"Intent and sentiment" are powerful currencies in our real and digital social worlds - it's how we filter out those people who are false and those who consistently live up to what they say, above all they help us to better understand if we can relate to them or not.

As summer arrives in the northern hemisphere and major sporting events (Euro's, Golf, Tennis, Olympics) get the chance to welcome back fans it seems that the vaccine program for those countries lucky enough to be able to roll it out is giving rise to all of us who are straining to 'experience' being social once again releasing many months of huge pent up emotions. 

For as long as I've been in business I've been fascinated with understanding why we choose one brand over another.

Mark Ritson recommends a ‘180 swivel’, whereby companies turn to look at themselves from the point of view of their customers.

“It sounds so basic, but most companies never do that,” he said. The process can show the market and perceived competitors in an entirely different context. It can also highlight a profound lack of understanding of what people outside the marketing industry bubble need or want.

Today It's got to be the most focused question being posed in every corporate boardroom around the globe, if it isn't then those companies will quickly to fade into economic history.

When we think about a brand we think in emotional terms, this is because a brand isn't real, it's an intangible thing that we can either relate to or not, if it's the latter it's an extremely big challenge for a brand to sway you towards them.

They say that "data is the new oil" - Bullshit, data without insight, sentiment, and intent is just crude oil, or in this case raw 'data'.......

As our personal data was collected with stealth and the wild west of ad tech grew to make advertising the digital vomit default 'marketing bullhorn' solution which has managed to turn us all off it seems the use of data was lacking one key element, and that is the one key aspect that helps us to subconsciously choose one brand over another - which is based on how you make me 'feel' - why, because this is an emotional connection!

In days gone by brands would engage the services of market research teams in order to try and learn a little more about the 'emotional' drivers that might swing our decision on a brand one way or another.

Today AI is moving this learning curve to a whole new level;

Traditional market research, based on clipboards and questions, has a glaring weakness, according to Carl Wong, who has worked in the industry for more than 20 years.

He says people cannot answer some questions honestly because they are not aware of their own deep underlying motives. "We are all influenced by things we're not able, or willing, to reflect on at the time a purchasing decision is taken or when we answer a survey question," says Mr Wong.

That gap in our understanding is being filled by a data-rich world that continues to generate masses of information about our inner desires through tracking cookies and a host of other clues we leave behind as we trek across websites that pique our interest.

In addition, today market researchers can access massive amounts of computing power and data storage using low-cost cloud computing services, which offer data processing and storage that can be quickly scaled-up or down, depending on the customer's needs.

So, is technology that can help us 'listen' to the data is the new oil?

Brand alignment isn't a fancy marketing thing, it's focus is making sure that what your brand 'promises' is really delivered and consistently 'experienced', this also applies to the brand you were born with, which is YOU. 

For a brand to be authentic you have to look at the culture of that brand and ask the big question 'what's your story'?

No amount of funds will buy you loyal customers or employees, culture beats branding every day.

Culture is what allows your employees and customers to become advocates of what it is your brand says it does, so if you have a broken culture no amount of 'employee advocacy' tactical activity will resonate internally or externally - it's all just wasted effort.

Your employees are an extension of your culture and your brand, if you don't invest and train them how to use their voice on social media it's a reflection on your culture, which inevitably impacts on your brand.

One of the key reasons people (employees and customers) leave a company is because the reality of the 'brand' promise doesn't live up to the reality of the 'experience'. 

So a high employee churn and a poor customer satisfaction reputation is a clear sign that the internal view of the brand is most certainly out of step with the external view. 

This in turn creates wasted time, effort, and of course real direct/indirect cost on behalf of the brand, it's employees and customers alike, which is where I tend to spend most of my time during brand re-positioning projects.

However, when a brand is constantly aligned, both internally and externally is where I see the magic happen.