Are You Ready for the New Changing Brand-Awareness Environment?
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The science of brand awareness continues to change as technology advances: Consumers are literally surrounded by messaging today about the companies they buy from. Unfortunately, for organizations, people's growing awareness of nformation that is not crafted by the companies they follow -- versus the information that is -- can have a negative impact.
Just think about the notable brands -- United Airlines, Zenefits and Uber are recent examples -- that have suffered damage from a firestorm of bad press following incidents that went viral.
The common thread for these stories? They raise a lot of questions about brand awareness, especially among employees.
Most companies still believe brands are created externally -- that building a good product and watching it stand up through consumption is enough. But that’s not the case today.
Organizations can’t hide under the veil of marketing, because consumers are well-equipped to research what's behind that veil. Access to the internet grants consumers insight into the heart of a company.
Look at the journey a job-seeker takes to better understand how people research brands: A 2015 report from CareerArc found that 52 percent of the 1,369 job seekers surveyed said they visited a company’s online properties first during their job search.
In other words, they’re exploring a company’s culture, its social media platforms and reviews of its products before considering a career with them.
Similarly, many consumers are rethinking their relationship with products and services. Just as job-seekers do, consumers are digging deeper into brands. The 2015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study found that 30 percent of the nearly 10,000 global consumers surveyed used social media to learn more about specific companies and issues.
In short, they aren’t just buying a product or service that fits their needs; they’re consciously seeking out whom they want to support. The idea of a brand is much bigger than ever before.
What is a brand?
This begs the question of what a "brand" is in the first place. And, in this context, today's consumers look beyond logos, slogans and advertisements when interacting with brands. They're seeing more than just products -- they’re buying a company’s identity.
The impact a brand has on the world matters more now than ever before. In fact, as the Cone study found, 90 percent of global consumers would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible or deceptive business practices.
What’s more, 71 percent said they would be willing to pay more for a socially or environmentally responsible product. Even more surprising, 80 percent would be willing to buy a product from an unknown brand if it had strong social or environmental commitments.
In other words, company principles are more important than previous experience with a brand. When consumers read about sexual assault charges, inappropriate company culture and compliance lawsuits, they are bound to look elsewhere.
By supporting a brand, then, consumers are supporting a company that aligns with their own identity. They see themselves in the brand they support and want to know how that and other brands reflect their personal values.
Bottom line: people want to support brands that not only take care of their respective communities and make a great product, but also brands that individually have strong cultures.
Why is this change happening?
After facing negative attention, an organization may falter, and that's often due to a lack of ingrained understanding about company culture and values. When this focus is not already clear, employees may find it difficult to be aligned with and represent their brand.
Companies, therefore, have to "walk the walk," and employees shouldn't be able to act without considering the company's core values; otherwise, those companies and their employees may inflict damage on their brand.
When behaviors do not reflect the company's values, positive aspects of the brand lose credibility.
What you can do.
Focus on the impact talent and culture have on your brand awareness. After all, branding is now people-focused. A strong brand is not merely supported by its employees -- it is its employees.
So, align your employees with the company’s vision, mission, and core values. In other words, walk the talk.
Those mission statements hanging in the office are for more than collecting dust -- they act as a constant reminder of why the company exists and how employees fuel the growth of the business.
Related: Related: 3 Cost-Effective Ways to Increase Brand Awareness
The best way to achieve this is through transparency. Maintain an open level of communication as the organization changes and grows -- it’s essential to sustainable success and spreading positive brand awareness.
Also, stay flexible as time progresses. Be open to updating the mission and values as the industry changes and products and services evolve.