The best 21st century brands won’t be built on advertising alone. Here’s why:
Ask Delta Airlines.
Or ask BP.
The problem isn’t your marketing. The problem is that, when it comes to your brand, your customers aren’t just listening to you anymore; they are listening to everyone who is talking about your brand.
You know this.
But if so many people are aware that the world has changed, why has the way most organizations allocate their marketing and communications time and money not changed?
My advice? Instead of focusing only on customers and prospects, take a more holistic approach where you engage all of the people who care about your brand: what I refer to as the brand community. (I spend a lot more time sharing ways to do this effectively in The Ad-Free Brand.)
In a world where every person on the planet has the power to change the fate of your brand (whether they spend money with you or not), the brand community has to be seen as more than just customers.
For some more from me on this subject, check this out:
Consider taking a look at my new book The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:). It has some nice tips for how to build a great brand without the help of… you guessed it… advertising!
Last night, Red Hat President and CEO Jim Whitehurst gave a talk to a group made up of mostly students and faculty at the NC State School of Engineering. Nice writeup of it in the student newspaper here. His ideas were very timely for me; just the other day, I wrote a post with some tips for companies with 20th century cultures trying to make the move into the 21st century.
Jim Whitehurst is in a rather unique position because he has managed both an icon of the 20th century corporation (Delta Airlines) and what we’d like to think is a good example of the 21st century corporation here at Red Hat.
Because of his experiences, Jim is able to clearly see and articulate the differences between the old model of corporate culture, based on classic Sloan-esque management principles, and the emerging model, based in many ways on the power of participation broadly (and in our case, the open source way specifically).
One very simple point Jim made that really struck me: Companies with 20th century business models need to realize that they are already hiring 21st century employees.
People coming out of school today have grown up in an age where the ability to participate and share broadly is all they’ve known. These folks have grown up with email accounts, the Internet, Facebook, and all of the other trappings of a connected world.
So when they graduate from school and take jobs working in old-style corporate cultures, where progressive principles like transparency, collaboration, and meritocracy lose out to the old world of control, power, and hierarchy, what happens?
The most compelling brands in the world tell compelling stories. Whether the brand is Nike (the Greek winged goddess of victory was named Nike, and it all rolls from there) or IBM (Thomas Watson and THINK) or [your favorite brand here], the most interesting brands have great mythologies built up over time. The brand story is deeply ingrained in their actions, voice, look, and culture.
It’s been almost eight years since we created the first Red Hat Brand Book. The original book was an attempt to capture the essence of our Red Hat story, to explain what Red Hat believes, where we came from, and why we do what we do.
It had a secondary mission as an early brand usage guide, explaining what Red Hat should look and sound like at a time when the company was expanding rapidly around the world and brand consistency was becoming harder to achieve.
When most companies create this sort of document, they call it a “Brand Standards Manual”, or something like that. But we were young, foolish, and drunk on the meritocracy of open source, so in the first version of the Brand Book, we emblazoned the words “This is not a manual” on the front cover.
Why? We wanted to be very clear this book was the starting point for an ongoing conversation about what the Red Hat brand stood for, looked like, and sounded like, rather than a prescriptive “Thou shalt not…” kind of standards guide.
I hate brand standards that sound like legal documents. I’ve always felt like the role of our group was to educate and inspire, not to police, and we tried to create a document that embodied that spirit.
This year we launched the biggest update yet to the Brand Book. In doing so, we actually split it into two projects: