back burnerThere’s never been a more exciting time to be a marketer than right now.

On the one hand, our jobs are growing increasingly complex, thanks to the seemingly endless streams of rich, relevant customer data, the proliferation of digital channels and platforms, and the constant evolution of marketing technologies. But on the other, it’s the combination of those things that make what we do so effective… and rewarding. Make no mistake about it: Today’s marketers have unprecedented capabilities to deliver individualized interactions and compelling customer experiences –and to me, that’s absolutely thrilling.

Still, amidst all this transformation, I’m finding that many are losing sight of one of the most fundamental mandates of our industry.

We all know that, as marketers, we are charged with engaging new customers, fostering loyalty among existing customers and ensuring that we stay on top of — and hopefully ahead of — the competition. But let’s not forget that we’re also charged with something that isn’t as easily quantifiable, even though it’s absolutely critical to the health of our enterprise: brand building.

In today’s omnichannel world, a strong brand is as essential as ever; however, if you get too caught up in tactics, content deliverables, and process, it may be easy to lose sight of the big picture. You might start to forget that every nuance of how you’re seen, experienced or felt as a business is actually what makes up your brand. Brand-driven marketing remains a world in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

These days, the people who love what you do have more ways than ever to champion your brand publicly. But at the same time, detractors have just as many ways to make a dent in your reputation. That’s why, ultimately, the best way to maintain and evolve a healthy brand is to be intentional and consistent about establishing it – so much so that the “noise” can’t drown out the tune you want the world to hear.

What’s your approach? Do your marketing campaigns and strategies put brand first — or are you hoping that your long checklist of tasks will get you there in the end?

Not so long ago, you could publish some online marketing collateral peppered with the appropriate tags and keywords, and hope for the search engines to deliver the right eyeballs and dollars. You could identify optimal channels, establish tactics and track your results. Those were the days of “linear” marketing, and they’re drawing to a close… if they’re not already over.

Now it’s time to make way for data-driven marketing and the Internet of Things, when technology, people and things interact in ways that greatly enhance the customer experience. It starts with listening to your customers via all channels and touchpoints, and companies are already being rewarded for building smart interactions that empower the consumer to connect, while minimizing the effort required to transact, communicate or enjoy products, services and brands. But even if you’re using the latest and greatest technology… even if you’re effectively analyzing and leveraging your data… even if you create and manage individualized content across channels… without brand management at the core, “steering” it all, you’re going to fall short of what’s possible.

Fortunately, the wealth of marketing applications available today are as useful for establishing brands as are they are for putting content out into the world — IF you start with your brand as your priority, instead of hoping it’ll take care of itself as you go.