By Tom Dougherty
Effective branding. Making Your Brand Work — WORK
So, at last, you have a great brand. You worked hard with your branding agency, and they have developed a great brand that is sure to get you competitive advantage, and promises increasing market share well into the future. What are you doing so as to be cutting marketing costs? Do you have the answers to effective branding?
Not so fast. There are three phases to sound and effective branding. Phase 1 is the familiar part, when you develop the positioning — an arresting and meaningful brand name, memorable brand logo, and a really catchy tag line. Sadly, for many companies in this situation, the time that the new brand is conceived is just a few weeks before it begins to die.
This is because it is not enough for a brand to be conceived. It has to be born into the daily life of prospects and customers, of suppliers and shareholders, not to mention your own employees. Moreover, this is why Phase 2 is so important, at least as important as Phase 1. No one wants their brand conception program to become a miscarriage, or worse still, an abortion. But this is precisely what many companies do to the brand they bled and sweated for, and for which they paid with budgets that were so difficult to get approved.
The 3 Phases of Brand Success
As we said, Phase 2 is about the brand emerging into the world, into the radar screens of the constituencies for whom it was conceived. This involves the translation of the brand essentials into all the ways in which prospects and customers will have experiences that they will inevitably relate to your brand. After all, the residue of these experiences is the real brand, the one that exists in people’s minds, the one that determines whether they will switch to your product, or whether they will stay with your service. What are all these ways?
What is brand optimization and is it even important? You bet it exists and it is vital to your success and cost savings. They are all rather humdrum and common place, you know, your stationery, your advertising, your buildings, your vehicles, your packaging, your merchandising, your sales promotions, your website, your bills, and even more importantly, all the personal interactions they have with your sales people, your dealers, your customer service people, your credit control people, your collections people.
1. This phase can go horribly wrong in three important ways. The first of these is the failure of the effective branding and brand positioning, the name, the logo, the tagline, and the brand graphics being translated consistently into all of these communications that will influence the perceptions that will become the real brand in the marketplace.
2. The second way Phase 2 can founder is the lack of creativity involved in dramatizing the essentials to the fullest extent that each of these media allow (by media, read every sense and touch point between your company and its constituencies, especially your customers, and most critically, your prospects.
3. The third way may be the most important. It is the lack of consistency between the residue left by the conventional communications media and the physical experience of the product and of the people who represent it.
What good is the best ideas, the best graphics, and the best advertising, if the way the product opens, the way it works and the ways in which your people behave leave behind altogether different residues from those of your communications? In addition, if that weren’t enough to think about, there’s Phase 3. Why a Phase 3? Haven’t you done enough if you did Phase 1 and Phase 2 well? Simple. It is because brands, like people, live or die – in TIME.
Effective branding and The Enemy of Success
Time is the greatest enemy of effective branding, if only because people, both your own, and your constituencies, are not only forgetful, they are easily distracted and attracted by other offerings and other events going or perpetually around them. Phase 3 is about consolidating your brand in perpetually refreshing ways without losing sight of any of the consistencies that were so important in Phase 2. Phase 3 is about injecting ever-new ways to communicate the brand essence in all of the many ways in which it will be interpreted and remembered by your constituencies. Because the brand exists in time, and because time inevitably brings change, it also involves effecting slight refinements in the brand’s essentials, in order to maintain the highest ground in the shifting terrain of the market flux.
What does all this mean for you?
It means that your work has only really begun with the development of a new effective branding and brand positioning, a brand name, a brand logo, brand graphics, and a brand tagline. Specifically, it means three things: The first is to assign internal brand champions for every kind of interaction with your prospects and customers, whether communications, whether experiences, or people interactions, champions who will both be vigilant and determined that the brand essentials inform the very way in which all of these interactions are designed and delivered.
Surprising as it may seem, the most important effective branding champions here are those involved in product development, design, manufacturing and actual performance in use. Will they make the right decisions as to the specific areas in which the product will perform in future? Are these ways consistent with the thrust of your brand positioning? (See how Stealing Share builds brand strategies around beliefs)
After all, your product or your service, are the most powerful communications that can influence the brand’s stature and penetration in your constituencies minds. The second is to set up an internal evangelical organization within your company to both disseminate the brand internally among all of the people, functions and departments that will interface with the public in any way.
These evangelists are not only custodians of the brand’s translation into corporate behavior, they must infect and inspire your people with the tremendous value of your business to its constituencies, so that their sense of the value of their work in the world translates into more and better ideas, deeper and more lasting relationships with prospects and customers.
The third is to ensure that the team of effective branding counselors who helped you to develop the brand essentials are always on hand to help guide your team forward into time, across not only Phase 2, but especially through Phase 3.
This is especially important for two reasons: They are outside your organization, and are less blinded by internal corporate imperatives. They are more detached and can more easily see recognize deviations from the straight and the true. They understand your business well enough to have partnered with you in the development of this brand gestalt, and so they can help you interpret the information you develop about your company’s performance in the market flux into the fine adjustments that will be necessary as time goes on.
As we were saying, you have this great new brand gestalt, these brand essentials, the positioning, the name, the logo, the tagline, and the brand graphics. However, this effective branding is still in the womb of your company. It has to be born, and it has to grow into the world – to fulfill its promise for your business in terms of market share gained, and market stature achieved.