Cohn & Wolfe
Brand communication is a conversation between equals
The business sector has long been aware of the immense potential that lies within a brand. Intangible assets have been gaining prominence and, at present, represent the true essence of a company; that is, what determines its value to the rest of society.
Increasingly, companies are working hard to develop the intangibles that underpin their own existence. Just look at the BrandZ ranking of the 30 most valuable brands in Spain to see that these companies view their brand as their most important asset. However, what makes a company valuable? The answer lies within consumers themselves.
The technological revolution that the world has experienced in recent years has caused society to take a 180-degree turn. Customers have evolved, and demand a more personal relationship with brands, based on two-way communication in which they are no longer regarded simply as a number or as a socio-demographic profile. In this emerging paradigm, the important thing for brands is not to talk to consumers, but to talk with them.
Faced with this new reality, companies that have been able to adapt have seen the value of their brand multiplied. Consumers, aware of the power of new technologies, know that their trust is very valuable for companies, but will only give that trust to those brands demonstrating they have earnt it. Trusted brands must fulfill their promise, a promise in which, in addition to having a functional component, has an emotional element. The key lies in the concept of authenticity, which the Real Academia de la Lengua (Royal Academy of Spanish Language) defines as "being consistent with itself".
Authenticity contains within it the key to the value of a brand. Since it is such a complex notion, it is not based on a single attribute, but is composed of three traits established by the “Authentic Brands” study, published annually by Cohn & Wolfe. The public's perception of a company is based on three principles or pillars: Be reliable, be respectful and be real, which is understood to mean providing honest and genuine communication.
Openness and intimacy
For brands, there is significant scope for improving authenticity, particularly regarding communication. Many companies still find it a challenge to develop an effective and honest relationship with their consumers, who demand authentic brands and companies that are true to their essence and are honest and transparent. Communication should not only be constant, but, above all, relevant; it is essential to actively listen to consumers, understand their real needs, and act accordingly.
Communication must also be consistent with your brand values and with the promises you make to your customers. It is not enough just to communicate in an ancillary way; communication must reflect ethical values and behaviors.
In addition, users want to experience a brand directly, and seek a close and personal relationship with it. In short, they demand a communication between equals, something that must be reflected at all of the touchpoints with a brand. It is therefore essential to break the traditional boundaries of the brand-consumer relationship, and communicate with people through a 360º approach.
In this mission, the role of public relations in the marketing mix is fundamental, since it allows brands to approach the public in a more open and intimate way, and establish with them one of the strongest possible links: trust.
Competition between companies increases day by day. Brands develop creative campaigns with emotionally charged content to overpower their rivals, and to attract and retain new customers. However, it is sometimes forgotten that consumers expect to see the brand values embedded at every level of the company and in even the smallest corporate actions.
In short, genuine and strategic communication, which projects brand values and reflects consumer values, must be at the heart of brand-consumer dialogue. New technology gives citizens a true voice and the ability to create content, both individually and collectively. If companies want to engage with these consumers, they can promote shared values. This way, brands can contribute towards building a more ethical society – and have a direct impact on their brand value.