The Synergy Group
Brands live in the hearts and minds of consumers. Brand managers can provide the oxygen for brands to live through high quality imagery, design and story telling. Powerful brands that match the customer experience to their promise and deliver in a consistent professional manner set themselves apart from the competition and ultimately lead to strong differentiated profitable businesses.
‘The market is hopelessly crowded. As a result brands are more, not less, important than ever - if you want to stand out, even a little, in that insanely crowded market place’
(Tom Peters - The Circle of Innovation)
I strongly believe that more Irish businesses need to develop, implement and continuously review brand strategies. Brands such as Baileys, Jameson and even the brand of Ireland are examples of major success stories However I believe we are only scratching the surface of what’s possible and there are countless opportunities for small, medium and large organisations to release true competitive advantage through strong brand delivery.
Above all, brands have the ability to inspire consumers, employees, onlookers as well as stir envy in the marketplace.
In the early part of the 20th century, brands were the physical identification symbol of an organisation or product. Coca Cola, for example was trademarked in 1887.
Towards the 1950s brands started to emerge as distinct personalities aided by the emergence of mass marketing media such as TV.
Now as we move through the early stages of the 21st century, brands are evolving further to encompass meaning and experience. Brands have a meaning that offers the consumer something far beyond the functional product or service benefit.
It could be argued that a brand is the modern day equivalent of what bookkeeping manuals used to refer to as the ‘goodwill’ of a business. Many people in business even at senior levels consider the company logo to be the brand and view it as something that needs expensive support through advertising and promotion.
These are components of brand delivery, not the brand itself.
The power of a brand
‘Ultimately the power of a brand lies in the minds of consumers and customers, in what they have experienced or learned about the brand over time… Everything a company does can help enhance or detract from brand equity’
(Kevin Lan Keller, Harvard Business Review)
In other words, a brand is what comes to mind and how we feel about a person, place or organisation based on a myriad of ‘touch points’ we as consumers experience over time.
All of these experiences have the ability to impact on our opinions positively or negatively and ultimately influence our next actions. Brands are the summation of all the touch points.
Traditional brand strategies may focus on the classical marketing techniques of advertising, promotion and public relations, paying little attention to a host of other brand influencer's, in other words focusing their efforts on the tip of the iceberg.
Our view is that organisations need to translate their brand values right through every area of their business to achieve differentiation.
Product orientated organisations: focus on product functional benefits - their product is quicker, faster, cheaper, tastier, bigger, longer lasting than the competition.
In this environment it is likely that only short-term benefits will accrue as functional benefits are usually copied and improved upon by the competition. Organisations competing on such lines will find themselves forever in a ‘dog fight’ with their competitors, chasing short-term tactical campaigns.
‘The increasing difficulty in differentiating among products and the speed with which competitors take up innovations will assist the rise and rise of the brand’
(Gillian Low/Nick Grant - New Zealand Marketing Experts)
Brand focused organisations: appeal to the emotional as well as the rational side of their customers. The functional benefits are usually taken for granted or in some cases may not even be superior once the brand has a strong emotional appeal to drive customer purchase and loyalty.
This explains why my son will only play football in Nike shoes, or my colleague drives BMW over Mazda. BMW allows him feel good about himself in ways he wouldn’t admit or even realise on a conscious level. It tells the world: ‘I am successful’, ‘I have done well’, ‘I drive a performance car’ ‘I feel good driving this’, ‘look at me!’ Consumers value these perceptions so much that they are often blind to the functional differences that may exist.
It can be argued that some production Japanese cars contain more comfortable interiors than the standard BMW. In fact consumers may very often find it difficult to articulate why they buy brand x over brand y as the purchase decision is driven by a deep underlying emotional need or attachment. This need may be based on image, status, comfort, or a host of other emotional factors.
Organisations and managers who understand this phenomenon don’t rely on advertising alone to build their brand but bring the emotional and rational benefits to life throughout the business.
The transformation of the car showroom experience over the past 5 years is an example of this.
Organisations that recognise the business benefits of a strong differentiated brand always outperform their peers in the long run. A strong brand is an asset to any organisation and indeed is priced into any business sale that may arise. Brands have the potential to outlive business changes, mergers and acquisitions.
There are examples of this in the Irish market where the businesses can change owners but there is a palpable relief among consumers that the brands remain. Guinness is one such example or the Fruitfield foods purchase of the stable of brands from Nestle and Jacobs.
‘If this business were split up, I would be glad to take the brands, goodwill and trademarks, and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you’
(John Stuart, Chairman of Quaker Foods)
I have personal experience of consumers who are devastated that they can no longer find their favourite brand in their local shop having loyally followed it through good and bad times, a clear case of emotional attachment. An Irish example of this recently was Walshes Spiceburgers. In 2009 a receiver was appointed, and 2 weeks after the company closed, there was such huge support that they started manufacturing again.
- Repositioning of the Andrews Liver Salts brand
- Development of the RoC Pharmacy skincare brand
- Development of the Neutrogena brand
- Building of the Friends First corporate brand in the Irish marketplace
- Repositioning of the Friends First Income Protection and Investment Bond Proposition in the marketplace
In all of the above, business targets were achieved by shifting the focus away from the functional industry benefits to the emotional consumer benefits, creating a point of differentiation that facilitated the selling of the story and the product
The challenge for indigenous Irish organisations in the print industry is to develop a culture of brand delivery in your organisations and ‘walk the talk’ through all elements of delivery. The brand message will get communicated to customers through corporate design and imagery, advertising, promotional materials and point of sale and store fit out. The customers’ experience in dealing with the organisation, it’s representatives at all levels, as well as the product performance will either match and reinforce the promise bringing customers back, or fall short and result in customers not returning.
Successful organisations also realise that branding is not a once-off project or initiative but rather a way of doing business. This is illustrated by the following table, which matches household brand names against their value:
Top Ten Brands in 2010
Source: Interbrand Corp, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley.
All of the above invest heavily in brand building strategies, continuously innovate to stay top of mind with their audience and communicate their stories through new and emerging brand techniques.
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