Authentic brands are not about marketing. They are not products. They live inside the company. And they are held and enacted of the people, by the people and for the people!
Just like the Declaration of Independence created the foundation of a nation, so does your brand act as the foundation of your company. Its principles are the framework for thought and action by everyone in the company. Without it there is no consistency, no alignment between what you say and what you do, no synchronicity between who you are inside and the way you present yourself outside.
You may askâ€”â€œwell isnâ€™t that the same as culture?â€ The answer is yes and no. Authentic brands are in many ways the identity of the company culture. They help that culture become visible. They also embody the values and purpose of the company, giving all these things a face and a voice that can be seen and heard by everyone the company touches. But especially your employees. As the people who most keenly impact the day-to-day beliefs and actions of the company it is constantly amazing how little they are considered when brand is discussed.
A healthy strong brand has definitely has some other attributes than the best or the biggest. A healthy and a strong brand generates also more results than just bigger sales. A healthy strong brand sustain a product over time through consistency, excellent communication, providing value to its target customers. These and much more.
Here is a checklist of 23 brand health criterias as presented in Peter Cheverton’s excellent book Understanding Brands (Creating Success):
- is based on a proposition of genuine substance and value to the target customer
- communicates a clear and powerful brand definition
- communicates a clear â€˜emotional chargeâ€™
- communicates an attractive and relevant personality
- wins, builds and retains customer loyalty
- is well known by the target customer
- is held in high esteem by the target customer
- communicates and evidences a unique match between the companyâ€™s capabilities and the customerâ€™s needs
- is a source of competitive advantage
- is an investment of increasing value that others will want to own
- maintains its relevance over time by evolving in response to changing customer expectations and perceptions
- increases the profitability of the business is consistent with the business strategy
- makes sense within the businessâ€™s brand architecture
- provides a protective â€˜haloâ€™ for growth strategies
- provides a barrier to entry for new entrants or substitutes
- is uniquely positioned in the market and creates a relevant space in the customerâ€™s mind
- communicates and demonstrates a clear sense of value
- interacts consistently with the customer on as many fronts and on as many occasions as possible
- cements the brand definition into the customerâ€™s mind through interactions and positive associations
- is managed and supported consistently over time
- has values that can be applied consistently and successfully to all parts of the marketing
- mix and through all promotional media
- makes people want to get their hands on it
Seek out insights:
Outstanding brands identify customer insights. When these insights are shared across cultures they assist in a brand’s adoption globally.
Integrate local intelligence:
Brand guidelines are tremendous tools for ensuring consistency. However, they have been known to impede innovation and diminish relevance. Brands are dynamic, never static, so the management of them must integrate new thought. In the case of global brands, to assume that one message can appeal uniformly to all audiences with equal relevance is unrealistic. Well-managed global brands cull local markets for intelligence related to the ‘next big thing’ to ensure local relevance and to counter competitor’s moves.
Don Sexton, co-author along with the more famous Donald Trump of Trump University Marketing 101: How to Use the Most Powerful Ideas in Marketing to Get More Customers have an interesting free White paper on 10 Commandments of Branding:
Commandment 1: Establish a Clear Brand Position
A brand position is a clear, unambiguous statement that communicates what your company stands for and what it offers. You should choose one or two benefits that make up your brand position. These are the key benefits that your target market cares about and that you have the capabilities to produce. Why one or two? Because people generally can’t remember more than that.
Commandment 2: Build Your Brand on an Emotional Benefit
Your goal is to find an emotional benefit that is far superior to that of your competitors and to associate that benefit with your brand. In other words, you want to own that benefit.
Commandment 3: Build Your Brand as Early as Possible
If you don’t build your brand as quickly as possible, someone else may take the position that you want.
Commandment 4: Be Consistent Over Time and Over Markets
Marketing strategies need to focus on the attributes of the product or service so that they are effectively positioned in the marketplace. Brand strategies must do that too, but a branding strategy must also focus on the associations and identifiers.
Commandment 5: Make Sure All Your Employees Know Your Brand Position
You want all the touch-points in your company to reflect your brand. For example, if your brand is built on “friendliness,” everything in your company must embody that, from the employees to the logo to the company lobby.
Commandment 6: Make Sure All Your Products and Services Embody Your Brand
If you come up with a brand position and your product or service doesn’t embody it, your brand will have no credibility and will quickly fail.
Commandment 7: Make Sure All Your Customers Know Your Brand Position
If your product or service embodies your brand and your customers don’t know it, it’s useless. You must always remind customers of what you do well, and then remind them again.
Commandment 8: Don’t Dilute Your Brand
Once you have established a clear brand position, don’t dilute it. What this means is that you shouldn’t keep extending your brand or adding to it indefinitely. If you extend it, you might actually hurt it. In particular, you should never extend your brand to products and services where customers won’t let it go. Remember, branding is about what customers will let you do.
Commandment 9: Always Monitor Your BrandYou need to continually monitor your brand position to make sure it remains relevant to your customers. Trends change. Your brand needs to change with them.
Commandment 10: Maintain Your Brand as Your Organization’s Most Valuable Asset
Maintaining your brand involves everything we have talked about in this report. It means maintaining consistency, communicating and monitoring. It means putting Commandments 1-9 into practice every single day
Download full PDF file here.
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.