Anyone thinking that ‘branding’ is merely the logo above your shop or office or on the banner of your website is completely out of touch with reality. From in-person interactions with your customer-facing staff to reading a magazine advertisement and everything in between, there are dozens of ways your customers touch your brand.
Why branding matters to your company
Your brand is vital to your business success. Furthermore, a brand that’s in rude health will bring several benefits to your company.
- Standing out from the crowd
When you have a clearly differentiated identity and values from others, you stand out from the others. A strong brand has higher visibility in a category: think of this when you are seeking new customers. You can charge more than undifferentiated rivals, especially if you are perceived to be of higher quality. Greater share of wallet is also likely.
- Defending market share
If you were thinking of entering a new market, would you think twice knowing there’s a brand giant ready to stomp on you? Furthermore, how difficult do you think it will be to steal their customers away who are loyal to that brand. A strong brand is one that will be hard to beat in a category knife fight.
- Brand Elasticity
A strong brand can be ‘elastic’, able to enter new categories or geographic territories based on the inherent transferable brand values and strengths. Think of Virgin (credit cards to space travel), or in a similar rock n’ roll vein, the mega-selling rock band KISS (condoms to coffins!).
Loyal customers have a ‘goodwill bank’ allowing a company to recover easier from a crisis or a negative service encounter. Customers may well give the company the benefit of the doubt and be less harsh in their response to that company than they would with other brands they are less favourably disposed towards.
- Balance Sheet bonus
Strong brands possess their own monetary value or equity. It’s now commonplace to see their value appear in the company accounts alongside other assets.
- Comfort blanket during tough time
Finally, let’s not forget just how challenging the current business and economic environment is. When times are tough and spending (household or corporate) is heavily scrutinised, customers will tend to stay loyal to strong and dependable brands. It’s not a time for trying out new alternatives. And while customers want quality and value, that doesn’t simply equate to cheaper prices.
Brands matter: got it?
Brand research: how to do it
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, there’s a large number of brand-related areas that can be investigated. But at least to begin with, it’s best to focus on the key issues having the most potential impact on your revenue and business performance.
For companies who haven’t got any customer brand insight to hand, it’s essential you have an idea of how your brand is performing. Think of it as a health check in which you get to identify and understand the vital signs but also be able to identify some potential risks as well.
- How is your brand perceived by your different audiences (e.g. customers, suppliers, peers, employees) ? What personality does your brand have?
- Are your customers’ service experiences aligned with your brand values?
- How do your customers rate your brand next to your rivals?
How you want to go about it depends on your research objectives and particular information needs (as well as budget). To really get an appreciation for how your brand is viewed by customers, qualitative projects can be particularly eye-opening. Discover what personality your brand has among your customers. Ask them:-
- What kind of person is your brand?
- What does he/she look like?
- What car would they drive?
- What sports would they play?
- How are they perceived by their friends?
- How would they behave at a party?
… the list could go on.
But by the end of the exercise you’ll have a great personality profile of your brand which will help your subsequent marketing communications efforts enormously. In categories where there is a high degree of similarity, it can be your brand’s personality shining through that converts prospects into customers.
Consider this: what if the personality profile your marketing team has developed is meant to be ‘cool and cutting edge’ but is instead viewed by customers as ‘old and dowdy’?
Quantitative brand projects (which often follow qualitative phases) add numbers into the mix and are an invaluable component of your marketing dashboard (if you don’t have one, you certainly should!).
Again, research objectives vary, but it probably involves – or should do – the following:
- Calculating satisfaction, re-purchase and loyalty metrics
- Measuring brand image attributes
- Identifying brand personality
- Ascertaining brand communications effectiveness
Without going into exhaustive detail here, you should always be able to have a clear idea of your own brand ‘essence’ – the core characteristics, its DNA. How will customers rate you when set against your brand mission and inherent values?
One final point: logo and identity design and positioning statements etc. are next to worthless if your service encounters stink! Your contact staff are as much – if not more – part of the brand as your corporate letterhead, product packaging or website. One bad encounter with a staff member can render everything else useless and worthless in the eyes of a disgruntled customer. Remember: It’s all about how customers FEEL.
How often is enough?
This largely depends on what type of business you’re running, how big your customer base is, and how regularly your customer base is increasing.
If you’re a major FMCG brand for instance, with regular communications (ads, promotions etc.) throughout the year then you need regular tracking to monitor your brand awareness, campaign effectiveness and see how it is performing in comparison with rivals.
For other brands with less marcoms exposure (and expenditure), a brand health check could be a yearly exercise.
Does your brand need a sticky plaster or major surgery? Alternatively, is it lying on a lounger on the beach feeling great? Get in touch with Red Pill to begin your own insight-led brand building efforts.