Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Managing Brand Consistency across All Channels

Lance Kinerk
Director, Global Digital Practice 
Ingersoll Rand

Navigating home after a long day at the office, you pull into the driveway, jump out of the car, walk through the front door and find your family circling to get ready for the evening in front of the television. Does this sound like you? Probably not, because that is what happened in the 1950’s when you would find 50% of the U.S. population watching the number one television show in the country, “I Love Lucy.” Today, you would be lucky to find anyone in your family in the same room. Instead, they are probably wandering around the house, wirelessly connected to a community that could be halfway around the world, sending media messages through Snapchat, We Chat, Facebook Messaging, Google+, or whatever launched yesterday, as they simultaneously watch something on Netflix, YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope, Apple TV, Roku, or Youku. 

The fact that people are sharing media on their own, with their own comments, requires brands to be even more diligent about what they put into the market. In fact, brands need to focus on three things to be successful in 2017 and beyond: organizational structure, technology, and standards. 

Organizational Structure

In the digital world there are no geographic boundaries. You need a global team focused on the brand first and the different business lines second. This is very important, because in the digital world the brand leads. This can be demonstrated when you do a search of some of your favorite brands. If the search results in a brand that provides you quick links to their top business lines, you can surmise they are successfully organized around the brand. For example, search Bank of America and you will see checking, home loans, small business banking, and auto loans links, an organized brand presentation. If you find the paid search results in one line of business being highlighted instead of the parent brand, it is likely the organization is decentralized. For example, search Suzuki and most often Suzuki Cycles are presented without mention of autos. One line of business leading the brand conversation leads me to believe the different lines of business are operating to achieve their objectives before the overall objectives of the whole organization. This is neither good for the investors nor the user of the brand.    

Now that we have established the importance of organizing the team around the brand, the next thing to think about are the key tactics in good digital marketing. Therefore, align the organization based on the tactics (SEO, Paid Search, UX, Analytics, and Lead Generation) and make sure there are people assigned to each of the tactics. If the size of your business is bigger than the resources provided to your function, figure out what is most important to your business and own that with your top people while outsourcing the rest. The most important function today is analytics, because it provides insights into the marketplace even before financial results. We are able to see search volumes fluctuate before we see sales volumes fluctuate. The analytics team can therefore provide insight into the market and begin to test ideas for corrective action or increase what is working.  


In relation to setting up a sound organizational structure, developing standards is very important. Yet, standards for marketing professionals can be perceived as a dirty word. It sounds like you are trying to take the art out of marketing. However, I want to explain why that is not the case. If implemented correctly, standards provide guidance and increase creativity. You can focus on the creative and not spend time getting approvals from legal, IT, product engineering, etc. In addition, standards create consistency for the user. 

Always seeing the IBM blue bars on a television commercial gives the viewer context immediately. Follow this same diligence in social channels, on television, in blog posts, in stores, and on manuals. That means engage all senses with standard practices. Make sure your auditory signals, visual signals, scent (yes, scent is the most powerful memory cue) and text are all the same globally. This seems to be so basic, but I continually run into brands that do not maintain this consistency. The problems exist when the standards are too geographically specific and are unable to translate globally.   


Now leverage technology that supports your strategy and extends your reach. There are over 2,000 vendors in the digital marketing space today. The sheer number makes the task of selecting the right partner daunting. However, at the same time it’s extremely likely that there is a technology out there that can do what you need it to do. Therefore, focus on your current organization and standards and connect with a technology partner that will facilitate this. In the digital marketing space it is important to create content once and be able to repurpose it in a multitude of distribution channels; so a partner that begins with this in mind is a good start.  

Here are a few ideas to think about when selecting a partner: Will they last? Will they provide consultative help to your organization? Is their technology team adept at API development --in case you want to connect into current enterprise systems-- and you will. Will they continue to invest in the software you are buying? 

In summary, focus on the things you can control. This will allow your more relevant messages to beat out any of the noise. Consistently monitor the channels and focus on improving your process. As new channels appear, you will be able to quickly adapt and maintain a consistent brand image.

Lance Kinerk is Director of the Global Digital Practice at Ingersoll Rand. During his career he has been involved in sales, operations, and marketing. Lance has taken his digital experience into diverse projects such as starting a home automation company, building the largest man made whitewater river and outdoor recreation facility, bringing a failing company out of bankruptcy, and leading a diversified manufacturing company into the digital age. He currently sits on the board of Tripstr and is an active investor in several other digital media companies. Lance has a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Davidson College and a Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Business.