Every person, structure and activity within the organization either enhances or weakens the brand.
The word “brand” is often used to describe a company’s name or logo mark, and is commonly thought of as the visual expression of the company, such as the distinctive golden arches of McDonald’s. The full answer to how to build a strong brand also includes the entire spectrum of a customer’s experience with that company or product. The golden arches, for example, represent a set of brand attributes, which includes clean restrooms, fast service, good value, consistent quality food, etc. Branding is often used to describe a variety of marketing and operational activities—from corporate identity design to customer service and promotional activities.
Brand strength is more important than ever.
There was a time when the role of branding was questioned among marketers and retailers. Supposedly, consumers had moved beyond the need for branded products, and back in the 1980s the generic food aisle at the grocery store was hyped as the wave of the unbranded future. As the theory went, consumers were too savvy to be swayed by the appeal of mere brand names. Price and quality were all that mattered. Today, however, any doubts about the necessity of building brand awareness have been forgotten as marketers fight for attention in a crowded and fractured market landscape.
Savvy executives realize their brand is more than just advertising. The essence of the brand must permeate the entire organization, from the board room to the mail room. Brands are built through long-term delivery of a unique, consistent and defensible customer experience that reflects the inherent positive values of the organization. Professionals charged with building the brand realize that every person, structure and activity within the organization either enhances or weakens the brand.
What makes a good brand?
There are many elements to long-term brand strength, but as a general guideline, a good brand should be:
• Based on the truth; consistent with your strategy and organizational realities
• Something of value to your customers and audiences
• Something your staff and stakeholders can believe in and support
• A market position you can own
• A single idea (not a laundry list of attributes)
What is the operational reality of your brand?
Returning to the example of McDonald’s restaurants, the business strategy is developed at the highest levels of the company and with the assistance of highly paid marketing consultants. The operational reality is delivered by the teenager in the paper hat who asks customers, “Do you want to Super Size that?”
The Branding Zone is where products, services, policies and procedures come together in a coordinated way with individuals delivering consistent on-brand behavior.
Unless there is brand consistency on both sides of this equation, both strategy and operational reality, the brand will simply be a hollow promise, and your customers will quickly find real brand strength among your competitors.
Other Resources for How to Build a Strong Brand:
- The Pony Sheet – How to Develop a Brand and Ride It
- Adding F-A-B to Your Brand – Translating Features to Advantages to Benefits
- What is a Brand?
- What Happens to Your Brand After a Merger?
- Three Ways to Inoculate Your Brand Against Disaster