Build That Brand in Eight Lines or Less

Remember “Name That Tune,” the old game show that had contestants betting against each other on their ability to identify a tune in a certain number of notes? Well, building a brand in a wireless environment can be a little bit like that.

Many industry observers are already dismissing the possibility of using wireless to build brand because of the extreme space limitations inherent in wireless devices. After all, say the skeptics, the Internet has not proven itself to be good for branding (a statement with which I heartily disagree, by the way, but that’s another story and another article) — so what can we possibly expect from wireless?

I believe that the truth of this kind of thinking depends heavily on how you define branding. In my book, branding is much more than a 30-second TV spot; it encompasses everything a company does to build awareness and the ongoing perception of the company. That said, some media, notably television, allow advertisers the luxury of time and technology to tell their brand stories more fully than some other media.

So, given that statement, why am I hopeful for the brand-building possibilities on wireless devices? Because more and more, companies understand that long-term brand development is dependent on the actual experiences that customers have with the brand. Ultimately, the greatest advertising in the world, via television or any other medium, cannot successfully build a brand if the day-to-day experience with that brand is not consistent with what the brand image promises. Think Sears promising hip clothes for professional women in its TV ads, then think about the experience of shopping at Sears.

So here comes the advantage of wireless: Used intelligently (see my last column for pointers on what constitutes intelligent use), wireless advertising and m-commerce applications offer companies the ability to interact with their customers and would-be customers in brand-new ways. By allowing customers to specify what is of interest to them and developing applications that meet their needs, smart companies will have the opportunity to build brand one person at a time, providing the services and products that are meaningful to the individual.

It sounds obvious, but it’s really kind of amazing if you think about it. Mass media must depend on the law of averages to get its message out. The company looks at its target market, creates a message that it hopes will have appeal, then creates a media plan to reach people within the targeted demographic or market. Wireless applications in the future will allow audiences to define themselves — to tell the company (or third-party intermediary that manages the process) what message they want and how and when they want it. Talk about efficiency!

When my local Nordstrom puts an ad in the paper, for example, it has to guess at what the entire Boulder/Denver area is most interested in buying that week. Contrast that to opting in to receive a coupon for shoes when there’s a 50-percent-off sale and you’re within five miles of the store. Which do you think will have the bigger impact on your long-term perception of Nordstrom as a brand that you value and trust?

The key to building brand on wireless is to be able to provide a new level of service and value. Who knows? If companies can do that, perhaps we can even shift the paradigm of advertising as intrusive and annoying to a valuable service that customers want to receive.

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