THE STRATEGY PHASE
Brand is the image, identity, and values that a company, product, or service conveys to its customers. Brand is not just a logo, nor is it simply an advertising campaign or a clever slogan. Brand is the total experience a customer has whenever he or she interacts with the company. It is a promise between a company and its customer—a promise that must be kept at every point of interaction.
Successful companies consciously nurture and manage their brands over time. They pay constant attention to their brand and treat it like a strategic asset. Mismanaging the brand can lead to serious trouble. Managing a brand carefully and consistently, however, can lead to big benefits.
THE BENEFITS OF A STRONG BRAND
Strong brands strengthen the relationship between a company and its customers; the stronger the brand, the more loyal the customer. Strong brands move customers from simple awareness of a company to preference, and finally to loyalty or bonding. Such “bonded” customers become advocates. In the minds of these customers and influencers nobody else beats this company at what they do.
Strong brands enjoy shorter sales cycles and they can command premium prices because of higher perceived value. Think of why people pay more for a real Gucci handbag than they would for a cheap imitation. Yes, the quality might differ but what they are really paying for is the brand.
The strongest brands own a concept or idea in the minds of their customer. For example, instead of facial tissue, you ask for a Kleenex; instead of an expensive Swiss watch, you ask for a Rolex; instead of gelatin dessert, you ask for Jell-O, instead of a black copy, you ask for a Xerox.
Internally, a strong brand can also help align actions and behaviors. At Volvo, for example, safety is the brand position, and every decision from how to build cars to what is included in the advertising revolves around supporting safety.
MOVING CUSTOMERS FROM SIMPLE AWARENESS TO PREFERENCE AND FINALLY TO LOYALTY
Brand Aspirations are how you want customers to view your company. We think about brand aspirations from three perspectives: the brand position, the brand promise, and the brand personality.
- Brand Position is the single word or concept that you want to own in your customers’ minds.
- Brand Promise is the experience you guarantee your customers. (example: “World-class customer satisfaction” or “improving your quality of life”)
- Brand Personality refers to the characteristics and attributes you want associated with your company. (For example: sensitive to multinational needs.) Brand personality is distinct from your core values or corporate culture. Core values are those values and ideals that your company holds dear, and are more of an internal guide (for example, frugality, or teamwork, or stretch goals). Corporate culture is your company’s values and behaviors that are exhibited over time.
EXPRESSING THE BRAND PERSONALITY
Communicating with customers, partners, shareholders, and employees in a consistent and clear voice and tone is essential for them to develop a consistent and clear perception of your company. Voice and tone are determined by your brand personality. Example: trustworthy leader, confident partner, influential expert, and smart innovator. Voice and tone can be applied to any medium in which you communicate: from the way you write to the way you deliver a presentation.
COMMUNICATING THE BRAND
Brand conveyors are the vehicles we use to communicate your brand aspirations—position, promise, and personality—to your customers. The goal is to ensure that the brand conveyors align with the promise of our brand aspirations.
Products and Services
- Products and services are absolutely critical conveyors. Products and services must live up to our brand aspirations. In the high-tech industry in particular, many brands live and die by the utility of the products. Social media has revolutionized the way brands are perceived and how negative or positive sentiment affects the value of a brand. It is crucial that organizations look closely at Social strategies to proactively create positive experiences rather than react to negative conversations.
- This vehicle includes all of the activities and materials commonly associated with branding including: online presence, advertising campaigns, events, sales enablement tools, public relations… and not forgetting Social Media. It is far too costly to minimize damages caused by the viral effect of a shared negative experience. Therefore, Social Media should be a big part of the brand strategy. Realize that
the social web is not a marketing channel, it is simply a place for conversation.
- A subset of marketing communications, corporate identity is important enough to call out on its own, and includes logos, colors, typography, images, and voice and tone—the foundation upon which marketing communications materials are developed.
- Every employee is a brand conveyor and therefore has an essential role in managing brand. Every interaction with a customer or a partner is an opportunity to communicate the brand aspirations.
- The World is always “ON” and people are talking about your brand. The company has to establish listening programs throughout the organizations, Analyze customer-generated data, and Adapt. It is easier to manage conversations than to repair a tarnished brand. Influencers become conveyors of your brand and therefore need to be an integral part of your brand strategy.