4 Steps To Start-Up Your Brand

Where do you start building up your brand? Steve Strauss author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. answers for USA Today‘s readers:

Step 1: Understand how you are perceived: How do people perceive your business now? Is that how you want to be perceived?

Step 2: Decide upon your Unique Selling Proposition: What makes you or your business unique, different, special? What niche is available that only you can fill?

Step 3: What are customer expectations? What do your clients typically expect of you? What unique attributes do you offer that best fit client expectations?

Step 4: Make it personal, if possible: Who do you trust more, a corporation or a person? Whom would you expect to give you better customer service – a corporation or a person? What about honesty – whom do you think is more honest? The answer to all three, of course, is a person. That is why, if possible, it is often a good idea for a small businessperson to tie his or her own name/personality in with the brand. People like and trust people more than businesses.

The fourth point is probably the strongest and really recommended especially for small businesses cases. Interesting reading here: Time for some brand aid

10 Rules To Turn a Small Business In a Big Brand

Starting from the idea that in the last few years, we have witnessed a growing number of small companies that are starting to realise that branding is not the reward for success but the reason why strong brands become strong brands in the first place, The Business Times of Singapore is publishing an interesting list of 10 fundamental rules of branding, nothing new, but still interesting:

1 Perception is the truth

The battlefield of branding is in the minds of the customers. And as far as customers are concerned, perception is the truth, regardless of the facts.

2 Fortune favours the first

Many experts argue that the first mover advantage is a fallacy as there have been many first movers who failed. Being first only gives you the opportunity to lodge your brand in customers’ minds first. Fail to exploit that advantage and your competitors can, and will, catch up.

3 If you are not first, move the battlefield

If you are not first in the market, then you might need to shift the battlefield by creating a new category in which they can be first.

4 Keep a clear focus

If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. Focused brands concentrate on owning one thing in the mind instead of creating line extensions indiscriminately.

5 Differentiate or sell cheap

In the absence of any perceived difference between products, customers will focus on the price.

6 Use PR for brand building, advertising for maintenance

Many companies make the mistake of using advertising to launch their brands. As advertising is a self-declaration, it has near-zero credibility in the eyes of consumers. Public relations, however, involves what others say about you, and hence carries with it the weight of third party endorsement.

7 Find a great name

In the long term, the name of your products is what separates you from your competitors as your unique ideas and concepts can be copied. To ensure greater brand recall, a short, unique and memorable name should be adopted.

8 Be absolutely consistent

Successful branding requires unwavering consistency

9 Find an enemy

To have credibility, you need to have an enemy. What would Superman be without Lex Luthor? Competition between brands creates excitement in the media and with the customer base, thus helping the category grow.

10 You may need a second brand

Your brand cannot stand for everything, thus necessitating the launch of a second brand in order to enter a new category. It is advisable, however, to launch a new brand only when your existing one is a dominant player in its category. If you struggle to increase sales in a category you know well, what are the chances of you doing well in a category you know nothing about?

Read full article here.

7 Rules for Great Marketing

For marketing executives seeking to build their brand in today’s frenzied, message-cluttered jungle, resting on their laurels seemed to be enough until not long ago — especially if they were meeting their goals, seamlessly executing ambitious programs, and keeping staff members happy enough to ward off corporate raiders. Nowadays, conditions are vastly different. To prove your worth as a marketer and brand builder, you need to tap into your entrepreneurial side.

Seven rules for marketing and brand building, based on a fundamental for entrepreneurial success, are now essential for compelling customers to embrace your brand.

Embrace 3-D marketing

Entrepreneurs are obsessed with building lasting, face-to-face relationships, a principle that only 3-D marketers can leverage to full advantage. 3-D marketing—encompassing events, exhibits, displays, merchandising, premiums, target market research, prospect follow-up and much more—enables marketers to truly “touch” their customers in ways that traditional mass marketing does not. It’s the most powerful tool in the marketing arsenal for creating customer relationships and building brand image on a face-to-face basis.

Make ROI your mantra

Entrepreneurs are notoriously impatient to maximize the return on every investment they make. Amazingly, in the world of 3D marketing, executives often forgo measuring ROI until called to the carpet — and by then, they have no assurance that they are looking at meaningful indicators of brand participation or brand loyalty.

Dive into your industry

Stellar entrepreneurs study their target industries in minute detail, zero in on the marketplace needs they’re uniquely positioned to fill, and develop brands that showcase their added value. Do you know what your brand is, what it isn’t, and what it needs to be? How should you be promoting your brand so that it resonates with a changing marketplace of prospects and buyers?

Focus resources through end-to-end planning

In the new world of 3-D marketing, you must champion end-to-end planning processes—beginning with market research and message development, graduating to creative conceptualization and implementation, and ending with customer follow-up and results measurement. As part of your marketing effort, you should be spearheading an end-to-end planning approach for each one.

Remember the vision

Entrepreneurs are “big idea” people with a compelling vision and the drive to see it through. Too often, marketing executives lose their dedication to understanding their corporation’s vision and strategy—and advancing them through several integrated tactics with a common set of underlying messages.

Seek new paradigms for achieving teamwork and synergy

The teambuilding spirit typical of entrepreneurs is a requirement for marketers, who should be taking it to the next level. Do you, for instance, organize on-site “pep-rally briefings” of your sales team just before major events—reinforcing the brand messages most likely to draw customers in? While sales would normally lead these meetings, your intimate branding knowledge should be compelling you to initiate this out-of-the-box approach.

Honor the team members

Like entrepreneurs, you depend on your team to help you shine. Learn to nurture and empower the people who work with you every day—encouraging them to take your ideas further, to continually focus on overall returns, and to develop new approaches. As the rules for brand-building success take a dramatic turn, you’ll need their talents to help you capitalize on future opportunities—and to maintain the luster of your brand.

via MarketingProfs.

5 Branding Misconceptions

The mass-market, advertising-agency model still influential in brand management, is fast becoming obsolete. Brands are changing in many ways and the traditional role of brand as a proxy for quality has diminished. Branding remains crucially important, yet it increasingly finds its power through a tighter integration with business design. Overcoming five widespread misconceptions and myths about branding can help organisation to win in the brand-building game.

1. Brands are built mainly through advertising.

In today’s increasingly service-oriented economy,something has replaced advertising as the key to brand building: the customer experience. This represents the sum of a customer’s numerous interactions with a company, each of which is a moment of truth that can, to varying degrees, enhance or erode the brand. And a positive customer experience, so crucial to the health of brands in service industries, also plays an increasingly important role in product businesses. The purchase of a product, which used to be the final interaction between company and customer, now is often only the beginning of an ongoing relationship that includes after-market service or the creation of customer “solutions” that incorporate but overshadow the physical product.

2. Brands are used primarily to influence customers.

Although most brand strategies are developed, quite naturally, with the customer front and center, they will fail to generate sustained growth in profitability and shareholder value unless they target not only customers but also investors and current and prospective employees.

Besides the three primary stakeholders—customers,investors,and talent – there is a fourth constituency that,although it plays no direct role in driving profitability or value growth, is crucial to a company’s health. This is the group of regulators, media, and public interest organizations that can affect a company’s real or de facto license to operate.A company that ignores this audience in positioning its brand risks a hostile response when it seeks their support.

3. The key to successful brand management involves understanding the effectiveness of the brand in today’s marketplace

While achieving such an understanding is a worthwhile aim, on its own it risks creating a dangerously complacent view of a brand’s health. More important is being able to anticipate a brand’s relevance to the most valuable customers of tomorrow. One way to look over the horizon and glimpse future brand pitfalls and opportunities is through the discipline of pattern recognition. Analyzing a library of brand patterns that have played out in the past can suggest how and when a brand should evolve.

4. Brands are symbolic and emotive and therefore are managed primarily through creativity rather than analysis.

While brands appeal to the heart as well as to the head, they can be quantified and analyzed with much the same economic rigor as other business assets. One means of doing this involves a detailed assessment of something we call brand equity.

5. Brands are the responsibility of the marketing department

Because brands derive their power from the value that they symbolically represent, there must be real value in the branded products or services.Otherwise,a brand will simply create false promises — a surefire way to erode its strength. It has long been true that a product must deliver on the brand promise. But in an increasingly service-intensive economy, employees, not just the product, determine a company’s success in delivering on the brand promise. Giving employees the tools and leeway to satisfy the customer across the entire customer experience can tremendously protect or enhance a brand’s strength. Delivering on the brand’s promises requires the involvement of virtually every employee in all areas of the organization, even those who have no direct customer

Five Priorities for Brand Differentiation

Marketing leaders across various industries point to brand differentiation as their top challenge in 2005. Industry consolidation and buyer caution put a premium on brand leadership. Yet marketing budgets are barely growing and traditional brand building has fallen prey to the demands for quantifiable sales results. Buyer skepticism tunes out the constant chatter of me-too marketing claims. And the mergers and acquisitions reshaping the industry confuse buyers even more about who can do what for whom.

Real differentiation is possible, however, for companies willing to invest creatively in ongoing programs to build and promote a compelling story. Specifically, there are five investment areas that separate today’s brand leaders from the rest of the pack:

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