The success of your business is dependent upon many ‘things’ – customers, capital, risk, people, culture, products… The question is. Is your brand a priority among these ‘things’?
If it is not, then it should be. Your brand, is the single most important factor in determining the long-term profitable success of your business. And this true for all types of businesses.
Given branding is super important, it flows that you should also have objectives and strategies to ensure your brand becomes stronger over time, so it acts as an asset for your business that creates value beyond its costs.
Defining what a brand is and what it is not
The word brand is dropped into conversation on a regular basis across all levels of society. As such, it is used in wide context spanning from logos and look and feel to personality and product features. And while all of these items are important to branding, they don’t define what branding actually is.
Branding starts with an idea that represents a purpose, values, a benefit and related attributes. And the idea comes to life as a set of experiences, expectations, memories, stories and relationships that influence a customer’s decision to prefer one brand over another.
It’s important to measure your brand effectiveness
What gets measured, gets done. I am sure you are familiar with this saying. So, what should you be measuring to see if your brand is improving in value?
Firstly, you’ll want to define the brand equity measures important for your business. These measures could cover some or all of the below elements:
• Brand and advertising awareness – unprompted and prompted
• Brand associations - taglines, colours, products...
• Price elasticity
• Brand preference
• Brand last purchased
• Online analytics including traffic and goal conversions
• Customer experiences
• Net promoter score
• Benefit and attribute ranking
Or you can simplify everything by taking a System 1 thinking approach which is a key component of the science of Behavioural Economics. System 1 thinking is our emotional thinking, which is how we think and behave most of the time. While System 2 thinking is how we think we think and behave, (but do so only a small amount of time) which is our rational thinking and behaviours. To measure your brand equity from a behavioural economics viewpoint you would simply ask these three questions.
1. Do you know this brand?
2. Do you feel good about this brand?
3. Can you find it easily?
Compare the answers to these questions for your brand against your competitors and you’ll be able to determine and track your relative brand strength.
So back to the topic of this blog…
9 critical success factors for successful branding.
1. Have a clear understanding of who your most important customer is
No doubt your business will have a wide range of different types of customers. However, have you critically analysed which type is most important to your business? You might apply criteria that is important to your business or that offers you the most significant growth opportunities. Why not debate out the customer types with your different functional groups to gain consensus using the matrix below?
2. Have an in-depth knowledge of customer behaviours and needs
Now that you have identified your most important customer, it’s time to get personal. By immersing yourselves in the lives of your customer, your understanding, empathy and ability to generate useful customer insights will dramatically improve. Why not conduct a customer immersion workshop using the following framework.
3. Create a clear and distinctive positioning
Wouldn’t it be great to be like Nike, Apple or Disney who are all ‘poster boys’ for well positioned brands. No doubt we all would like our brand positioning to be in their league, however it’s rare for most brands to be even close. Why? Is it a lack of confidence? Too many opinions? What is important is to follow a process. Start by distilling available research, then gather together the most important stakeholders in the business and run a workshop to cover the alternative territories. Don’t let the group make the decision though! Your marketing leadership and agency needs to then bring it together in a clear and distinctive manner.
4. Focus on creating distinctive brand assets
Now that you have your brand positioning sorted it’s time to develop the assets that bring your brand to life. Start by auditing what assets you have and use the matrix below to define what you have now and what requires investment to make them distinctive.
5. Be consistent in brand delivery when and where it matters
Now that you have created a visual and more broadly an experiential story for your brand it is your challenge to keep it consistent. This is easier said than done! There are challenges every day in terms of keeping everything consistent. Having a centralised digital asset management system is a good starting point. Engaging and educating with employees and other stakeholders is also a great way for everyone to buy into what you are setting out to achieve with a consistent set of brand guidelines and templates.
6. Create a sense of innovation about your brand
The thing about branding is that we think it’s much more important to your customer than it actually is. Your customer has brand preferences, yes. However, they buy your product to fulfill a role and after that they get back to their lives. So, it’s really important to bring your brand to life with activation, energy and innovation. Remember that brand building is about the long term as well as the short term so be careful not to overly analyse proposed brand activities with the lens of sales tomorrow.
7. Authenticity versus contrived
Nothing kills a brand quicker these days than contrived messaging. Stay away from half-truths and embrace authenticity. This means being transparent and responsible which is not always easy. Be clear with your communications, own your failures and your reputation will be rock solid.
8. Show purpose and values through your actions
The customer is in the driver’s seat. So, if you go to the effort of explaining your purpose and values you need to bring your authenticity to fore. Showing how you live purpose and your values is not only great for customers but more important for your employer brand. Your employees will love seeing your purpose and values in action as it’s likely they joined your business because of these things.
9. Drive your brand’s penetration and exposure
In his book ‘How brands Grow’, Byron Sharp form the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science talks about mental and physical availability. Both are integral for brand growth, so you need to prioritise the acquisition of distribution points and the number of places where your brand is exposed. As you know, Coke is lauded as one of the world’s best brands. Why is this so, when in today’s media environment they are hardly visible? Coke has long held the view that success comes from being within ‘arms reach’! That’s physical availability in a nutshell. Use all of your powers to gain exposure for your brand whether that is mainstream media or tactical opportunities like signage on the side of shop.