After writing my latest book, Aaker on Branding, a book that contains an overview of 20 key branding principles, I included an epilogue that identifies 10 additional branding challenges to keep in mind as you work to build your brand. If you are involved with building a brand or brand portfolio, you will benefit from appraising how you are facing each of the challenges:
Treating brands as assets
The ongoing pressure to deliver short-term financial results coupled with the fragmentation of media will tempt organizations to focus on tactics and measurables and neglect the objective of building assets.
Possessing a compelling vision
A brand vision needs to differentiate itself, resonate with customers and inspire employees. It needs to be feasible to implement, work over time in a dynamic marketplace and drive brand-building programs. Visions that work are usually multidimensional and adaptable to different contexts. They employ concepts such as brand personality, organizational values, a higher purpose, and in general they simply move beyond functional benefits.
Creating new subcategories
The only way to grow, with rare exceptions, is to develop “must have” innovations that define new subcategories and build barriers to inhibit competitors from gaining relevance. That requires substantial or transformational innovation and a new ability to manage the perceptions of a subcategory so that it wins.
Generating breakthrough brand building
Exceptional ideas and executions that break out of the clutter are necessary in order to bring the brand vision to life. These ideas and the execution of them are more critical than the size of your budget. “Good” is just not good enough. That means making sure you get more ideas from more sources, and that you make sure you have the mechanisms in place to recognize brilliance and bring those ideas to market – quickly.
Achieving integrated marketing communication (IMC). IMC is more elusive and difficult than ever in light of the various methods you have to choose from such as advertising, sponsorships, digital, mobile, social media and more. These methods tend to compete with each other rather than reinforce because the media scene and options have become so complex, so dynamic, and because product and country silos reflect competition and isolation rather than cooperation and communication.
Building a digital strategy
This arena is complex, dynamic and in need of a different mindset. The reality is, the audience is in control here. New capabilities, creative initiatives and new ways to work with other marketing modalities are required. Adjust the digital marketing focus from the offering and the brand to the customer’s sweet spot, which is to say the activities and opinions in which they are interested or even passionate about. Develop programs around that sweet spot in which the brand is an active partner, such as Pampers did with Pampers Village or what Avon did with their Walk for Breast Cancer.
Building your brand internally
It is hard to achieve successful integrated marketing communications or breakthrough marketing without employees both knowing the vision and caringabout it. The brand vision that lacks a higher purpose will find the inspiration challenge almost impossible.
Maintaining brand relevance
Brands face three relevance threats: Fewer customers buying what the brand is offering, emerging reasons not-to-buy, and loss of energy. Detecting and responding to each requires an in-depth knowledge of the market, plus a willingness to invest and change.
Creating a brand-portfolio strategy that yields synergy and clarity
Brands need well-defined roles and visions that support those roles. Strategic brands should be identified and resourced, and branded differentiators and energizers should be created and managed.
Leveraging brand assets to enable growth
A brand portfolio should foster growth by enabling new offerings, extending the brand vertically or extending the brand into another product class. The goal is to apply the brand to new contexts where the brand both adds value and enhances itself.
Those engaged in building and leveraging a brand should examine each of these challenges in turn and determine which are most critical to their success. Then evaluate the extent to which your brand is in deficit in meeting that challenge. The answers to those questions should result in a roadmap to strengthening both your brand and your impact.