How to build a strong brand
A key element of strategy planning should involve the development of your brand and how you would like to be perceived.
When designing a brand strategy, this is the first question you should ask:
What is your unique selling proposition?
Consider all aspects of the marketing mix and examine what makes your business unique and attractive to the consumer. If these factors lead to a competitive advantage then you have determined your Unique Selling Points, or USPs. These USPs are major contributory factor to what makes your business successful, so should form the central theme to your brand strategy. Most brands concentrate on several of the most powerful and easily communicated proposition benefits in order to create a clearly understood brand message.
USPs are why customers are currently buying your products and form the basis of your company 'brand values'. However, brand values should constantly evolve to suit changing market conditions and should also reflect your forward looking business strategy. Once these are established, it's important to ensure that your customer experience reflects these values in every aspect of your business. This means tailoring every element of the marketing mix to project your brand values - from the staff you use, the products you produce, the messages on your advertising, and even the way you handle complaints. Building a respected brand can take a lot of hard work and you'll need the commitment from your employees and stakeholders to make it happen.
Example brand values: Zurich
|We demonstrate total customer dedication||Our starting point is the needs and expectations of our customers|
|We're pioneers||We innovate continuously and explore new options with creativity|
|We excel in all we do||We aim for the highest quality, particularly in activities with the greatest value potential|
|We encourage everyone to contribute||Every employee counts|
|We act with integrity||We test every proposed action to see whether it is proper and reflects standards we can be proud of|
Remember, a brand exists in the mind of the consumer. It is the intangible sum of thoughts and feelings about a particular company, service or product. A company can steer how a brand is perceived by never has full control.
"A brand exists in the mind of the consumer"
A brand is be represented tangibly by branding, which allows the customer to easily identify a product using an identity which sometimes formalised in a corporate identity document. This can include the colour scheme, logo, slogans, typeface and can go into depth of how these all work together. Successful branding focuses on the company brand values which should be obvious from the promotional materials.
"Brands are powerful influencing tools"
Brands can be very powerful influencing tools, but only once they have been established – and it can take time to build up the necessary trust. When a customer has made up their mind it's often very hard to persuade them to think differently.
Benefits of a strong brand
- It will add value to a company
- Requires less persuasion for consumers to use other products from the same brand
- Can ensure a lasting customer relationship due to trust
- It aids recognition in a cluttered marketplace
- Has the ability to command a premium
- Allows differentiation between very similar products, for example still mineral water
- Can attract merchandising contracts
- Leads to the perception of quality
There are two core elements to a strong brand – emotional value and practical value. Get these two right and your brand will quickly grow.
However, a brand can be damaged much quicker than it can grow - five things that will quickly damage your brand include:
- Untrustworthy behaviour
- Concern about public safety or health
- Poor customer service (at any level)
- Obvious company financial difficulty
- Poor quality products
Get the balance right and your business will go from strength to strength.
If you still doubt the power of a successful brand, consider Evian mineral water. All bottled mineral waters are essentially the same product - they'll all quench your thirst and taste pretty much exactly the same. However the strength of the Evian brand in the UK means they can charge significantly more than the cheapest alternatives. This ability to charge more due to a strong brand is known as brand equity and is a valuable contributing factor towards the value of any business.