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