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Spire Express

Portland, Maine – Build Brand Management, Brand Proposition, Brand Essence, Brand Personality

Promise of the Brand

"Branding is not about getting your targets to choose you over your competition. Branding is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem." (Rob Frankel, author of The Revenge of Brand X)
As part of our range of marketing solutions, we help develop brand for companies of all sizes. In addition to the strategic element, we also offer corporate identity graphic design.

Overview

A brand is a consistent image or experience by which customers relate to a company, product, or service. Brand values have become especially important to success because the Internet has enabled a shift of power from the organization to the individual. A strong brand or image that attracts and retains customers is critical to achieving a competitive advantage. Examples of successful brands include www.porsche.com, www.coca-cola.com, www.dairyqueen.com, and www.sothebys.com. However, to ensure success, the organization must ensure that as customers grow closer to the organization, all organization-customer interactions (e.g., web browser, e-mail, phone calls, delivery) project and are consistent with brand values.

Be careful not to confuse branding with advertising. A compelling brand will hold up a solid marketing campaign, but the brand must come first. After the brand is defined, the organization can work on the actual brand name, the marketing materials, and the advertising, in that order. Advertising raises the awareness of the brand you create, but without a well-articulated brand, advertising money will be mostly wasted.

One of the principal means of ensuring that customers will come to the site and that their expectations will be met is the careful alignment of the brand and the "promise of the brand" in relation to customer intentions and perceived needs. A positive match will attract and retain customers, including both individual and corporate customers.

The brand, however, is often confused with the name. It is much more than this and will encompass a brand proposition, a brand essence, a personality, and attributes:

  1. The brand proposition is the covert message (which is never explicitly stated to the consumer) which you will be trying to represent with the brand. In other words, what do you want the customer to associate with the brand?
  2. The brand essence is its core being. For example, the brand may be "serious business" or "clearly fun."
  3. The brand personality can be best expressed by putting forward the view of the brand as a person. One method used to establish and test this personality is to describe the personality of the brand as if it were a person. For example, it may be decided that the personality is to be "an energetic and enthusiastic child always looking to find a new adventure."
  4. The attributes (primary, secondary, and tertiary) are usually a list of adjectives which address the elements of what is required to meet the personality. If a consumer on the street were asked to describe a successful brand, they would respond with these adjectives.

Having established these elements, all contacts with the consumer must be designed to support and enhance the development of the brand. Hence, the site look-and-feel, the tone of voice, the call center experience, and any other form of customer contact will reflect these factors. If, for example, the brand is to be bright, energetic, and cheerful, a grumpy delivery man pounding on the door will affect the credibility of the brand in the consumer’s mind.  In branding on the Internet, you must bear in mind that the entire experience contributes to the brand identity of the site.

The Advantages of a Strong Brand

What is the business opportunity that a brand affords you? Essentially, there are other companies doing what you do in the Internet, and if not, there will be soon. You need to be seen as unique in order to catch the eye of the customer. This is the value of your brand.

  1. In today’s Internet, where customers have greater choice, a brand that attracts and retains customers is critical to achieving a competitive advantage.
  2. The stronger your brand, the less susceptible you are to pricing issues and competition, because when consumers find your brand compelling, the price no longer matters.
  3. The brand should instill confidence in your customers, anticipate their values and needs, and underscore your name recognition.
  4. A good brand will increase customer loyalty, which means that it will result in repeat purchases. Loyal customers whom you have convinced of your brand’s worth will greatly increase your referral business, which, of course, lowers your customer acquisition costs. 

On the web, there are fundamentally three methods by which a potential customer can find your site:

  1. Through a portal or click-through
  2. Through a search engine
  3. Through a URL

When locating a site through a portal, consumers are more likely to click through if they recognize the brand-brands create security and a sense of trust in the minds of the consumer.  With search engines, a "household name" brand will be more likely to be entered directly, rather than the customer using a generic search which may result in the consumer being directed elsewhere.  Finally, the URL entry is becoming more popular with experienced users. In order for your brand to be used in this manner, it must have a high degree of spontaneous awareness, and it must be a known (or easily guessed) URL. Many companies, by way of illustration, are currently including the "www." as part of their brand as a way of encouraging URL entry.

The upshot of this is that the URL should be simple. Long URLs are often misspelled and forgotten. Hard to pronounce names, foreign names, mixtures of letters and numbers, silent letters, words with multiple spellings and the like should be avoided. Similarly, when two names are put together where the last letter of the first is the same as the first letter of the last there can be confusion, for example www.victoriassecret.com, although this may be overcome by directing both spellings to the site. In deciding on the brand, you should consider these issues.

The web allows greater customer intimacy and increases an organization’s visibility to the customer. Therefore, an organization’s brand needs to come alive for the customer, and needs to be synchronized with customer intentions. Everyone who comes in contact with the customer must live the value and the "promise of the brand" (i.e., the perceived value for which the brand stands). All interactions with the customer need to be consistent with the brand, whether the customer is talking with a customer service representative, looking at the web site, or receiving e-mail about a special promotion.

Brand Strategy

The first step in building a brand is to establish a brand strategy. This should be done in conjunction with the creation of the business model. To do this, you need to decide who your target customer groups are. What demographic would be most interested in the products or services that you offer? What do your competitors offer?

If you have an established business and are now launching an eCommerce branch, you will have to determine whether the brand you already have is an asset or a liability. This might be accomplished by working with the organization’s marketing department, or with focus groups. Are you viewed as slow and old-fashioned? Then perhaps the web venture should establish its own brand. Can you leverage your old brand to good advantage, thereby gaining your customers’ trust easily? In the Internet, it is easy to hide a spotty past with a new brand, or to gain the eyes of a certain target audience group by aligning yourself with trusted allies. Note that the parent brand can still be used as secondary reinforcement for the new brand, perhaps subtly.

If you are developing a brand strategy for a dot-com start-up, you have a clean slate with which to begin your strategy. You can consider co-branding with a partner company or investing heavily in marketing your new brand.

Brand Management

Brand management determines how to build brand equity for new ventures, protect and enhance existing brand equity, coordinate branding or co-branding for eCommerce alliances/partnerships, and ensure that the brand keeps its promises to the customer.

This work is done by the brand coordinator, who is the architect and guardian of the organization’s image, values, and customer proposition. This role in communicating and "policing" the brand is particularly important in the virtual organization, because-due to distributed decision-making-the brand values of the organization must be understood and applied by all individuals. The brand coordinator is responsible for:

  1. Working with the executive team to define the organization brand.
  2. Developing and maintaining standards for communication, documentation, presentations, etc.
  3. Educating company employees in brand image and standards, especially since employees in an eCommerce organization are empowered to make important decisions about the content of the intention and its market positioning. This increases responsiveness and supports the core capability of speed-to-market.
  4. Working with marketing and public relations specialists to reflect the brand in external publications and communications.
  5. Working with all the alliances to ensure that they are upholding the brand values.

Branding is important in both B2B and B2C relationships, although the focus is slightly different. In a B2C relationship, the customer may have little or no history with the company. They need to be given a reason to return after the initial visit. However, in a B2B business, the focus is more on leveraging the reputation of your brand and less on proving your company’s brand to a new audience unfamiliar with your products or services. Name or brand recognition can bring companies to you that want to form partnerships. Due to eCommerce, it is just as easy to switch business alliances today as it was for a customer to switch product brands before. However, in a B2B arrangement, companies are not likely to end the relationship over a small breakdown.

Contact SPIRE Express today for more information on how we can help develop an effective and consistent brand for your company.

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