Building a Powerful Brand

Building a Powerful Brand
by Andrew Szabo

So what is marketing?

Marketing is not sales, although marketing supports sales by  generating qualified leads and effectively communicating who you are, what you do in the minds of customers, prospective customers  and other stakeholders.

Marketing is not advertising, although advertising is only one of the  100 weapons in the marketing arsenal. Your marketing strategy will dictate whether or not it is an appropriate for your business.

Marketing is not your brand, although branding is key to your marketing success.

Marketing is EVERYTHING you do. Everything you do, (and don’t do), sends a message to the marketplace. Although these messages vary in their communications impact, your brand is the assimilation of these varied messages in the mind of the audience.

A key essential of the marketing process is to build a brand in the mind of your target audience. Wouldn’t it be wise to decide what the message should be and ensure that all communications reflect this message?

So what is a brand?

A brand is not your logo or tagline. A brand is more than a mere label and more than the product itself. It is the combination of values, promises and guarantees that frames the relationship between you and your (prospective) customers. A brand is the expectation of certain benefits between you and your (potential) customers.

According to Regis McKenna, famed consultant to Apple, Intel and others and the author of Relationship Marketing, “a successful brand is nothing more than a special relationship.”

Where’s the proof in the above quote? Ask any competitor, and they will tell you that customer bias, or loyalty to an established brand, is one of the biggest obstacles they face in increasing their share of market.

But what makes a brand powerful is the effectiveness of your branding strategy, your ability to create a mood, thought, feeling, and definition for that brand in the mind of your target audience. The power of a brand lies in its ability to influence purchasing behavior.

Since a brand exists within the mind of the customer, it can be affected positively or negatively by intentional and unintentional messages from you. Also, it cannot be arbitrarily changed, improved or “managed” without the participation of the customer.

Highly effective branding can be so impactful that consumer sees the brand synonymously with the product … tissues have “become” Kleenex, antiseptic first aid bandages “are” Band-Aids, Coke “is” cola. Branding can be so effective that the name itself is unnecessary, Nike’s swoosh logo is often unaccompanied by the company name. And yet, we all know exactly what is being advertised. Nike clearly conveys “action,” with powerful emotional appeal. Other brands have also become indistinguishable from their emotional appeal: Volvo with “safety”, Ivory with “pure and gentle.”

So if the perception of your brand is the assimilation of any received message that you send (or are not sending), wouldn’t it be wise to first plan what is the message you want to send and then ensure everything you communicate supports the key messaging?

All too often companies relegate the importance of branding and thereby lose the opportunity to give clients and customers a frame of reference when making purchasing decisions. People will buy brands they recognize, regardless of whether or not they know or believe the claims, simply because there is comfort in that which is known.

How powerful can a brand be? The most powerful brands of all are those that create a need in the mind of a purchaser that was not there before. Take for example, bottled water. American tap water is clean and drinkable, yet Evian is worth millions today. A 1.5 liter bottle of Evian sells for 20% more per liter than Budweiser, 40% more than Borden’s milk, and 80% more than Coca-Cola. That’s the power of a brand.

Strategic Branding

Since you cannot be all things to all people, effectively addressing customers’ needs, which are then re p resented by your brand, will require differentiating yourself from your competitors and identifying your target market segment.

The Marketing Chef utilizes a three-step process to develop brand strategy:

  • brand positioning,

  • brand personality and

  • core proposition

Each element requires choices. This in turn results in a number of tactical branding communications vehicles, addressing both your target audience needs and enable you to achieve your objectives. Strategically controlling your branding messaging and vehicles can raise your offering beyond the mundane, to give your brand ‘wings’ and an enduring ability to stand out from the competition. In addition, your brand must be sustained through consistent communication to internal and external audiences and stakeholders and allowed to evolve as your target audience needs develop.

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