Coke,Apple and United Airlines:For better or worse, these corporate names have achieved brandrecognition that make them virtually synonymous with the productsthey sell.


Can a humble independent agency ever hope to achieve that sortof fame—or to compete with the geckos and cavemen with theirbillion-dollar ad budgets and legions of marketing people? The goodnews is that while you may not achieve the fame of the big guys,today's technology can help you give them a serious runfor the money.


That was the underlying message at Aartrijk Brand Camp 2012, aday-and-a-half immersion in all things brand. Hosted by Peter van Aartrijk and global-brandingguru Tony Wessling, theevent featured in-depth discussions of the various components of abrand, a rapid-fire presentation by eight insurance-agencymarketing pros, a discussion of the evolution of the agencyworkplace and more.


Here are some of the takeaways:

  • Brands are living things, complete with heart, brains, skin andthe “naughty bits.” Like the overall health of your body, anauthentic brand comes from the inside out and requires a healthyheart (bonding with the customer), guts (the intestinal fortitudeto make needed changes) and brains (analytical and emotionalengagement).
  • “We provide service” isn't a differentiator. Today's consumerswant trust, quality, education and time—and smart businesses areproviding all of these and incorporating them into the brand.
  • We've already moved “beyond online.” The convergence of mobiletechnology, cloud computing and social media has created a “goldentriangle” for the connected consumer that has moved transactionsfar beyond merely an online experience, says tech consultant RickMorgan. Agencies must use these outlets as a two-way street topromote the brand and communicate with customers.
  • “Consumerization” is the new business driver. Previoustechnological revolutions started with tools designed for business:the fax machine, computer and mobile phone. Today's social-mediarevolution began with the consumer and is just now being understoodby business.

In today's consumer-driven universe, grandiose branding claimswithout the proof to back them up can only come back to haunt us.Better to conduct the painful soul-searching that will ultimatelyhelp us find out who we really are and what we really do well—andthen to use that knowledge to help the customer.

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