CommentaryFeb 29th, 2024

Are you Managing your Brand? A Perspective on Brand Identity

Copy of The Dealership Litigation Hold Unpacked

In the race for technology, electrification, digitization, AI, automation, and more have we lost the core essence of what the brand is? What it stands for? What it delivers?

What does the product stand for in the brand promise proposition? What does owning or driving a Chevrolet even mean?

What does the retail experience represent? What does buying and servicing with Smith Chevrolet mean? What does it mean to be a Smith customer?

In the retail experience, we have digitized a good portion of the pre-sales and sales process, but have we traded it for the humanization factor of the brand? In service, through online scheduling, digital processing, and automated call systems, we have made the process more time efficient, but have we lost the empathy and brand connection to the customer?

Fair questions I believe.

Back to Basics

Let’s start with some back-to-basics. The brand is more than a product. It is more than a slogan. More than a jingle. More than a transaction.

The brand is a collection of value exchange, needs fulfillment, emotional attachment, stories, experiences, and human connection to all that support an individual’s choice of that brand over another. Let’s be clear on one more thing. It is called Brand Management because we don’t OWN the brand. The customers do. The perception of the brand IS the brand. We merely manage and act as brand stewards but the ultimate position and essence of the brand is determined by the customer.

Legendary brands like Disney, Apple, and Nike represent much more than a product or service. They are a lifestyle. A choice of emotional connection. A representation of a customer’s lifestyle and reflection of their values. That is a brand promise delivered!

So what can we do?

Think of your brand as a living and breathing person. When we describe a person, we often say, “They are a lawyer, a bank teller, a mother, a brother, a student, etc. But those are just identity descriptors and not the true essence of the person. Those might be what they are but not who they are. More meaningful is when we describe a person as passionate, caring, thoughtful, driven, a leader, and an activist. Those describe that person’s reason for being.

What is a Brand?

A brand must be a relevant and differentiating value proposition. The relevance meets the basic functional needs and core requirements of a customer but the differentiation is what separates that brand from all others in the market. It is what gives the brand identity, character, and meaningfulness.

Actions to Manage Your Brand Effectively

In short, some actions to instill in your brand management efforts:

  • Talk about YOUR brand, the full brand experience, not just the transaction or function
  • Build your brand on a full set of experiences. Not one interaction or event.
  • Think of and treat your brand as an icon, a human character, a story always evolving
  • Create a unique brand voice and personality
  • Reviews are nice but get customers more involved in the brand story
  • Always communicate your brand with the value and the customer-centric side of it. Not what you offer but what they receive.
  • Incorporate brand messaging into all your employee meetings, training, and culture
  • Marketing and messaging can make an offer but don’t ever lose the brand promise in that communication. Why is it more than just an offer? Tell them. Then deliver on it.
  • Cultivate a living brand. Bring it to life. In all you say, do and interact.
  • Avoid selling products.
  • Stay committed and sweat the small stuff.
  • Your brand should deliver a feeling.
  • Collaborate with your employees and your customers. What do they believe the brand to be? How would they like to see it reflected?
  • Alignment. Every communication. Every action. Every interaction. Make it reflect the brand image and the brand promise.

Make brand management and your brand identity part of what you review and track. Make it something you ask and talk about with your agency, with your employees, and with your customers. Make it the end all and be all of what you do and what you stand for.

The Experience Meets Value

At the end of the day, the vehicles, the transactions, and the processes are just basic commodities on their own. They are table stakes in our industry. But with a greater package of experience, value, and feeling they become part of a greater brand position. One that people want to connect with and can identify with personally. Challenge yourself to really soul search and identify what your brand is now, and what you would like it to be. Align all the elements of marketing, operations, delivery, and experiences in a way that uniquely defines your brand. We may sell +/- a few vehicles each month, or make a few more or less dollars in margin each month, but our brand is what will make us endure, succeed, thrive, and win. Our brand should be something customers identify with, want to connect with and become advocates of in the community. That is brand management success.

    Dennis is the Head of Automotive Industry, Innovation & Transformation at Capgemini Invent. An innovative strategist and transformer, Dennis’ experience includes driving brand and customer strategy into market and profit realization. 

    Dennis is a change artist who creates tangible business value through ideation and visioning, creative marketing strategies and process implementations, strategic business transformation and customer understanding and delivery.

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