Branding is the keystone to effective marketing
Your brand definition IS your business plan
Effective branding demands hard work but the payoff is enormous. It has been the keystone to effective marketing for generations, never more so than in the digital 21st century.
In my August 29, 2013 blog on the importance of brand identity, I reported that –
- studies show companies are unlikely to achieve a Return on Investment (ROI) without first establishing a brand identity;
- by contrast, “…brands that convey a coherent, positive image over time establish powerful, emotionally-charged loyalties among their customers;” and
- the same principle applies to your personal business success – because to advance professionally you need to clearly convey the unique combination of passion, principle and competence that sets you apart from others.
Synching your brand identity and public image
In assessing your target demographic’s needs and preferences, first consider your current brand Identity. How has it evolved over time with changes in technology, products / services, and competition? How do you see your business now? In the near future? Do your logo, tag lines, overall design aesthetic and written content (including style and even font design) accurately reflect where your business is headed?
What of your brand image? That is, how do others perceive you? What emotion(s) color your company’s public image? Is your public reputation for product and/or service what you want it to be? If not, what can you do to shape and mold that image to attract more business? It should come as no surprise that about 90% of consumers say company reputation is a tiebreaker between equal products.
The difference between branding and marketing
P&G recently formally announced a shift from marketing to brand management. That decision highlights their commitment to actively promoting the strength of their corporate brand in direct coordination with the 24 distinctive brands of their product portfolio.
Successful brands accumulate value with their customers over time. By contrast, a high quality, competitively priced product that lacks a clear brand image can easily fail.
Brand management is critical for companies regardless of size
Branding is just as important for small and mid-sized organizations as it is for corporations like P&G and Coke. However, generating and sustaining customer loyalty is now much more challenging than it was before the digital marketing age. Customers follow brands that inspire their trust and make them feel valued. Their purchases are powerfully influenced when persuaded that a brand’s products and services synch with their values, lifestyle and sense of purpose/meaning. All strong brands tell a carefully crafted story (e.g., P&G’s “Thanks, Mom” campaign).
Branding strategies that most Marketing Managers/CEOs fail to implement:
Continually Search for New Ways to Communicate with Your Customer
Periodically tweak your messaging while safeguarding your brand’s reputation for quality and reliability. In fact, it’s a good rule of thumb to refresh your brand once a year, not every 3-5 years (the old standard. Refresh your brand with straightforward messaging infused with forward thinking that encompasses emerging social change and demographic preferences.
Establish a Consistent, Easily Understood Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
At the same time, be careful to avoid complicating your unique value proposition. JCPenney, for example, changed its UVP in recent years so often that they lost their identity and customer credibility along the way.
Inspire and Educate Your Customers
Your band is a lifestyle platform that needs to inspire and educate. For example, Pampers.com, not only informs parents about the benefits of their product, it also provides extensive information on infant care. This platform has given P&G an opportunity for transparent dialogue with their customers, helping them fine tune their Pampers brand over time.
Innovate and Introduce New Products/Services with Flawless Timing
Do all the required research to ensure the timing of any new product/service is in synch with customer needs and expectations. Once you’ve established a reputation for excellence, you can pre-sell your products by building customer anticipation. Consider Apple’s enviable record and the current buzz surrounding the iPhone6.
Reward Customer Loyalty and Demonstrate Social Responsibility
Share the success of your brand your customers and the public at large! Customers expect companies to demonstrate commitment to helping make the world a better place. As government influence wanes, the private sector is expected to fill in the gap. If you’re a small company with limited resources, at the very least express your appreciation to your customers for their support.