender trust and are true store of value and assets primarily because customers and consumer know what these brands stand for. Any deviation or inconsistency in what the true essence of these brands is will automatically break the trust and belief that the consumers have about the brand thereby leading to a lack of patronage.

Brand consistency also leads to brand recognition but if there are constant variations in the identity elements of the brand then recognition will not be possible. It also evokes a positive emotion about your brand if positive single-minded messages are consistently communicated or passed across by your brand. This is why the proponents of advertising usually advocated for a single Unique Selling proposition. On the whole your brand consistency will help you stand out from competition as your customers will definitely have something different or unique to associate or know your brand with.

A brand that is inconsistent in its messaging, purpose or claim will definitely fail. Experience has shown brands that jump from one advert execution style, concept, messaging or claim to another such that overtime you cannot identify what the brand really stands for. This some of these brands do to copy or try to counter claims by other brands without knowing that standing or sticking to one core messaging over the years will lead to a clear differentiation in the market. This is why it has been said that he who stands for nothing falls for everything.

Note that consistency in the core messaging does not mean that a single message must be adhered to and cannot be changed. Coca Cola has changed their pay off line like so many other brands over the years but each of those messages are still consistent with the core essence of the brand. So the challenge therefore is in changing and growing but not deviating from your core essence as a brand.

  • Emmanuel Obeta is a Brands & Marketing Consultant with Directorate Level experience across FMCG, Banking and Public Service (eobeta@gmail.com ; +2348139322773)