Brand Politics and Content Diplomacy

The topic of brand politics came up in a conversation I had this week with one of the biggest companies in the world, a firm that has grown through acquisition over the last two decades. Inevitably, as acquired brands have come into the fold, the global brand has evolved. The company now positions itself as highly innovative, technology-driven, and cutting-edge.

This brand evolution presents a challenge for the division that I’m working with, one of the smaller, older groups within the company. Everything customers value them for is antithetical to being cutting-edge. They are known for being conservative and slow-moving. They deliver high-touch, personal service. They are anchored in their client’s lives. Concepts like “automated” and “future-forward” and “disruption” couldn’t be further – or so it seems – from the brand this division has been building for years and wants to continue to build.

And yes, this division is expected to fall in line with the master brand. Subbranding is not an option.

The pressure on the content team is palpable. Content that’s appropriate for their customers’ needs and wants has become – at least on the face of it – inappropriate for the global brand. This team’s submissions to the corporate website were getting rejected by the keepers of the new, shiny, cutting-edge, global brand. Basically, nobody at the brand level wanted their stuff. Their content was deemed boring, too dry, overly technical.

How to handle this conundrum?

Consider that, in business as in government, all politics are local. People care about what’s meaningful to them. The same goes for brands and stories as well. The more personal you make your content, the more meaningful it will be. When dealing with a global brand, instead of going higher, larger, broader, vaguer – the typical approach – try going more local. This approach can make content not only more meaningful but also, as counterintuitive as it seems, easier to align. 

In the case of my client, we came to a better alignment by taking their story all the way down to the customer level and worked on the why. We came down to one word: “trust.” Trust was the main value of the relationship between this brand and its constituents. From there, we figured out a way to position this core value as innovative and cutting-edge. We showed how this brand was innovating ways to develop deeper trust. We brainstormed ways to present slowing down as the new cutting-edge. We thought up stories on how disruption is productive only if it’s built on a foundation of trust.

You get the idea.

The next time you find yourself struggling to align to a parent brand or a larger corporate story that appears to be at odds with what you have to say or the way you need to say it, ask yourself how you can get more personal, more local. Look for creative ways to position your message, to tell your story, so that it remains authentic even as it supports a larger context that seemed, at first, incompatible. Be a content diplomat. If you look hard enough, even with brand politics, you can find common ground.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
Robert Rose on LinkedinRobert Rose on Twitter


Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.