Marketing & Branding
What’s Your Company’s Brand?
What comes to mind when you think of Apple Computer (sleek and sexy)? What about Federal Express (speed and efficiency)? And, what about Lexus (upscale and luxury)? In fact, what you’re doing is associating attributes that sum up how you view these companies. This is an aspect of branding – it’s creating specific perceptions in the public’s mind concerning the qualities and attributes of your products and service. Put simply, your “brand” is what comes to mind when the public hears your company name.
Your brand is a promise to your customer – it tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your company from your competitors. Another way of looking at branding is it’s your reputation as viewed by the public. So, the question isn’t whether you should brand, that’s already being determined by the public. What you should be asking is am I going to manage my brand, or am I going to let consumers (or competitors!) define what they think it should be?
You don’t think branding is important?
If you’re selling a retail product, and your product is on a shelf with other products that are pretty much the same, chances are the consumer will pick the product name they know and are comfortable with, even if the cost is higher. This is the power of branding, and you want to be the brand they are comfortable with.
Defining your Company Brand.
Building a quality brand is a critical cornerstone to the success of your business. So, how do you go about building a rock-solid brand that resonates with the public?
The process starts with these key questions:
• Who is your target audience? Don’t say everybody, that’s too broad. Segment your customers; find your core, or target audience, the ones that are a best fit for your products. This is your primary audience. Continue segmenting to find your second and third tier audiences.
• Does your brand engage your target audience? You want to put their needs first, this builds brand loyalty. Also, targeting allows you to focus your efforts and advertising dollars on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you. Think about niche marketing – it can be quite profitable.
• What’s the competition doing? How is your competition targeting your core audience? What is their branding?
• What’s your brand position? What sets you apart in your market? If there is no differentiation between you and your competitors, then you will be competing on price alone. You need to give consumers a
compelling reason to purchase your product. Branding is the competitive edge that will sway consumers in your direction.
• What’s your brand promise? What’s your promise to consumers? Low costs? High quality? Fast service? Affordable luxury? Whatever your promise, make sure you deliver on it.
• Are you connecting emotionally? You want consumers to be passionate about your company. Passion adds value to a brand. So what do consumers think about when they rate some brands more passionately than others?
According to Optimor’s top 100 Global Brands, some of the most successful and well liked companies also rate very high on the passion scale:
Adventurous/Rebellious: Red Bull, Nike, Apple
Desirable/Sexy: L’Oréal, BMW, Apple
Playful/Fun: Disney, Coca-Cola, Apple
Creative: Google, Intel, Apple
Notice that Apple is on every line. Where would you rank?
Find the answers to the above questions and you are well on your way. It’s not enough to define your brand, you have to make good on your promise. Good brands take time to develop. You have to be patient and keep refocusing your campaigns and improving the quality of the product or service you are trying to brand. Companies that spend time and money on effective branding have the potential to pay off in the future.
One Last Note:
If you don’t think competitors can change consumer’s perception, just look at how Apple Computer defined Microsoft’s image.
Remember the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” television ads sponsored by Apple that ran several years ago? This bold ad didn’t tout any of Apple’s products, but in one thirty second commercial depicted the Apple brand as cool, hip and exciting while painting Microsoft, its then closest rival, as stodgy, nerdy and so yesterday. Different versions of this popular ad (66 to be exact!) ran for four years, and Apple succeeded in creating the perceptions the public has of these companies today. In fact, Apple is now the number one recognized brand in the world today – and enjoys the sales dollars that go with it. Not bad for a company that was on the verge of bankruptcy just fifteen years ago!
Don’t be a Microsoft (well, at least from a marketing standpoint)!