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Existentialism and brand marketing

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I was having a discussion with a colleague about the creation of a new brand and how one should go about defining the "brand's essence." This discussion got me thinking about the philosophical principle of existentialism and how it can apply to individuals as well as to brand marketing.

Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's premise that "existence precedes essence" hits the mark in that we are as we exist, not as we or others would label us. As for new brand creation, brands exist first before their true essence can be realized. In other words, it is the choices organizations make and the daily actions they take to bring life to their brand promise that makes for an authentic experience.

Consistent action in support of brand promises results in an essence that is reflected back from the market, and that is consistent with the essence to which the brand marketer aspired. The existential journey is one in which we as individuals and collectively as organizations discover our true selves and our reason for being, and the ongoing work it takes to act authentically to have our essence reflect our intent.

For brand marketers and the brands we create, we have to constantly ask ourselves, "Why do we exist? Why are we here? What greater purpose do we serve?" For our customers, we must constantly ensure that their experiences are positively impacted as a direct result of their interactions with our company and with our brands. While it may be obvious, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that customers are why we exist, and that they must be the starting point of our thinking. We must always remain genuine in our presentation of solutions to their challenging problems.

Applications for b-to-b marketers:

  • As you create new brands, reposition others or integrate acquired brands into your portfolio, start by defining your brand's reason for being. What purpose does it serve for your company, and more importantly why does it exist for your customers?
  • What promise is your brand making in the market? Is your company fully prepared to act and deliver against your brand promise every day?
  • What are the key touchpoints between your brand and your customer's experiences with it? Have you built up the proper ecosystem to support your brand promise throughout your organization, from supply chain and manufacturing to marketing and customer service?
  • What measurement systems have you put in place to hold yourself accountable for the promises you're making?
  • Are you setting aside time to periodically check your brand's strategic "reason for being" to ensure you're continuing on the right road and acting authentically in support of your brand promise?
If we think of existentialism as a movement which holds that the starting point of understanding must be the authentic experiences of the individual, then it's a natural extension to move from individuals to groups of customers and apply existentialism to corporations and to brands. Good luck on your journey of discovery to find your brand's '"reason for being."

Randall Rozin is global director-brand management and marketing communications at Dow Corning Corp. (www.dowcorning.com). He can be reached at randall.rozin@dowcorning.com, or via www.linkedin.com/in/randallrozin.

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