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Companies need Chief Brand Officers to conduct conversations with customers

Why do you need a Chief Brand Officer?

It’s no secret that branding is pivotal to generate preference and loyalty and therefore secure not just present but also future sales revenue. While your company’s brand is an intangible asset, it’s likely to wield more economic value than all hard assets combined. As determined by any legitimate brand value measurement methodology the dollar value of the world’s most valuable brands runs into the tens of billions. Why so valuable? Take a look at this fundamentals of branding article.

Given the open access to technology and low-cost barriers to entry, basic products in virtually all categories are commodities. A great performing product today is table-stakes—if you don’t have one then you’re simply not going to be in business. The days of Consumer Package Goods or “hard goods” economic supremacy gave birth to the notion of the “USP”, the Unique Selling Proposition, which was invariably rooted in how the product performed. The brand was all about trust in the quality and reliability of the product itself. Powerhouse companies like Procter & Gamble surfed on the supremacy of R&D excellence and performance differentiation.

If we can agree that the Unique Selling Proposition or performance differentiator has typically evaporated, you have to have an excellent product to play with…and then we must ask what is the role of branding today to help navigate customers to the best purchase decisions? If products and services in the considered set perform similarly what drives customer preference and loyalty?

At Ideon, we believe the role of branding determines the quality of the conversation between a company and its consumers. What makes life complicated is that everything communicates and impacts that relationship. And companies today operate in a fast-moving and intricate web of online/social media in which news about products and services—good and bad—flashes around the globe in seconds. One famous or false move or off-brand conversation and the world immediately knows about it. Just think about how Covid-19 forced AT&T’s Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer, to adjust focus on “supportive practical solutions that are helpful—actions, not ads."

Managing branded conversational marketing is a full-time job. Another word for the topic of conversation here is articulating purpose. Where, for example, does the company stand on gay marriage and how is that manifested?  It’s on point to talk about purpose but who is assigned to birthing and maintaining the purpose? The key difference is that this is not just a conversation externally between customer and company but internally: every single employee is an ambassador for the brand and must align on its promise and live it. No exceptions. And front and center the role of a Chief Brand Officer is managing internally and externally the corporate image and the conversational marketing.

Want to steal a march on your competition? Well Chief Brand Officers are few and far between: the US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not even have a listing for the role. Lululemon is rare, announcing Niki Neuberger as Lululemon’s first-ever Chief Brand Officer in 2020.

The role itself is about a lot more than basic brand management and knowing your way around a marcoms plan. CBO’s use the brand to develop the public perception of a company and to create relationships with consumers, so they need excellent communication skills to carefully consider what internal and external conversations they want to have and how to convey the desired image. A CBO is no stranger to the Street and has an active role in describing the long-term management of the corporate brand and it’s health, and the company’s conversational growth strategy. CBO’s live in the C-suite, as Tiffany & Co’s new Chief Brand Officer Daniella Vitale does. To us, it wouldn’t be extreme to have HR reporting into a CBO.

Perhaps most important is the CBO’s qualities as a futurist—understanding consumers especially during Covid-19, market trends and world views—knowing where markets will be vs. where they are now, and surprising and delighting customers with ongoing conversations about products and services and even companies that they did not even know they wanted.  

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