9.182008

express vs. operationalize

Next week I’m speaking at the Digital Symposium at the Westin New York on “Using Internet Technologies to Operationalize Your Brand.”

The basis of my talk is the difference between expressing your brand and operationalizing it.

Most of the buzz about new internet technologies is about expressing your brand — that is, using new technologies and innovative techniques to communicate with consumers about your brand.  Groundbreaking initiatives like bud.tv fall into this category — as do engaging campaigns like last year’s Doritos Super Bowl one (remember they solicited entries from unknown music artists and invited the public to vote for their favorite who ended up starring in a spot during the big game).

These are compelling ways to express the brand but they differ from operationalizing the brand.  The dictionary defines operationalize as ”to put into operation, start working.”

To operationalize a brand is to use it — to drive your business with it and develop an organizational system for delivering brand values and attributes.  One company that uses new internet technologies to operationalize its brand is eBags.

eBags is the world’s leading online retailer of luggage, handbags, business cases, backpacks etc.   They’ve experienced 30% annual growth year after year for the eight years –-  and they’ve been named “Website of the Year“ five times by Multichannel Merchant Awards.  I had the pleasure of working with the company last year.

The eBags brand platform is based on the idea that eBags is your “perfect bag” expert –- meaning they help you find the absolutely perfect bag for you.

Instead of spending a huge marketing budget on a brand campaign that says to people their brand stands for being your perfect bag expert, they channel most of their resources into being your perfect bag expert.  For example, they have 1.5MM customer reviews and testimonials on their site so buyers can know every possible thing about a bag before they buy it.  Their bag finder employs sophisticated filtering technology to make personalized recommendations -– e.g., put in the laptop model you have or the dimensions and it lists all the bags that your laptop will fit it.  You can share, digg, RSS, and comment on most of the content on their site.

eBags demonstrates the power of internet technologies to do more than express your brand.  Certainly a brand is strengthened by what you say (what and how you communicate with customers) –- but it is primarily what you do (what and how you provide to them) that drives value creation.

I hope my talk next week will help people undertake efforts to operationalize their brands.  If you’re interested in getting a summary of my presentation, just shoot me an email — mail at deniseleeyohn dot com.

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