With very few exceptions, I don’t work for publicly traded companies. Or companies held by venture capital firms. Or companies built to flip.
That means most large corporations, including the Fortune 500 and most high-tech darlings, are off my radar.
Why would I do that? Those companies have the largest budgets. They often have high aesthetic, and they understand the need for effective marketing and communications.
Because with very few exceptions, nearly all of them are slowly killing their brands and nothing marketers can do will change that.
Brands are created by the people who interact with you or your product. Your brand only exists in their hearts and minds. If you want to improve your brand, you have to care about how your customers think and feel.
Publicly traded and investor-held companies work for their EDITDA, share value, Wall Street forecasts, and year-over-year dividends. How their customers feel is often brushed aside while those more “important issues” are measured and managed.
When board members rule, activities with short-term gains (such as cost-cutting), are preferred over those that require long-term investments (such as R&D). Product quality and customer experience often suffer while profits are redirected to improve a bottom line.
The customer isn’t stupid. When they don’t feel the love anymore they vote with their dollar. Sales fall, loyalty slips and the company struggles to shore up their brand.
Once customers abandon a company, a turnaround must be more than logo-deep. Cultural changes must take place that reconnect management to the company mission and market. New brands must reflect new corporate philosophies—and hopefully a renewed commitment to customer experience.
Is it possible to “go public” and not sell a corporation’s soul to the Wall Street devil? Of course. Brand darlings Target, Starbucks and Apple all prove that a customer focus can be profitable. They are the exceptions that prove the rule—and prove the value of brand-based marketing.