Strategic brand building is both art and science, and the method of creating innovative brand strategy is never the same for every brand.
For CEOs in emerging companies, brand strategy can be an elusive and often the most misunderstood discipline in marketing. It’s of critical importance to know what will be the most effective strategy for building your brand. Business leaders and marketing teams who desire brand innovation often end up with brand imitation.
In a world predisposed to sameness, there’s nothing worse than clawing your way to the middle with a brand strategy that doesn’t fit the realities of your business strategy. It’s extremely difficult to build a brand that breaks through the slush pile of images and messages consumers are drowning in today. Not only must brand strategy differentiate your proposition from others, but more importantly, this differentiation must also be highly valued.
Most contemporary marketers would agree– we’re way past the traditional point of view that brand strategy is an activity that endows a product or service with a catchy name, snappy slogan, pretty logo, compelling packaging and advertising.
Brand strategy is creating highly relevant mythology in the mind– a living example of the ideas and stories people care about and remember. People don’t buy your products, they buy personalities and meanings associated with the story of your products. People will only find meanings in brands with distinctive personality.
A brand strategy worth investing your marketing money in over the long haul has to tap into the emotions of your target audience in ways that transcend the functional and rational benefits associated with using the product. Depending on the nature and culture of your organization, and the reason your brand exists in the first place, here are four different methods for brand strategy development you may consider useful to your strategic and creative thinking:
Branding Strategy by Centralized Planning
In this method, brand strategy is approached in a rigorous, centralized and formal business planning process. Typically this approach is used by companies with large and diverse product portfolios that are defined as a “house of brands”. Each brand within the portfolio has it’s own management team, customer segment, product life cycle, supply chain, performance metrics, market share, and profit contribution mandated by centralized planning and tons of data.
Organizations like Proctor & Gamble, Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Gillette and GM favor centralized planning as the cornerstone of their brand strategy.
Branding Strategy by Image
This method is usually driven by creative advertising agencies in a leading brand development role and linked to creative execution of various ad campaigns. Marketers and their agencies closely link the brand to imagery driven by latest trends and fads in the culture. Brand strategy is developed in a more tactical manner driven by the various cultural associations customers have that are surrounding the brand image.
Image conscious brands like Abercrombie & Finch, Calvin Klein, BMW, Absolut, Tag Heur are brilliant at this type of strategy.
Branding Strategy by User Experience
In this method, customers perceive product quality, functional benefits and brand image as a given. What these customers are after is an experience that is unexpected, dazzles the senses, touches the heart and stimulates the mind. In this method the customer is the most important component of the brand. Brand owners focus on service design and usability, which are at the very core of these experiences, to drive brand strategy.
Brands built on user experience include Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Disney, IKEA, Costco, and Tiffany.
Branding Strategy by Self Expression
In this method, brand owners place the role of brand building as a collaboration with their customers. Marketers innovate new meanings rather than products. Customers are actively participating in creating the meanings associated with the brand that are a reflection or a symbolic representation of their own personal identity or inner self. Here the strategy is centered on “brand as badge”.
Brand examples that are built on self expression include Swatch, Apple, Mini, Uggs, Louis Vuitton and Herman Miller.
Everywhere brand owners are drowning in data, facts and information. As information and our collective marketing intelligence becomes more automated in the goo of the internet, it’s important to remember your customers value more of what can’t be automated- emotion, imagination, connection and engagement. Brands live and die on the ability of their stories and meanings to deliver what is highly valued by the most fervent customers.
Regardless of the method used to drive your brand strategy, the BIG question remains “what does your brand stand for that matters to people and makes a difference in the marketplace”?
Brands that lead markets know the answer and build accordingly.
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