Brands and Branding – What, Why and How

Brands and branding have become catchwords for getting attention or impressing people. What exactly do these words signify? Are they really important for a business? If so, how do you build your own brand? These are the issues discussed in this article.

What Is a Brand?

A brand is more than a logo. It is the complete package of impressions that you have about a business created through your experiences with it. The logo, name, a catchy slogan and the overall layout of its communications are just some elements of the physical dimension of the brand that most people recognize. The physical elements go further to cover such entities the company’s products, plant and sales outlets.

The physical is only one dimension of branding. More important is the psychological dimension, which is built up not only from the physical elements mentioned above but also from what you hear about the company and its activities, the experiences you have when dealing with the company and its people and also how well the company’s products meet your expectations.

Importance of the Brand to a Business

A package of good impressions about a company makes people trust that company and its products. The brand distinguishes a company from its competitors and makes its customers feel that they are getting something extra from the company. These translate into brand loyalty that enables the company to charge premium (or at least, higher) prices for its products. Once a customer has become loyal to a particular brand, it is difficult to get that person to switch to another brand.

For the owner of a recognized brand, brand loyalty means:

Higher volumes if the product price is kept competitive, or

Higher profits if a premium price strategy is followed, and

Higher return on investment either way.
Businesses can also leverage successful brands in different ways.

They can extend the brand to other, related and even unrelated, products.

When the brand achieves a critical mass of loyalty, it becomes a franchise that can be marketed. Think of the range of products associated with Disney characters.

A brand is something competitors cannot take from you. It will survive many events that can destroy an unbranded business, such a technology change. The brand owner can introduce new technology products under the same brand.

Can You Really Change Your Brand Image? Should You?

In my line of work, I run into this question quite frequently. Companies wanting to change their brand position from a value brand to a premium brand. Or, wanting to change from targeting small businesses to targeting large businesses. Or, wanting to move from the established brand to the more innovative brand. You get the idea.

When this is the aim, an important question is not usually far behind. Is it possible to change a company’s brand image? And, I often answer that question with a question, “Do you need to redefine the brand itself, or the perception of the brand?” And, “How far apart are you now from the brand you want to be?”

It takes a long time to build a brand image. It takes just as long to change it. And, I contend, when the change you want to make is drastic…it just may not be possible without a complete change of name, product, and culture. So, in this case, you need to ask yourself, “should you?”

It’s probably human nature to want to be what we are not. The idea that the pasture’s are always greener on the other side. And, sometimes there really are good reasons for a brand overhaul. But, don’t think you are going to be able to accomplish this easily, or quickly, or with a simple message change.

If you’ve been in sales and marketing for any length of time, you know that simply re-facing the brand elements of your company or product is not enough to change the customer’s brand perception of you. You have to change the way you operate! This alone, should make you evaluate carefully if you really SHOULD change your brand image. If after careful consideration, the answer is still yes…then determine which of the following approaches is most reasonable for your situation:

1. Complete Brand Overhaul. If the change you want to make is drastic (i.e. value brand to premium brand), you are likely going to be better off with a complete brand overhaul. Consider yourself a new company. One, with established assets you can leverage, but a new company nonetheless. This can mean a name change, a product/service redefinition, and more! With this option, you have to be willing to leave the old brand, and the business that comes with it behind!

2. Slow Evolution. This is more than likely the approach you will want to take. Most companies are not in the position to abandon the old brand and start anew. In this method, you will want to make small changes, over time to move your brand position from where it is today to where you want it to be. The general rule is you will need five years to accomplish your goal. I did say it doesn’t happen over night didn’t we? Still, the lower your brand recognition is now, the shorter this transition time will be. Remember, as I always say with branding…CONSISTENCY is the key. If you are always changing…or your change drastically while trying to hold onto your old brand, you just simply will not be successful.

The Great Business Secret To Building Your Power Brand

“I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I doubted it for a minute.” -Warren Buffett

If you’re familiar with the phenomenal success of the film and book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne-read on. If you’re not- I invite you to explore the relevance of this concept to your business growth. The concept of The Secret or sometimes referred to as The Great Secret is an infinite power called the Law of Attraction. Are you wondering, “How can this help me build a power brand?”

According to Rhonda Byrne and other modern day teachers and leaders, The Secret is an infinite power that responds to your thoughts and desires, no matter if your thoughts are positive, negative or neutral -and can be used to help you achieve whatever you want by thinking and feeling. The Law of Attraction operates on your thoughts’ vibrations, acting as a magnet to receive what you think and believe you can achieve, even what others say is impossible. So, if this infinite power can help you achieve whatever you set your mind to; then think what it can do if you use it to build the power brand you desire. Are you intrigued?

Why are some brands great, some good and others just mediocre? Do you think it’s because of coincidence or just plain hard work? Or do you think it’s perhaps clarity of vision or a belief and knowing of purpose behind their intent and what they wanted to create has something to do with it? Why is Google such a success? Do you think it’s just luck or being in the right place at the right time? Or perhaps, it’s the crystal clear vision the founders have held in their minds of what they wanted to create; and their thoughts and feelings about what they wanted to do that generated a magnet that continues to draw to them more of what they wanted. Their mission: (‘organize the world’s vast amount of information and make it universally accessible and useful over the internet.’ They’ve accomplished that and then some. From day one, the company and their employees have been driven to fulfill their mission and believed beyond doubt it could be done and they’re doing it through their actions.

How did The Ritz Carlton achieve the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award not just once but twice? Was it by chance or just sheer hard work? Or perhaps it was the belief in their philosophy of service and innovation and the clarity of their Gold Standards ( Every employee is crystal clear as to who they are-the Ritz Carlton brand, and hold a strong belief in what they can achieve. Perhaps it was their intention of purpose, belief in and action on their Gold Standards that enabled them to achieve this coveted quality award two times over.

Successful Branding For Mergers And Acquisitions

Your company is considering a merger or acquisition. You’ve explored the financial and legal ramifications. But do you know what your point of distinction will be post-merger?

Today, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are commonplace. They are strategic decisions grounded in geographic expansion, product and competency diversification, and brand leveraging. While businesses clearly address the associated legal and financial issues, they often overlook a critical component – brand management. Effective brand management goes well beyond the basic marketing tools. It requires an integrated approach to ensure consistency of your corporate message and identity throughout all aspects of your business. Without careful brand management, your M&A effort is vulnerable to failure.

Simply put, brand management helps to secure stability and brand loyalty for your company. You may consider discounting its importance to the M&A process, but be prepared for the possible outcomes:

Brands are managed inconsistently and brand equity suffers
Management and staff send mixed messages, creating confusion in the marketplace
Company image/brand loses value in the market
Employee morale decreases and turnover increases
Customers lose confidence and leave
Competitors steal your best customers
Shareholder price plummets
Why is brand management frequently overlooked in the M&A process?

Companies lack the experienced resources to focus on it.
Organizations don’t realize the need to address it until it’s too late.
Business leaders neglect it because they are concentrating on financial and legal issues.
Hiring an outside brand management strategist can bring dedicated resources and an independent perspective to the process. That’s why successful companies make brand management a cornerstone in their overall M&A strategy. By incorporating brand management in the early discussions around a merger or acquisition, your organization will come out stronger and more focused. Best of all, shareholders, clients, employees and the public will remain loyal to your brand.