Responsive web? What you need is a responsive brand.

Posted: February 7, 2014

Topics: Strategy, Technology

The term “responsive” gets tossed around these days by just about everyone who works around the web. To the uninitiated, it’s almost always used within the context of web design and development and it simply means a site that can adapt on the fly to being scaled up or down.

Here’s a quick overview of responsive web design.

For designers and developers “responsiveness” is the next big thing because it means building one site that can perform across any device. It got me thinking that, for brand strategists, responsiveness has always been a requirement in the unwritten “brand spec.”

Brands have always had to be fluidly scalable – up or down – with equal effectiveness. The web, social media and countless other evolving media, plus global competition and opportunities have made it ever more critical.

From the smallest interaction with a customer to global brand campaigns, brand responsiveness is a core principle of solid branding.

So what makes a responsive brand?

A responsive brand is one that writes the rules of engagement in such a way that you and I have a consistent experience no matter how or where we interact with it. It describes an expectation of what the relationship with the organization will be like – from how you answer the phone to your product development philosophy. Apple “thinks different” and delivers across every touch point – from their unique devices to their unique retail environments. Disney “Imagineers” every aspect of its business – from its movies to its theme parks to its cruise ships.

What do they share in common?

Both brands are reflective of the fundamental vision and culture of the organization. Both brands are fundamental to the who and the how of their organizations. And whether you’re selling phones, vacations packages or a better mouse trap, it’s the timeless secret to creating a truly responsive experience.

So how do you start creating a more responsive brand?

  1. Don’t focus on what you do. Focus on how you do it. What you do is, or at some point in the future will become, a commodity. What can’t be commoditized is the way in which you go about doing it.
  2. Communicate it clearly to your organization. Great brands live and breathe on the front line. If they aren’t on board with the brand you’re trying to build, it simply won’t happen, so make sure you’re communicating loudly and clearly.
  3. Branding is a team sport. Great brands reflect your organizational culture and that’s not something the marketing team owns. People support what they help to build so make creating or recreating your brand an inclusive process.
  4. Someone has to push. Sure it’s a little self-serving but most organizations can’t do it alone. There’s simply too much built in resistance to change. An outside partner (like PUSH 22) brings an objective perspective, and isn’t weighed down with the day to day realities of your business so they can help push from behind you start to lose their momentum.

Rob Wilkie is the creative director at PUSH 22, an integrated marketing and communications agency supporting leading and emerging companies.