In the one second that passed while I was writing this blog post, there were 100,181 YouTube videos viewed, 2,045 Instagram photos uploaded and 9,109 Tweets. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly bombarded by all types of media and the fight for attention will continue to increase as digital technology enables our 24/7 consumption of content.

Standing out is hard, but building trust is harder.

Rising above the crowd is a tough order today. Marketing by interruption only gets you a few seconds of attention and if there is nothing relevant at that exact moment to engage your audience, you can be sure they have probably already moved on to something else. The fallout from a failed interruptive marketing execution is that the technique starts to get a bad reputation. Just like how I can’t wait to click away any banners that takeover my screen (Where is that clickable X?).

What does this mean for companies? For non-profit organizations? For us personally?

It means that if you are trying to influence anyone, sell anything, or say anything at all, it has to be relevant to your target audience. The message has to be delivered at the right time and be educational or entertaining, or better yet both. To build long-term relationships, your audience needs to trust you and in this world of social media, there is no escape.

You cannot run and you cannot hide in today’s marketplace.

Organizations are made up of people and people leave digital footprints whether we like it or not. Today more than ever, customers interact with companies and organizations at so many levels there is really no desk to hide behind. In fact, the prevailing strategy that seems so obvious but becomes so scary for most is to embrace transparency and utilize it to build your reputation. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stated, “The currency of leadership is transparency”. How companies choose to use this currency determines the fate of their brand.

We need to seek permission through continuous authenticity.

To seek permission from your audience is to establish trust in your relationship. Seth Godin coined the term “permission marketing” years ago, but the concept is more relevant now than ever. He proposed that “Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers.” This idea rings true in the newfound popularity of content marketing and is also the core to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book on social media marketing titled “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. Establish trust through a stream of relevant content before you offer up a product or service.

Authenticity begins by looking within.

Prophetic, isn’t it? But how do you gain permission by building trust? How do you know what to say? How do you avoid your audience sniffing out your misalignment? You need to start from the core. Branding. Branding is not an icon, it’s not a font, and it’s not a website. It’s the culmination of every touch point between your organization and your audience. And these touch points expose who you truly are. That’s the essence of your brand.

Don’t leave your brand to chance by letting your audience tell you (and others) who you really are through ruthless reviews or buying decisions. Instead, embark on a brand insights process to methodically architect your touch points. Even if your brand is not in your hands, developing a brand strategy is more predictable and infinitely smarter.

Ultimately, a brand needs to align externally.

A winning brand sells more products, services, and ideas. Nothing matters if the brand essence does not translate to a brand promise that is relevant to your audience. Delivering upon that promise every single day is what makes a strong and trusted brand.

Below is a typical process that reveals, builds, and protects your brand. It is comprised of three phases: Self-Discovery, Internal and External Alignment, and Interface Architecture. Some guiding questions are provided to kick start your creative juices.

(1) Self-Discovery

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How are you different?

(2) Internal and External Alignment

  • What is the best way for you to be presented to your target audience?
  • What will you look like?
  • What would you say?
  • How will you say it?

(3) Interface Architecture

  • When are all the times you will interface with your audience?
  • What are the assets, capabilities and systems needed to consistently reflect your brand?
    • Assets
      • What content or materials do you need?
      • What channels will you use?
    • Capabilities
      • What competencies do you need to tell your story over and over?
      • What tools will you need to optimize the experience?
    • Systems
      • How will you measure your success?
      • What processes do you need to automate a consistent experience?
      • How will you incentivize a culture to support your brand?

The next time you find yourself loving a brand, you will instantly understand that it is no coincidence. Each and every touch point is painstakingly orchestrated for you to feel that way. Now the questions is: Is your brand worth caring for?