This has never been as true as it is now. In today's world of texting, Facebook-ing and Twittering (if you're not up on Twitter and you're a marketer, open a new window and get with it already), brand managers need to protect their reputations with everything they have. There are no more secrets -- the stakes are high and the bar has been raised.
In building a brand and its reputation, there are many factors that play a part in how and what you do. Market conditions will dictate circumstances; competitors, with their strengths and weaknesses, will influence what the relative opportunities are for your brand. As you understand the environment and as the opportunities begin to show themselves, you must be aware of the following guidelines:
Transparency. Commitment. Restraint.
Transparency is all about your honesty with the consumer. As you develop your brand's position and what it stands for, think ahead. If you're not 100% willing to fully disclose your intentions, go back to the drawing board. Today's consumer is extremely savvy, and the very audience you're trying to reach will ridicule any sort of "trick marketing."
Commitment is an absolute necessity in delivering a winning campaign. Many times, brands will dip their toes in the water or come with a "quick hit" mentality to a campaign -- shifting positions year to year, or as their brand managers switch on and off their brands. Consumers need to know the brand is committed to its position. Lock into what you stand for and build upon it.
Restraint and an understanding of your limitations as a brand are critical. Knowing where your brand should not be is as important as knowing where it should be. Build criteria, understand where your brand can live, and do not deviate from it. Obviously, it is important to be flexible, to take advantage of new opportunities, and to take risks, but do not force a brand somewhere that it doesn't belong.
We're trying to follow these rules with the Green Label Sound campaign we are currently working on with the Mountain Dew marketing team. A year ago, we set up a singles label as the foundation with the purpose of creating original tracks from emerging artists and giving them full marketing support geared to get the artists and their songs to the next level. In working with these artists, we never ask them to mention anything brand-related in their songs. We simply ask them to make the record they want to make.
The campaign is mutually beneficial: Green Label Sound creates the link to the Mountain Dew brand, the artists gain exposure and the audience appreciates the transparency, commitment and restraint of the campaign.
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Rob Stone is founder and co-CEO of Cornerstone, a full-service lifestyle-marketing firm based in New York. For over 12 years, Mr. Stone has executed customized brand campaigns for a roster of A-list clients targeting the key demographic of 15- to 34-year-olds.