Managing Your Brand
“Brand” is an elusive concept. Few words in business are so overused and abused as “brand.” Few words are so misunderstood. Brands are more than marks and logos. Brands are more than print ads. Brands reach far beyond your marketing department. I find it easiest to understand your brand as the implicit contract between you, your company, your employees and your customers.
Customers are more sophisticated than ever. They demand that every point of contact with your organization live up to your brand contract. All of your employees must live up to this contract, whether they work in finance, customer service, sales, development, IT or marketing.
Successful hyper-growth companies coordinate the delivery of brand experience across channels and departments that are far beyond the traditional marketer’s influence. Our rules for a strong brand contract are simple:
- Be consistent: Apple’s iPod lives up to its brand contract in every sense. Coca Cola broke their contract with the introduction of New Coke.
- Create Shock and Awe: when you make a purchase from the L.L Bean catalog you can return your purchase at any time (even five years) after the purchase date.
- Be different: Yellowtail wine is fun and inexpensive when the rest of the industry wants to be inaccessible and pricey.
- Make sacrifices: Volvo owns the concept of safety, but could not successfully market a sporty two-seater. Burger King owns “flame-broiled,” but couldn’t sell pizza.
Solid brands are built through public relations. We specialize in building custom-fit public relations strategies that reinforce your current marketing initiatives and long-term corporate goals. Our state-of-the-art PR tactics guarantee that you message is heard by the right audiences — when and how they need to hear it. We do this by creating empathy with the economic buyers and influencers in your niche markets with tools like:
- media relations
- press release development and article pitches
- special events
- industry events
- reputation management
- innovative online communications programs
- RSS news feeds
Measuring Brand Equity
The concept of branding can seem elusive to many executives. Unfortunately, some marketing executives and consultants hide their tactical ineptitude behind the word brand. If a postcard mailing fails to drive new leads, it can be repainted as a branding success. Lack of responsiveness to sales needs is reframed as brand conflict. What most executive do not realize is that brand equity can and should be effectively measured and tracked.
Your brand contract is a critical element of your Enterprise Velocity commitment. As such, it should not be confusing. Defining and measuring the components of your brand equity are important for two reasons. First, your brand represents the intangible value of your company versus the commoditization of the rest of your industry. Your brand creates customer loyalty and awareness which result in real financial value.
Beyond measuring goodwill in a merger or acquisition, it is important to take a regular inventory of your brand equity as you would any other asset. Second, measuring brand equity keeps your marketing team honest. To improve marketing efficiency, you need a way to measure the interactions of customers with your brand, your strategic position and the effectiveness of your tactical marketing expenditures.
Further complicating the issue are the many ways companies choose to measure brand equity. Like other aspects of our model, we believe brand equity should be intuitive and easy to understand or else the results will not be actionable. The BOSTON TURNER Group has divided brand equity testing into two areas, brand contract and brand identity. The concept of brand contract was discussed in the Ideals section above. Brand identity in our model represents perceptions and associations which your customers and partners hold regarding your brand. These could be visual identity elements such as logos, colors and package design elements. They could be unique selling propositions and slogans. They could include functional benefits, pricing and customer service.
When testing for brand equity you should consider all associations and interactions in your marketing funnel: awareness, preference, choice, retention and enhancement:
- Awareness should include testing for recall and recognition
- Preference should include product attributes and non-product elements such as price, packaging, and imagery
- Choice should test uniqueness and specific customer benefits related to functionality, customer experience and symbolic associations (such as status or contribution to self-concept)
- Retention should focus on experiential benefits and satisfaction
- Enhancement should test leverage in your marketing mix, potential for brand and product extensions and likelihood of referral business
- Finally, test for image interactions and associations such as favorability, strength and uniqueness along with industry and competitive associations.
Our experience with growth companies has shown that most marketers fall into one of two camps: brand or direct response. Typically, you are better off building an internal marketing team that is focused on tactical direct response. Direct response requires day-to-day interaction with your sales, product and service teams. It is a science experiment best left to those who are fully engaged with your company. Branding activities should be fairly infrequent events. Once you establish your brand contract and imagery, you should stick to it to build a collective memory in the minds of your customers and partners. From there, you should test for brand equity every six to 12 months. Like other infrequent activities, it is best to outsource the testing of brand equity to companies who test for it frequently rather than leave it to your internal team who have other tactical priorities.
Boston Turner’s experience spans over 15 years of hands-on experience in the industries and practices we serve. Our professionals have worked with executive leaders in technology, enterprise software, payments, e-commerce, distribution and education.
Our founder, Matthew Turner, made a career of managing hyper-growth companies before starting the BOSTON TURNER Group. As the Chief Marketing Officer of Mercury Payment Systems, Turner tripled both the reseller channel (to over 1,200 resellers) and revenue (from $17 to $54m) and in doing so increased the value of the company from $20m to $120m according to a valuation study by CitiGroup. Turner previously led marketing for the distribution unit of Infor Global Solutions, NxTrend Technology (as part of a team that grew company valuation from $15m to $83m in four years) and an educational subsidiary of the Washington Post Company (where he raised sales closing rates from 14% to 55%). Turner is sought as a speaker for his expertise in lead generation, channel sales, and direct response marketing. He holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, San Bernardino, and is a special interest group coordinator for American Mensa, Ltd.