Human built places can’t exist without the technology called our brain. It is also the brain that decides how to communicate with other brains to create desire for places and things. It is the unique human brain that figures out how to persuade other humans to act in certain ways.
Organizations have gotten very good at using humans to source and to manage technology. How can we better use these unique, available, coffee drinking, gym using computers to improve brand health?
Austin is Weird. And Connecticut?
Before I visit Austin on business I’m told that Austin is Weird which makes me want to experience why and so I book an extra night in the hotel. Which computer figured out that I might be interested in weird?
If I’m going to Connecticut and then on to Maine I probably care that Bradley International Airport, in tiny Winsor Locks, CT., claims to be the Gateway to New England. This could have been expressed twenty different ways. Which computer decided that the unique, metaphorical feel of the words, Gateway to New England, would arouse interest?
How can Your Place-Based organization use this powerful technology to support your brand?
Undiscovered places, countries, cities, towns, shopping meccas, regional airports, resorts, and trains and planes require deep dives into why the customer mind is open to discovering one great place but not another. Undiscovered does not mean unknown, as London Luton Airport understood when rebranding in 2015. They realized their messages of safety, convenience, affordability and friendly service were the price of entry. That to get larger share they needed to step the consumer beyond awareness into discovery and experience; to establish how LLA could become a passenger-centric brand, making airport travel easy and fun, and in a way that would be unique to LLA. London Airport Branding
Strong brands spend less on tactical programs.
Closing the deal is the thing that the human brain figures out better than can any machine. Given that, the amount of time spent by internal marketing groups to chase the latest technology is astounding. Maybe finding new platforms to generate awareness is easier than developing insights into content that motivates people to purchase. Closing the deal is dependent on trust, and trust is a brand quality. This is true whether I’m renting a car or a hotel room. When Four Seasons Hotels, Inc., a Canadian-based international luxury, five-star hotel management company, sold itself to Bill Gates and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia for $3.8 billion what did they sell? Locations? Restaurants? Staff? Beach front property? Yes, and no. They did sell the real estate, but most of the value was for the brand. Gates and team knew it was not just the locations, or the weekly tactical generation of room sales that made Four Seasons profitable, but the customer trust and belief in the promised experience.
The same is true with smaller properties. The Carolina Inn, a 90-year-old boutique hotel located on the campus of the University of North Carolina, depends heavily on its brand to attract guests. Its location, early 20th century architecture, and its history all contribute to its appeal. It is however, these qualities and others that have created a brand that is perceived to be the In Place to stay when visiting chapel hill.
Horace Dediu, founder of independent research firm Asymco and a former Nokia business development manager said in a Reuters article, “The stronger, more differentiated the product, the less it needs to be propped up by advertising.” He cited Apple as one example.
Human built places can’t exist without the brain figuring out why people need such places. Computers are cheap, accurate and fast when designing replicas and handling repetitive tasks, but it is the computer inside us that creates experiences that are inviting, subtle, empathetic, comforting and inspiring. AI is advancing rapidly but it will be awhile before it can duplicate human creativity. Not surprisingly it is our brain that figures out how to persuade another human brain to act in certain ways, and to prefer A instead of B.
How well are you using the technology sitting in the next cubical?
Our brains are massively parallel in their organization, concurrently running many millions of separate processes. They must do this because they are not designed to perform a specific set of actions but to select from a vast repertoire of alternatives that the fundamental unpredictability of our environment offers us. From an evolutionary perspective, it is best to trust nothing and no one, least of all oneself. So before each action the brain must flip through a vast rolodex of possibilities. It is a wonder it can do this at all, let alone in a fraction of a second, and amazing that it factors in feelings that are informed by facts.
Is the Human Resource Director on your brand team?
This is not an anti-technology rant. It is an appreciation of the incredible opportunities provided by the application of technology to marketing. And if the greatest technology we have is the human brain it becomes critical for the HR people to understand the type of thinking necessary to move the brand forward. A better understanding of the role strategic thinking plays in the marketing process will help HR groups find better employees.
Not surprisingly, the more social platforms, just-in-time messaging, and behavior tracking systems that are developed, the more opportunities smart people will find to connect to the customer. We use the same strategic positioning and branding tools that sell automobiles to sell conceptual place products like Economic Development or dude ranches. The difference is in territory that no AI currently recognizes as well as our brain: the unpredictability of how place and myth and history and contemporary culture and humor and tears blend in the mind of the customer.
We can gather volumes of data that tell us when trying to attract an American manufacturing company to Stuttgart we need to highlight the workforce that powers German brands like Mercedes, Audi, and Krupp. But framing this connection to create desire and preference requires insight into the prospect, and creative minds trained to blend contemporary culture, myth, and history to craft powerful and compelling stories.
How is branding a place different from branding corn flakes?
They both require research and strategy to parse out critical customer preferences, and creative minds to hone a sharp blade of truth. A truth that lodges in the customer’s mind, sometimes for generations. Beyond that branding consumer products is very different from branding undiscovered places. Data on related subjects such as history, geography, attitudes, workforce, culture, diversity, transportation, architecture, personality, and stakeholder impact, all play a part in Place branding. Needs (features and benefits) must be met but just as importantly, comfort (emotional acceptance and desire) must be established.
And comfort means different things to different people. Brains trained in strategy and empathy are needed to put all this together to develop messages that leverage other technology.
Our experience, gained from watching clients operate, suggests that benefiting from this great technology in the next cubical starts by hiring marketing people with the ability to think beyond their technical expertise. And then the challenge for management is to give them the opportunity to expand your brands strength by using their brains to build human connections into every ad, tweet and post.