We tend to talk a lot about brand, and the power of brand, and we can recall notable brands and their logos very easily. Apple is a major example. NIKE is another one. Google, etc. We all know the “big players” branding-wise.
But there’s also a case to be made that your brand is not as important as you think. Firstly, there’s research over the past two decades that the value of brand is declining — and what people are actually looking for is increasing value in customer relationships. Secondly, there’s the big elephant in the branding room, namely that many people who work on a brand internally think it’s about adjusting logos or font sizes, and it’s not that. A “brand” is how people interact with what you do. It’s not the tone of red in your logo.
And, this part might be the hardest for you to take: A lot of people externally, i.e. in the market, really don’t care about your brand. There was a moment decades ago when people stopped buying NIKE because of the swoosh or the cool ads and started buying it on cost or quality of running shoe. You think about your brand a lot. It doesn’t mean everyone else does.
So what now?
Find your messenger
There is a joke on that Silicon Valley TV show that every tech company or SaaS company is just a word stripped of vowels. If you make razors, you name your company RZR. It’s hip and trendy.
Again, though, no one cares. And no one will recognize RZR — or CLD HCK, i.e. Cloud Hacks — when you post on social media or blog/offer sales collateral.
Instead, they will recognize a human being’s name. People want to have relationships with other people. You can’t go back and forth about pain points with a brand. You can with another human being. We’re social animals. Remember that.
So instead of sending everything or posting everything as your cool brand name, do it through people. Have a messenger — or more than one. Have the messenger be the point of sharing and point of contact. People will remember that name (or already know it) and be more comfortable engaging around the ideas in the post, the blog, the email, or whatever.
This is how you build authority and credibility
It’s through human to human connection, not brand to human connection. If you have a newsletter, make sure that guy/girl’s name is on it, his/her picture is in it, there’s an open message from him/her, etc. Give your brand a face. Find a messenger and the messenger becomes the conduit for communications and relationship-building. This is going to be a much more effective play than trying to get people to engage with some consultant-led brand name.
If you look at LinkedIn or similar platforms, one of the biggest complaints people tend to have is that they can’t find a real person when trying to connect with a B2B company. They can find low-level “brand stakeholders” who can’t really do much in the way of advancing a discussion, or they can receive generic, canned responses from what’s probably a 23 year-old social media manager. This has been a complaint about customer service for generations — “I can’t get a real person!” — and now, paradoxically, it’s a complaint on what are supposed to be human social networks.
Have a face and let the face drive the conversation and context. This is going to be much more successful for you than posting and sharing consistently as a brand.
Is this the same thing as “employee advocacy?”
Yes and no. When people speak of employee advocacy, often what they mean is they want employees to post pictures of trade show booths and parties at those trade shows, often completely devoid of any context — or they want employees to share the latest press releases from HQ. Neither of those things will get much engagement online. (Well, if you take trade show photos with a bunch of booth babes, it will get engagement, but it’s not for the right reasons.)
So no, it’s not “employee advocacy” in the way we conventionally think about it. Instead it’s setting up a system of people (or one person) who can have real conversations on behalf of the bigger brand/organization. That’s what people want: someone to talk to. So, give them that.