1. How do direct-to-consumer businesses grow today? They build remarkable brands.
2. If you ask leaders at some of the biggest DTC businesses in the world for their keys to success, they will invariably start with brand. Brand is the native language of the new DNVB industry. It is the single biggest differentiator in the fight against entrenched, behemoth companies. Brand is everything for these companies.
Jen Rubio, Away:
Our first step was, we have to brand it. We didn’t even have a product. We didn’t even know how to make it. But the first thing I did was start working on the branding. (source)
Andy Dunn, Bonobos:
Brand matters. Brands have a soul that is not easy to quantify. The e-commerce stories are flashier at first on the top-line, but the long-run winning strategy may well be DNVB (cult brand monotheism). The e-commerce company is a channel; the DNVB is a brand.
3. Brand is so important today that it is becoming its own discipline: Brand Experience (BX).
4. You’ve seen traces of it in the agency world and in some large-scale businesses: Creative Director, Brand Manager, etc. This is just the beginning. I believe that companies will fully embrace brand experience in a formal way, building out entire brand teams across a multitude of functions. Brand Experience is the new Customer Success which was the new Growth Hacker which was the new Marketing Ops. Teams are constantly evolving in new directions, and the latest evolution has led us to BX.
Brand Experience encompasses roles like:
- Social media manager
- Community manager
- Content producer
- Multimedia producer
- Data analyst
- Brand ops
5. Here’s how Brand Experience (BX) works in a nutshell:
Your customer’s experience creates data. You use this data to create a better customer experience. That customer experience gives you more data, which you use to improve the experience, and so on, on and on, forever.
The customer experience is made up of four parts:
- Quality = super, super high quality with absolutely everything your customer touches, from your website to your social profiles to your packaging to your emails
- Consistency = same high quality, same voice and tone. Your brand is like a person with a reputation you can build.
- Community = When your audience experiences your brand, they will stick. They stick because of the quality and consistency, because they resonate with you, they see a version of themselves in you or aspire to be like you.
- Sales = Eventually, when your audience is ready, they will buy. You’ll get better and better at optimizing this sales cycle with the data that you collect.
6. If you want to see the very best brands doing Brand Experience (BX) today, here is a shortlist: Bonobos, Allbirds, Away, William Painter, Ugly Drinks, Society6, MeUndies, Gymshark.
7. If you want to see some of the people behind this Brand Experience (BX), look at how these teams are constructed on LinkedIn:
- Chief Experience Officer
- 2x Senior Brand Marketing Managers
- Brand Communications Manager
- Art Director
- Brand Marketing Manager
- Brand Designer
- Global Brand Marketing
- Brand Ambassador
And on the cover of Inc magazine (May 2019, featuring the Sweet Green team):
8. Brand Experience (BX) is area-agnostic. It is not marketing. It is not support. Or, rather, it is both marketing AND support. And design and sales and community and any other customer-facing area of the business. Typically, a brand experience team will live outside of the traditional areas of a company because it is accountable to different goals: sentiment, awareness, reach. If it is directly accountable to sales, then that muddies the brand waters. If it is directly accountable to response time, then that changes the brand focus. 9. An audience interacts with a brand all over the place. In particular for DTCs, social media is huge. If you watch how they do it, you can see the bedrock of a Brand Experience engine: they share to social media, use that data to learn what to share next; they build audience insights and layer that with shopping insights; they’ve mastered ads and formats. And they carry all this through to the experience in all the other places where you can find them online and off. A core pillar of Brand Experience (BX) is social media. It is the single best platform for your brand message because:
- The platform is universal. It’s accessible to everyone with Internet or a data plan.
- The platform is familiar. There are guardrails and rules to follow.
- The platform makes it easy to compare. People know a good Instagram profile when they see one because they see thousands of Instagram profiles.
- The reach is huge, especially for B2C, DTC, and e-commerce companies. Consumers live on social media.
10. For Brand Experience (BX) teams, the only thing that matters is the customer. They are not out to turn the world on its head or change the world. They have found a problem and provided a solution, and they want to solve that problem for as many people as possible. The four hats of the
- Chief Brand Officer by Robert Jones, Future Learn
- Chief Brand Officer: Why Companies are Moving Beyond the Traditional Marketing Roles by Sanchita Dash, Entrepreneur
- The case for the Chief Brand Officer by Paul Worthington, LinkedIn
Philosopher and coach
Scientist and creative director
The task of brand management is changing. The role used to be relatively easy to define: writing the brand strategy, achieving consistency in the branding work, policing every piece of design, and tracking the brand’s performance.
Often it’s the head of brand who’s reminding the organisation’s leaders how critical it is to building purpose, confidence, conviction and unity among employees. Their current keyword is ‘purpose’, which has more currency for many chief executives than ‘brand’.
When branding was essentially about communicating, the job could be done within the brand department. But increasingly, customers believe deeds not words: the whole customer experience, rather than the latest advertising campaign. And this means influencing colleagues in many other departments, including product design, engineering and customer service.
Today, brand managers are also learning the habits of the scientist. This is because CEOs increasingly demand ‘scientific’ data from their marketing people – not just impressions and instincts but evidence and quantification – to justify their budgets.
Much of what a company does in the market – communicating, selling and delivering its product or service – now happens online, which means it gets tracked, which means there’s data about it.
Using this data, the brand manager’s goal is to build a brand that’s ahead of people’s changing needs.
Chief Brand Officer: Why Companies are Moving Beyond the Traditional Marketing Roles by Sanchita Dash, Entrepreneur
Elaborating on what exactly the role of a CBO entails, he explained, “A Chief Brand officer is expected to play a multi-faceted role in today’s highly complex and dynamic world of brands with ever changing consumers and their beliefs. He/She needs to be alert and sensitive to consumer feedback and trends in the market to translate them into insights, bringing compelling brand stories to life, managing the image of the brand, increasing the value of the brand and building a unified culture around the brand.”
Within many organizations “brand” as a job title or role sits within the marketing department, often reporting to the people responsible for advertising. Demonstrated simply: Marketing>Advertising>Brand.
When the primary vehicle for creating meaning and shaping the perception of brands was advertising then this was a logical structure. But that world no longer exists. Today, advertising is just single factor (and one with declining influence) within a much more distributed and complex system of experiences that are necessary to establish brand strength.
Brand is not marketing
The system of experiences that define brands and create value extend well beyond the limits of the typical marketing organization. It includes such disparate aspects as leadership vision, talent policies, culture, product pipeline, approach to innovation, operations, CSR, customer service, sales and all of your ongoing marketing activities.
I think a CBO should have at least 4 specific areas of responsibility:
- The keeper of the company’s purpose, advocate for it, and chief storyteller inside and outside the organization as to the power of this purpose with customers, employees and society as a whole.
- Responsible for defining the system through which the organization manages its brand against its purpose
- Responsible for introducing and then helping the organization manage a set of cross-silo brand metrics and measures based on a customer value standpoint
- Heavily involved in the ongoing executive conversations around business strategy, M&A fit, capabilities, and the those critical decisions that are made around the innovation pipeline and how to drive ongoing organic growth and renewal
Whoever was to take on such a role would need to have the following characteristics:
- A keen curiosity and a deep passion for the brand
- To really care about and have an empathy for people
- To be a great coach that is able to influence the actions of a broad array of people
- The gravitas to influence their fellow leadership team and members of their board
- To take a systems approach to understanding the levers of change
- To have a strong eye for the future and a creative and innovative approach to taking advantage of it.
BRAND BUILDERS: LET’S SIMPLIFY IT
So if you come across anyone in work or life that possesses these three abilities, you should be considering bringing them onboard your team.
- Ability To Implement Ideas
An excellent way to develop vision is to give yourself a few minutes per day to thing without borders. What are the craziest ideas you come up with? Write down 5 of them and then try to reverse engineer them briefly. What would need to happen to bring that to fruition?
We asked Hung Nguyen from Small PDF how her day to day looks like and was pretty surprised when we heard that the agenda is usually different from each day to the other
- Outreach, including Link Building, that contributes to our SEO strategy
- Partnerships by running an affiliate program
- Content Marketing by producing content
- Email Campaign creating email blasts
- SEO Analysis and Competitor Analysis
- Running Social Media Channels
- Customer Support by talking to more than 15M users, it includes damage control, which I have a dedicated Slack channel, integrated with Mentions to keep an eye out for anything fishy relating to our brand