Your Brand is Your Most Valuable Strategic Asset
Brand Asset Management is considered by many as a classic work on how to strategically manage brands. It effectively communicates how to estimate the value of a brand, manage it as a strategic asset and leverage the asset to drive business strategy.
In Brand Asset Management you talk about branding as a strategic driver. Can you elaborate on this?
Sure, about 10 years ago, while I was working on a new product development assignment, I had this quasi-epiphany. We were looking for a silver bullet for bringing a product to market and it hit me, success wasn’t going to be just about making a better product. It was more about leveraging what the company already had in place — products, customers, channels, communications, employees, etc. The whole concept of brand took on new meaning and implications. The company brand became the cornerstone of a holistic, organization-wide business strategy that transcended marketing initiatives.
So you’re saying branding impacts every aspect of a business?
Exactly. And great companies understand how to present their brand consistently to all relevant audiences. For this to happen, every functional area of the business needs to be involved.
Sounds like a serious commitment. What are the key ingredients for building a successful brand?
Well, internally there should be a demonstrable commitment from management. This means more than lip service. Without action-oriented commitment, nothing else matters because it will not be seen as a priority. Next, there needs to be a companywide understanding of what the brand stands for, or brand promise. After understanding comes acceptance — embracing a social contract to live out what the brand represents. And finally, consistency — a commitment to represent and reinforce the brand promise in everything you say and do, plan, build, etc.
This applies not only to customers, but channel partners, suppliers, analysts, media, stockholders, etc. First, consistency of the brand experience — there needs to be congruity in everything you say and do. Brand relevancy — insuring the brand delivers on expectations, what they need and what they want — is a very important issue today with many companies. And finally, value — how your brand stacks up against the competition.
Everyone knows you can’t build a brand overnight. What are realistic expectations for establishing or repositioning a brand?
Good question. I like clients to consider the branding process as at least a three-year journey. With many larger companies it takes a year for employees to internalize and operationalize the brand promise. The second stage is launching the brand externally to multiple audiences that will have an impact on a customer’s decision to buy from you. An integrated communications program to effectively reach these audiences is an essential success factor. The third stage is delighting the customer — consistently meeting or, hopefully, exceeding customer expectations. Again, effective communications at every touch point reinforces the brand promise and customer loyalty
There is a lot of discussion today about metrics and brand equity. In your opinion, what is the best way to measure brand equity?
I think it’s very appropriate to talk about branding metrics. If you can’t measure it, how can you expect to manage it? There are a few very good models to choose from. 3M likes to look at six key indices for discerning the effectiveness of their branding program: familiarity, relevance, differentiation, trust, leadership and quality. A large technology company we work for uses five indicators I think are quite good: awareness, familiarity, favorability, customer satisfaction and willingness to purchase. The important thing is to establish a methodology early in the branding process and be consistent. What you are looking for is practical information you can put to use. We’ve had good success with qualitative research involving user groups. Selecting intellectually honest folks for the user group who you know will be candid can offer tremendous insight into your branding effort and how to improve it.
Any final thoughts?
I can’t overemphasize how important providing a consistent brand experience is to the success of a branding effort. Whether the experience is internal, external, on-line or off-line, what you do and say needs to embody and reinforce your brand promise. If there are disconnects, you need to fix them — fast. Your brand is your most valuable strategic asset. Invest in it, maintain it, manage it. Brand asset management presents a coherent and comprehensive decision-making framework for all activities, ensuring a consistent brand experience and thus providing a distinct and sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.
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