Focus on Branding
To face this highly competitive marketplace with limited and, perhaps shrinking,
resources, we must be sure that our marketing dollars are spent wisely. That
means a focus on the fundamentals. A company’s ability to achieve its mission
and meet revenue targets is highly related to the strength of its brand. We’re
reminded time and again how strong brands have navigated successfully through
the ups and downs of the economy – Apple, Coke, Disney, FedEx, Hertz, J.D.
Power and Associates, McDonald’s, Tide, etc.
But what does it mean to be a “strong brand”? It means that wherever a
consumer – customer or prospect – or employee or investor goes, they
experience your brand in the same way. In all of its arenas and among all of its
constituencies, your brand should have the same “look and feel”, the same
image and should communicate the same core messages. And, that image and
those messages must be consistent with a desirable and deliverable brand
Branding is the key to differentiating a product or service. It is the
buyer’s connection to a brand and will profoundly influence whether
you make the sale – or it goes to a competitor.
Conduct a Brand Audit
Now is a good time – in fact, it is now imperative - to audit your marketing and
communications tools to assess their effectiveness in promoting a cohesive
message for your brand.
- Logo and tag line – do they appear in the same design, colors and font
throughout your organization? Are they still relevant to the mission
and value proposition of your company?
- Stationary system – do all of the company’s divisions and offices have
the same design and copy format? Are they consistent with your desired
- Signage – do all offices and storefronts sport the same artwork indicating
that there’s a professional, well integrated operation? Are the design
characteristics consistent with your desired brand image?
- Titles – are the job titles uniform across the company? Do they reflect
your value to the customer, i.e. barista, cast member, customer service
- Sales – do all of your reps provide the same information and sense of the
company’s products and approach? Is there uniformity among presentation
and sales materials? Do customers and prospects understand what
- Customer service – do your greeting and problem solving approach reflect
your desired market position?
- Media relations – is your press kit consistent with the look and content
of your other marketing materials? Does it communicate your unique
brand? Are your spokespeople presenting the brand promise beyond
functional product descriptions?
- Investor relations – do your investors understand the identity the
company is portraying? Is that identity communicated in all investor
materials? Is the identity communicated to investors consistent with
your desired brand image in the marketplace?
Why Pay Attention to Your Brand?
- Differentiate your brand in a crowded
- Build customer loyalty by setting consistent
expectations and delivering on promises.
- A well-established brand gives customers
confidence in the value of a product and
- Give employees a sense of pride and
- 65% of investors consider branding among
the top three factors when making an
investment decision (NIRI, 2001).
- Investors understand what the company
stands for and
Market Research is Key
It is essential to obtain feedback about how
the brand is seen - versus its competition
and desired attributes for the category - and
to determine whether the materials representing
the brand communicate attributes supporting the
brand strategy and differentiate the brand in the
The first step is to determine the equities in
existing marketing tools, e.g. brand name, logo,
tag line. It is critical to know what their elements
are saying about the brand so that you retain those
making a positive contribution and discard those
making a negative or irrelevant contribution.
Qualitative interviews exploring these dimensions
conducted by an objective, skilled researcher can
uncover the full range of attitudes that exist
among all of the brand’s audiences.
The results of the first step determine changes
needed in current marketing tools. Alternative
design solutions are explored in a second series of
qualitative interviews to be sure that they
communicate the intended messages and
determine which solutions best support the brand
The final choice between solutions should be
based upon a quantitative survey in which each
alternative is evaluated against the attributes that
reflect the brand’s strategy and communication
goals. Online surveys provide an inexpensive
means of obtaining actionable data.