Building and maintaining a strong brand is the cornerstone of a successful business. In an increasingly competitive world, where enterprises shout for attention in their effort to stand out from the crowd, a strong brand is your vehicle that differentiates your offering from the many other competing products available. Creating a brand that resonates with consumers, that represents your company in the best possible way and captures the essence of your products and values is no easy feat. When you have worked hard at perfect your branding, the worst thing that you can do is take your eye off of the ball. Creating a brand is one thing, but for it to be successful, you need to maintain a strong brand.
If a brand is not protected, it’s all too easy to lose its strength and value. If a brand is misused, even inadvertently, your brand image becomes diluted and loses some of its impact. So, just how do you maintain a strong brand and give it the protection it deserves? Read on to find out…
A strong brand translates into profit
Consider brands like Coca-Cola (with a 2019 brand value of nearly $81 billion or 45% of the company’s total value), Whole Foods, Toyota, and Apple. What do they all have in common?
They’re all strong brands.
And, worldwide, they’re among the most recognized brands in the world.
To understand what makes an effective brand; what makes it strong, consider this:
Strong brands have clear brand core values, unequivocal positioning, and long-term brand strategy. Consistent brand management, with the help of brand rules, ensures that the brand strategy is consistently applied in operative business. This helps to prevent a brand from overstepping its credibility limits.
The question remains as to why a firm cares about building and maintaining its brand and why strong brands are better than weak brands.
Among the critical benefits of branding are:
- Differentiation that supports consumer brand preferences. Undifferentiated products, such as apples or other produce, don’t provide opportunities for companies to compete against others offering the same product.
- Premium pricing goes along with differentiation. Differentiated products representing higher value to customers, like Apple, command premium prices over their competition.
- Insulate the company from inevitable product failures. Take Tylenol, for example. In the early 80s, a tampering incident in Chicago led to several deaths. Initially, no one knew whether the deaths resulted from a product defect or some other cause. Tylenol quickly enacted procedures to safeguard the public, and its brand reputation protected it from significant damage that often results even when the company isn’t to blame for the failure.
- Branding, especially when the firm uses family branding to clearly associate a product with those holding places of trust and value with consumers, the firm value grows. Branding also eases efforts to introduce new products and supports products facing intense competition.
- Firms gain other advantages by maintaining strong brands. For instance, advertising attracts more attention, attracting influencers and increasing positive mentions is easier, firms attract a higher caliber of partners and may even get more favorable from these partners. Employee morale is higher, which attracts and retains your best employees.
These advantages then translate into higher profit and higher share prices.
Communication is a crucial element in building a strong brand. As you’ll see when we move into the tactics to maintain a strong brand, all rely on clear, accurate communication with the right message, a message that resonates with consumers.
Effective communication builds a hologram representing your brand to potential buyers, creating a personality, an image, and a connection between the customer and the brand. Careful planning and effective implementation ensure the money, time, and effort developing your new brand because rebranding later due to mistakes at the beginning is costly and fraught with the possibility that, rather than contribute to a new brand image, it merely makes the brand image murky and ineffective.
Effectively rolling out the new branding is a must. Coordinating the branding with employees, outside agencies, and messaging reflects the difference between the success and failure of the brand.
Your employees represent your brand every day. Every time they speak with a customer over the phone or every product they make is a reflection of your brand and expresses its values. If your employees are not aware of the brand values you wish to convey, then they won’t embody them and reflect them in their work. The same goes for outside agencies, especially your marketing and PR agencies, who translate your branding into messaging designed to attract consumers.
How to build and maintain a strong brand
The next question, then, is how does a firm support and develop its brand to make and keep it strong? Here are the 5 keys to maintaining a strong brand (check out the infographic at the bottom for a great image that encapsulates these tactics.
Consumers care about the values expressed by the brand — what the brand represents. Shared values determine how 64% of consumers decide which brands to purchase.
For instance, green brands like Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and Microsoft (through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) spend significant resources on sustainable business practices to benefit society. Both firms currently spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the Coronavirus.
Brands make promises both overtly in their messaging and how they frame it, and tacitly through their prior activities. Keeping both types of promises contribute 45% of how consumers view the brand.
3. Targeting and positioning
Most firms design their brands to specifically appeal to a segment of consumers — called a target market. Targeting allows brands to fit better the values, needs, and wishes of that group of consumers. Positioning refers to how the brand differentiates itself from competitors based on the specific interests of the target market. Targeting and positioning drive loyalty, and loyal customers represent up to 10X greater profitability than when loyalty is absent.
Firms that fail to understand that targeting doesn’t limit who they serve as customers but, instead, acts to create a better fit with a specific customer group experience lowers returns.
4. Clear and consistent branding
Consistency is also critical to ensure your brand stays strong. Mixing old branding with new branding is confusing for your customers and also looks unprofessional. Your messaging, logo and other design elements, brand image, and value must reinforce each other while adapting to different marketing channels and tweaking the implementation to avoid advertising burn-out.
Mixing messages across markets or channels leads to confusion. Consider how messaging from car brands gets muddled when the local dealership produces messaging that doesn’t conform, especially when the slick manufacturer advertising meets unprofessional or cheaply made local commercials.
Images are an essential aspect used to maintain a strong brand. In part, that’s a function of how the human brain processes and retains information, with images processed about 600,000x faster than words. Images also fit with schemas used by the human brain to retain information. One element of images, colors, increases brand recognition by 80%.
To maintain a strong brand, use consistency, and keep communication clear with concise branding, effectively implemented across all touchpoints is necessary. Toward that end, businesses create a robust set of brand guidelines, taking the guesswork out of branding for employees and agency partners, which ensures a cohesive, consistent approach to branding.
To achieve this cohesion, consistency, and clarity, brand asset management is vital. Having a clear set of brand guidelines that detail your corporate colors and logo, along with how and where you use them, is just the first step. Brand asset management software brings all your essential branding information together into one place, giving your staff easy access to approved imagery, the correct fonts, logo, color scheme, and messaging to ensure your brand’s consistent in everything from your store’s signage to marketing collateral.
5. A clear marketing strategy
Obviously, especially if you’re a frequent reader of this website, a clear, well-developed marketing strategy brings all the other elements used to maintain a strong brand together, a fact accepted by 51% of business owners. That fact, by itself, is disturbing as a percentage closer to 100% is preferable.
Moreover, firms face challenges implementing that marketing strategy, translating plans into actions that coordinate multiple channels, multiple functional areas and teams, and different marketing tactics.
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