How well are marketers building a 21st Century brand -- and what are the best approaches?A new report from industry researcher Forrester Research aims to find out. 

The report, "Benchmark Your Brand Building Capability," surveyed selected marketing leaders to get a sense of how well they were creating and growing brands for the modern age. It found that many marketers are in the early stages because they are “struggling to take the next critical step: to galvanize the whole enterprise and transform all employees into brand ambassadors.” The report sees strong brand management as being essential, as it improves marketing effectiveness, builds customer loyalty and creates opportunities for growth.

Brand Building Skills

In short, the study said most marketers are still developing their 21st century brand building skills, but improving those skills requires the attention and dedication of the the entire organization, including, and especially, the executive management team.

Forrester said virtually all of those surveyed -- 98 percent -- are practicing some kind of brand building. About half of the respondents are experimenting with modern brand building and laying down the foundation for doing it right, while nearly 40 percent have a consistent approach, with clearly defined best practices. Nine percent were identified as “true brand building leaders,” with highly developed organizations and best practices integrated throughout the organization.

The entire modern company, the report said, must have a clear understanding of the customer throughout the organization, and a clear “brand promise” must be the beacon guiding all efforts.

Five Capability Dimensions

To properly build a brand in the current age, the report describes five capability dimensions for benchmarking and optimizing a modern brand:

  1. customer obsession
  2. clarity of the brand’s “North Star”
  3. a consistent brand experience across messages, actions, and products (MAP)
  4. the degree that your brand is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE)
  5. monitoring the brand's performance

Forrester - Brand Capabilities.png

Customer obsession requires that an organization have its brand strategy grounded in a “clear understanding of who the customer is and how you can best serve her.” Brand North Star clarity means that the brand promise is understood and deployed throughout the company, and the Brand Experience MAP articulates and integrates that brand promise throughout all communications, products and actions.

Learning Opportunities

The TRUE capability dimension, Forrester said, is a “brand navigation compass,” guiding the building of the brand experience to obtain the trusted criteria that make up the acronym. Brand performance monitoring ensures that the organization has clearly defined metrics to evaluate how well the brand building program is increasing mindshare and market share.

Evangelize Employees

The report found that marketers are generally strong at defining and deploying their brand North Star, but weaker at using it to deliver a consistent and integrated customer experience across customer touchpoints or in integrating it into employees’ lives. For instance, marketers are efficient at deploying the North Star throughout advertising, social media and other marketing communications, but less efficient at expanding it to other areas of the organization like customer service.

Additionally, the report found that few marketers put customer understanding at the center of everything, in ways that ensure insights from data and other research or feedback become part of business processes. The report also said that most organizations are not navigating business strategy by the brand compass, such as integrating brand objectives into business and budget planning.

To engage the entire organization in this brand building effort, Forrester recommends that companies evangelize employees to become brand ambassadors, encourage collaboration between departments to create an integrated brand experience, and embed brand building into business processes.

The report was based on an online survey in September of this year, using a curated list of 67 marketing leaders. The companies surveyed included Adobe Systems, Hall & Partners, IBM, JWT, Landor, Lippincott and Millward Brown.