What You Need to Know Before you Develop a Brand Strategy: Part 1

Posted on Feb 17, 2014 by Kerry O'Malley

industrial marketing strategy

As anyone who has worked with me knows, I like to keep things simple. I believe confusing tactics are used by marketing firms who don’t want their customers to understand fully what they are and are not doing. It’s for this reason that I’ve broken the purpose of branding down to the four “M”s.

Understanding the purpose of branding is a necessary first step in order to help you partner with your industrial marketing firm in the achievement of your business growth. Notice I used the word “partner?” This is an important component of the overall branding process for each business owner and executive member of the company to comprehend.  Successful brands do not magically pop up overnight due to the brilliant creativity of a marketing firm. In order to build a successful brand, there HAS to be just as much commitment and willingness to reach for the stars on the part of the client company as the creativity of their marketing firm.  Partnership is essential.

In order for you to partner with your marketing firm, you must first thoroughly understand the purpose of developing a brand strategy. Without this first step, you’ll find yourself floundering later on when more action is required. So then, what is your purpose in developing your brand strategy?

The four “M”s of Branding

The ultimate purpose of branding is to get MORE CUSTOMERS to buy MORE STUFF for MORE YEARS for MORE MONEY.

I understand if this sounds like an OVERsimplification; but believe me, it’s not. The reason this is an appropriate way to describe the purpose of branding, even though it sounds so simple, is because these four “M”s are exactly the focus you need to have throughout the creation of your branding strategy. It’s also an easy definition for the rest of your organization to grasp so they too can understand why you are making specific directional choices for your company.

You might think, “Of course I want more money! But what does that really have to do with branding?”

In order to fully recognize how it is that branding can accomplish its purpose, let’s start by defining just what branding actually is.

What is Branding, Really?

Really grasping what a brand is will help you clarify what you need to do in order to create a successful brand strategy and it will help you identify when a marketing firm is offering suggestions that hold any merit. Educating yourself about building a successful brand will not only make it possible to grow your business – it will also protect you from wasting time and money on initiatives that don’t provide you with the results you’re hoping for.

Let’s dive into the details of what a brand is. A brand is more than just a single picture or a catch phrase. Your brand lives in every day-to-day interaction any person in your company has and includes:

  • The images you convey, both in your marketing communications and physical appearance
  • The messages you deliver in every corporate communication, internal and external
  • Your corporate values and their consistency
  • The way your employees interact with the outside world and each other
  • The value you promise your customers and your ability to deliver
  • A customer’s opinion of you versus your competition
  • The decisions made by your management
  • The general public’s perception of you and the image you have in the communities in which you have facilities
  • Every single experience that any person has with your company

 

Did you see anything included in the definition of a brand above that you find surprising? Many people never think about the far reach and depth that a brand actually has. Exposure to strong brands becomes so fully intertwined with our existences that it is difficult at times to distinguish what a brand is comprised of.  A strong brand doesn’t only exist in the physical world, but also in our collective conciousness.

Take a look at the following quotes to further illustrate the definition of a brand:

“Your brand is the promise you make and keep in every sales and marketing activity, every action, every corporate decision, every customer interaction.” –Kristin Zhivago, author of “Today’s Business Marketing”

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, and organization. It’s not what YOU say it is: it’s what THEY say it is.” –Marty Neumeier author of “Zag”

“A brand can best be described as the total of all human experiences, perceptions and feelings about a particular product or company. Brands exist in the consciousness.” –James R. Gregory, author of “Leveraging the Corporate Brand”

To further break down the definition of what a brand is, let’s take a look at a few things a brand is not:

  • It’s not JUST your logo, company name, or slogan
  • It’s not your actual products or services
  • It’s not how you market, promote or advertise your company
  • It’s not even what YOU think your company is all about

 

I encourage you to take some time to really ponder the full definition of a brand; to think about popular brands you are aware of and to dissect each piece of your experience with that brand. Why does that brand stand out in your mind? Which of your senses are a part of your memories of that brand? Which of the pieces of that brand that you are thinking about would, if removed, change your perception entirely and perhaps make you feel the company no longer exists without that specific brand attribute?

When you meditate on the aspects of a company’s brand that has had a real effect in your life, you begin to more deeply recognize the overreaching results of a strategically developed brand strategy and how significantly a brand can affect the four “M”s discussed earlier.

  • MORE CUSTOMERS
  • Buying MORE STUFF
  • for MORE YEARS
  • for MORE MONEY

Benefits of Growing a Strong Brand

At this point, particularly if you’ve spent a few minutes going through the exercise referenced above, the benefits of growing a strong brand should be resonating with you pretty firmly. However, let’s just review a few of the specific details regarding the benefits of strong branding.

The benefits of a powerful brand strategy include:

  • Improves / creates the desired image of your company
  • Creates a perception of true value and differentiation
  • Creates preference for your products / services
  • Increases your market share
  • Creates competitive barriers
  • Builds customer loyalty

 

Once again, take a few seconds to dwell on these points in connection with the brands that came first to your mind when you were considering the way successful companies have gotten inside of your head and affected your life. Why did you go back to purchase goods or services from that same company over and over again? What made you prefer that company over any of their competitors? How did that company make you a loyal customer, preventing you from using a different company’s products or services? What is positive about the picture that comes to your mind when you think about that company’s brand?

Continuing to think about the answers to those questions really drives home the unmatched benefits experienced by organizations where effective strategic behaviors have been set in motion and a strong brand has been successfully grown!

Check back later this month to read the second part of this brand strategy development blog where I’ll be diving deeper into the topic of understanding how your brand strategy relates to your long-term business goals, as well as the internal and external perception of your company.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

omalley@marketectsinc.com

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

4 responses to “What You Need to Know Before you Develop a Brand Strategy: Part 1”

  1. Hello Kerry,
    Before the internet era, branding was only for large corporations that had big advertising budgets. Branding is now within each company’s reach and should thus be addressed. A company, no matter how small, that does not care about its branding loses opportunities, sells a price rather than value-added and “receives” rather than “builds” its image.
    Looking forward to chapter II…

  2. Kerry O'Malley says:

    You are absolutely right, Amanda! The irony is that every company, despite its size, has a brand, even if they do nothing to “grow it” at all. Their brand exists in the minds of everyone who comes in contact with the company. Every business has the ability to control (or at least strongly influence) how it is perceived. How a company manages its brand is their brand strategy – and just like every aspect of business, those who think strategically always have the advantage!

  3. Tom Repp says:

    Good stuff Kerry. As industrial buyers are more time-squeezed than ever, a strong brand message/theme can be the difference between being selected among the 5 or 6 tabs of your competitors open in a browser. Your outline gets them started.

    I think a great place to start and a great exercise for all industrial marketers is to start with the “WHY” from Simon Sinek: http://bit.ly/1kcLHUi This gets the industrial marketer thinking beyond the typical price/service/quality brand message. Using a brand theme that trumpets price/service/quality simply makes them like every other industrial marketer. Focus on the WHY first, then proceed with your outline.

    We just lost an industrial customer where we created a brand that took them out of the price/service/quality brand theme. (with the help of a our branding agency, http://www.maxwellandmiller.com) We believe it was brilliant and followed your outline perfectly and truly made them different in a commodity, price-sensitive world. The fresh brand theme was based on the WHY of this company and also from extensive surveys of customers and distribution partners. It was real and deliverable.

    However, they become fearful of the new ways and reverted back to a sales-centric, price/service/quality message rather than boldly moving towards a brand-centric, marketing driven world.

    I believe their lose… more than ours.

    Thanks Kerry for your passion

    • Kerry O'Malley says:

      Thanks for your comments, Tom. Sorry you lost the client; but just as many industrial companies abandon inbound marketing and revert to what is more comfortable, the whole idea of branding is so foreign to them that they usually can’t sustain an ongoing brand strategy. I, too, have seen industrial clients who were enthusiastic and motivated when we presented their brand strategy eventually drop initiatives by the wayside, one by one, because they just couldn’t make the shift from being sales-centric to BRAND-centric.

      I agree with what you said in the intro to Simon Sinek’s video. Now, more than ever, if a company (even industrial) does not find a way to differentiate themselves beyond all the noise and chatter, they will never achieve greatness. And I also believe that engineers ARE motivated by emotion just as much as a consumer buying a new car. I wrote about this in a blog: “Industrial Branding: Can if Effect Buying Decisions?” http://www.marketectsinc.com/industrial-branding-can-it-effect-buying-decisions/#more-2295.

      Thanks again for your interest in my writing! Industrial folks tend to be “readers” but not “commenters.” This is a shame. It keeps people like you and I from receiving feed-back on our thoughts and experiences, which would help us further develop them and grow as professionals. One of the beauties of the Internet is that it allows many people to engage and discuss topics in real-time. There needs to be more of that in the industrial world!

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