Branding. It Is Everything Your Company Stands For.
Overall, a company’s brand is its image, its hallmark and the embodiment of everything for which a company stands. It is the key communicator to all targeted markets and audiences, whether internal or external. There are, however, proven guidelines to developing and implementing a corporate brand:
Branding: The Prime Directive.
- Branding must be for and about the customer. NOT the company.
- Branding must not strive to force a choice between products, services or solutions.
- Branding must position your product or company as the only solution.
- If the branding is wrong, even the best marketing efforts will fail.
What’s in a brand?
A brand is the intangible sum of a product's real or perceived attributes: its name, market positioning, "packaging" or image, and price or cost/value relationship. A brand must embody the company's history, its future and direct the way in which the company and its products or services are promoted. Every advertisement, letter, brochure, message or communication – no matter how small - must contribute to the complex symbol that is the brand image.
In order to properly position the existing The Company brand (and/or the The Company brand) and to develop or reposition its rebranded products or service bundles, it is paramount to create, introduce and integrate a simple, but universal, branding system. This system will create consistency and continuity among all user groups and, if properly implemented, will ensure delivery of a consistent message to selected employee, prospect, vendor, industry and customer groups.
Conducting a Branding Initiative
While each situation is unique and requires a customized approach, following is a brief listing and discussion of the major steps in the branding process. Please note that some of these steps may be omitted or modified based on work that has already been completed by the company such as the development of a marketing plan or conducting research.
Phase 1: Discovery and Assessment
During this phase of the process, information is gathered, analyzed and utilized to develop the overall goals, strategies and tactics to be employed during the branding initiative. This process may include, but not be limited to:
- An assessment of The Company’s current position in the marketplace in terms of the attitudes held by past and current customers, prospects vendors, financial entities, competitors, employees and the collective communities in which The Company resides.
- Determination of The Company’s current and desired market share, in general as well as for specific vertical markets and for individual products or services.
- Review (or modification / development) of the company’s current marketing plans for the company overall as well as individual plans for specific business units, regions, vertical segments, individual products and service offerings. This also would entail development of profitability matrix’ which will be used as steerage for the process overall.
- Evaluation (or development) of the company’s Mission, Vision and Values. While many companies have developed these elements, it is important to determine if they are actionable and capable of helping to create and sustain the brand.
Phase 2: Developing an Actionable Framework
The Graphic Spokesperson
Every company has a logo, mark or symbol that must quickly establish and support the company’s brand. During this phase, a complete review of the company’s graphic image would be conducted. This would include, at a minimum:
- Examination of the current company logo, and its acceptability in selected markets.
- Modification, if required, of the logo as well as its application
- Creation of a graphics standards system, including detailed guidelines for use and application of the logo.
- Development of a graphic platform for use with all marketing materials
- Construction of detailed business rules for all advertising and marketing promotion to ensure consistency, accuracy and support of the brand at the tactical level.
Making A Statement
As an integral part of the branding process it is important to coin a statement or theme that communicates the “outcome” of the brand image. This encourages staff, customers and prospects to readily identify with the new brand name and, perhaps most importantly, to integrate the new brand into their personal cultures.
Of course, the brand must establish the direction for all marketing efforts. In addition, if a company such as The Company participates in a zero defects process, ISO 9000 specification, Malcolm Baldrige program or any other continual improvement process, the rebranding imitative should be integrated with it to maximize the positive effects. In some cases, companies will even commission a musical theme as well as the visual theme to help integrate the message into selected groups. While it is premature to recommend any specific tactics in this area, it is important to understand how a brand may be implemented.
Phase 3: Brand Implementation & Measurement
The Brand Introduction
Following development of the brand and of the requisite business rules, the brand much be introduced via advertising, promotion, sales and other tactical methods. However, based on years of branding experience, changing or introducing a brand and simply asking employees, vendors, customers and prospects to "open wide" to receive the new brand is a destructive method of introducing change. Instead, we believe in TeamStorming™ -- TeamStorming™ is a concept that brings groups of people together throughout the various geographic locations to implement the change in a positive manner. This not only allows participants to truly participate in the change but also builds stronger bonds between departments and geographically disparate company locations.
Typically, when a "parent" company acquires and subsequently renames an acquired company or groups of companies, four different campaigns should be mounted:
- The employee campaign
- The vendor campaign
- The customer campaign
- The prospective customer campaign
Each of these campaigns will carry the same basic storyline. However, each campaign must be conducted in slightly different ways to achieve the maximum effectiveness desired.
Last, the effects of any brand change should be measured at specific intervals following the initial change in order to measure the success of prior efforts as well as to identify any barriers, obstacles or negatives which were not initially overcome or have subsequently developed. This helps ensure maximum effectiveness with a minimum of backsliding or attempting to resist ongoing change. There are a number of methods for measuring a branding initiative, which would be developed as part of the overall process.
Candidly, The Company will have a brand image whether it wants one or not. There is simply no choice in the matter. Therefore, by taking an aggressive approach and fully defining and implementing the chosen brand, the company will be in control of the brand, in control of the outcomes and, in essence, in control of its future.
Branding or Rebranding? Give us a call.