It’s no secret that branding is imperative for generating preference and loyalty, and, therefore to securing present and future revenues. Your company’s brand may be an intangible asset, but 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.
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—but those days are long gone.
If we can agree that the Unique Selling Proposition or performance differentiator has typically evaporated —meaning you have to have an excellent product to even play—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?
These questions are more pressing than ever as the winners and losers of this massive sea-change in consumer habits roils and settles into a new normal. And when we add in the effects of a global pandemic, which has slashed consumer spending, we can see just how necessary branding becomes.
So, why aren’t CBO’s more common? It seems that most companies don’t think they’re necessary—or aren’t even sure what a chief brand officer is or even does. Let’s explain the 5 most common misconceptions around what a CBO is.
- Marketing Isn’t Branding
Many companies choose not to hire a CBO because they think their chief marketing officer can handle both responsibilities. Truthfully, however, branding is a much bigger umbrella than marketing—and by giving your CMO the responsibilities of two jobs, you’re just setting them up for failure. Your company’s brand includes its leadership vision, operations, customer service, sales, and marketing, so instead of thinking about your brand extending from marketing and advertising, think about marketing and advertising extending from your business and brand.
- Anchoring the Purpose
The main role of the CBO is to ensure the entire company is adhering to the purpose of your brand—the “why” behind your company. A good CBO will anchor all innovation to this common purpose, ensuring consistency and customer loyalty. An example of a company that does this well is JetBlue, a brand-centric company which revolves around its brand values and uses social media to connect directly with its customers. Due to its authentic and cohesive brand, JetBlue has seen 47 quarters of growth.
- Managing Internal and External Company Image
A CBO is responsible for working with the entire company—the HR team, technology team, product team, customer service group, sales team, and marketing team—to define the brand’s core principles, values, and ideals which will in turn be used to create systems for the company to manage its business, brand and purpose in tandem. By imbuing company procedures with the brand, the CBO builds the company image from the inside out, creating a cohesive and authentic reputation.
A company that does this well is Patagonia, which has closely tied itself to sustainability and conservation. It focuses on creating apparel and gear from reusable and recyclable materials, while also constantly investing in new technologies to make its supply chain more sustainable. Moreover, in 2011 Patagonia ran an advertisement at Black Friday which read “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” detailing the environmental cost producing one of the company’s best-selling sweaters with the ultimate goal of encouraging customers to opt for purchasing second-hand Patagonia products. To this day, Patagonia has a “used gear” option highlighted on its website, explaining that buying second hand cuts a garment’s combined carbon, water, and waste footprint by 73%.
A CBO is also responsible for both creating and managing systems that promote brand improvement for all audiences, employees, shareholders and customers alike. A CBO should define a set of company-wide brand metrics and measures which take a total view of how both customers and employees experience the brand, and actively look for areas in which both people and opportunities have been overlooked.
- Long-Term Brand Management
Finally, a CBO has an active role in describing the long-term management of the corporate brand and its health, and the company’s conversational growth strategy. The main responsibility of a CBO is building and bolstering a brand that will last for many, many years to come. To do that, a CBO must have a deep understanding of the inner-workings of the entire business—similar to that of a CEO, or any other C-suite executive. They must know where the company is now to predict where it will be in the future.
In today’s competitive, unstable, pandemic-based economy and zeitgeist, perhaps the most important quality in a CBO is being a futurist, understanding consumers, market trends and world views—knowing where markets will be vs. where they are now. This gives CBOs an ability to surprise and delight C-suites, shareholders, employees and especially customers in ways they’d never imagined and didn’t even know they wanted.