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Here’s a truth: many in the marketing industry today don’t really understand brands. They may think that “brand” and “customer experience” are different. But that kind of brand is a layer of communications. That is the stuff of blowhard manifestos — too high-minded to sell anything, and too lofty to be useful. Today, when there’s more of everything — more channels, more choice, more speed, more confusion — more noise and less signal, it’s fair to ask: What is a brand?
In order to answer this question, we have to think about what has changed over the last decade. The emergence of the iPhone and smart technology completely altered the way consumers interact with media and brands. “Digital” and “social” have become inseparable from everyday life. People are consuming media and content as well as curating and creating it. Consumers quickly became accustomed to the opportunity to interact and dictate media culture.
The conversation now runs two ways. If companies can get their data-driven content and platforms right — as brands such as Lego, GoPro, Marriott, and KLM have done – you can turn people into media, willing to spontaneously spread your brand’s gospel far and wide. Provide them with a platform to participate in your products and services — as Coca-Cola managed to do with its personalized “Share a Coke” initiative — and then you have the chance to embed people directly into the narrative or fabric of your brand.