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Transform your brand by transforming the way you talk to consumers

By Beatrice Cornacchia, senior vice-president, marketing & communications, Middle East and Africa – Mastercard

By Beatrice Cornacchia, senior vice-president, marketing & communications, Middle East and Africa – Mastercard

The world around us is transforming at an incredible pace, affecting how consumers engage with everything around them, and that includes brands. The digital age continues to transform the way we live, shop and pay – including how and where brands show up. By redefining the way they engage with consumers, brands can establish more meaningful relationships with them.

The evolution of communication

Take the example of Mastercard’s ‘Priceless’ platform – it is a single word that is embedded within the DNA of our brand and drives differentiation. While it has been a constant, critical element for more than 20 years, what it stands for has evolved tremendously over the years. What started out as a storytelling tool is now something that engages our consumers in new and innovative ways. We care about what they value and what would make a positive difference in their lives. This is exponentially more powerful than any advertising material could ever be.

Corporations today should encourage and inspire consumers to create their own stories, their own memories; this ensures that the brand resonates with them on a more personal level. As part of this approach, paying greater attention to how you engage with your consumers and enabling them to make their own memorable moments is paramount. This is more pertinent than ever before, given that today people expect action, not advertisements, from brands.

The power of brand identity

Research shows that today, 84 per cent of people say that brands have a strong identity and a clear role in the world, while 87 per cent say that brands must stand up for what they believe. This is a clear indication that there is a necessity for brands to evolve and touch the lives of their consumers – passive brand identities will not remain relevant for long. Brands that still view their consumers as statistics, rather than real human beings, and approach communication in an impersonal manner, will eventually fall by the wayside.

A brand needs to connect to people on several levels and be able to appeal to their various senses, therefore the need for continued transformation and innovation cannot be overstated.

In addition, the digital age is creating completely new definitions of consumer needs and experiences. As the lines between digital and physical blur and the number of consumer touch points continues to increase, consumers’ brand expectations evolve in keeping with the rise of new technologies – some, like ad blockers, increasing challenges, and others, like voice technologies, opening up new possibilities.

It’s with this in mind that we recently launched our sonic logo, which comes on the heels of our recent transition to a symbol brand. Our interlocking circles are a powerful visual cue and encapsulate the brand better than any word could.

There has been a rapid ascent of audio in our lives – hundreds of millions of people are already using smart speakers, and voice shopping alone is set to hit $40 billion by 2022. In light of this development, an audio strategy is no longer a “nice-to-have,” it’s just as important as a brand’s visual identity – sound adds a powerful new dimension to brand identity. A sonic brand, and the opportunity to further explore all the senses, is a crucial component to the advancement and evolution of any brand.

Remember that consumers are human beings

To remain relevant, brands need to be more dynamic, more engaging and more meaningful than ever before. Innovation remains key to ensuring a brand successfully transcends from what would conventionally be a mere logo to something that can engage consumers in a multi-sensory way. Something that stands for a higher purpose.

In essence, speak to your consumers as you would to a real human being who might be standing right in front of you. The age of impersonal communication with a one-way stream of messaging is all but gone, and that’s where the innovation piece of the puzzle comes in. Innovation is key to opening a meaningful dialogue with your consumers, and eventually transforming your brand. It is the lifeblood that makes a brand alive, and can only be achieved if a company fosters a culture of innovation – the change has to come from within.