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Branding for The Rest of Us
Branding is no longer the exclusive preserve of consumer marketers.
Branding for The Rest of Us
by Robert P. Woyzbun - T H E / M A R K E T I N G / W O R K S c
The concept and practice of "branding" is enjoying a resurgence in business circles
and is being discovered in organizations and sectors beyond consumer products and services. The principles of branding
and brand management are equally (if not more!) relevant for professional services organizations. Because the concepts
of branding are so closely related to traditional consumer marketing strategies, many organizations are hesitant
to adopt (or even investigate) brand-focused marketing strategies. This article addresses the questions and misconceptions
related to branding and branding's role in the marketing and promotion of non-consumer goods or services.
Branding is a marketing-based business strategy and philosophy that has the ultimate objective of building goodwill for and supporting the "raison d'Ítre" of a product, service or enterprise. When properly implemented, brand strategies provide clear and consistent differentiation in a given marketplace.
A brand is the sum of the expectations that a customer or stakeholder has when purchasing a product or dealing with an organization. A brand can be thought of as the "mental image" generated when exposed to a product or company name. What mental images or perceptions do the names Porsche, Apple Computer, Coca-Cola generate? The images conjured by these well-established and strategically managed brands convey a variety of meanings, values and associations that are related to experiences with the brands themselves or with the marketing and communications associated with them.
In effect, the brand (and brand strategy) surrounds the generic product or service with the variables or dimensions that make an organization unique and that ultimately create value for a customer or client.
As seen in Figure 1, those "surrounding" variables might include the personality of the product or company (e.g., progressive vs. conservative), the emotional benefits that stem from association (such as security or confidence), symbols associated with the product or brand (such as a logo, name, wordmark, theme or taglines), even the country-of-origin (Swiss watches vs., Japanese watches). Based on this model, a product, service, or organization can be effectively differentiated through branding - even if the basic offering is not unique.
Brand strategy (also referred to as brand management) is the process by which an organization first defines
and then manages the key brand related elements of its business. Strategies are prepared for the tangible elements
of the business (the things customers pay for); and the intangible aspects such as the image, emotion and experience-based
elements that make the product or company memorable and valued.
Almost any organization that has customers or stakeholders can benefit from a brand based approach to marketing or communications.
The benefits and positive impacts of adopting a "branding approach" can include:
Isn't Branding Expensive?
Another popular misconception is that brand building is synonymous with large budgets and major marketing efforts.
While a successful branding effort certainly does require "communicating" the brand to customers, prospects and stakeholders, it does not necessitate significant advertising or marketing investment.
Branding budget requirements are primarily related to the development of strategy and implementation within the organization. Specifically, most brand strategies involve some level of customer and staff interviews, development of planning documents, and internal brand orientation, training and communications.
Organizations can integrate brand strategies with on-going service delivery and customer communications such
as sales collateral materials, web sites and publications/newsletters. In many cases, adopting a branding philosophy
simply requires adjusting creative materials to reflect the brand proposition and to ensure consistency of messaging.
It's not how much is spent, but the consistency of effort over time.
Most successful branding efforts start with the development of a sound strategy and plan that takes into account the organization's mandate, employee input, and customer perceptions.
The branding process usually features an action plan that includes internal and external research, the development of potential branding models/platforms, validation of proposed direction with customers and employees, and finally a 1 to 2 year implementation plan for "communicating" and supporting the brand both externally and internally.
In addition, like any business strategy, the impact of the brand strategy needs to be monitored and adjusted as required.
Please refer to other articles in this series for information on the brand planning process itself.
Tags: Sales and Marketing