Consultants get requests for all sorts of – admittedly sometimes strange – requests for support from their clients. However, when I get several people asking for help in the same area, I know something important is happening in the marketplace. This is exactly what happened to me earlier this month. The topic? Brand building.
Most marketers have returned from their vacations by now and are beginning to realise just how little time they have left to meet their objectives this year. Their brands have not performed as hoped and now they are looking for a solution – fast!
No less than two of my current clients and four new companies have asked me for support with their brand building efforts in the past month! In particular, they have all said that one or more of their brands is stable – to be polite – and that they want to reverse the trend. Is this your situation too? If so, then I have a useful 7-step process that will bring rapid, if not instant change.
How to Stop a Declining Brand
OK, let’s go straight to the most painful of situations first, that of a declining brand. A few years ago I wrote a popular post about using brand image metrics to understand what is happening with a brand and how to identify the actions to take. It is called “How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye.” I highly recommend reading it now, for an in-depth understanding of all the information that can be gleaned from a simple brand image study. Almost all brands use their own brand image data in a very basic way, but there is so much more that can be done with the information, even without harnessing AI to do it for you!
In the post I speak about the different kinds of attributes to measure and how to find them. They should cover not only functional benefits alone, but also:
- the rational, functional benefits
- the emotional, subjective benefits
- the relational, cultural benefits
However, what is important it how you analyse the data once you have it. I suggest looking at:
- Total and split by demographics – gender, age, location etc
- Segments as you have defined them – attitudes, values, motivations etc
- Steps of the customer journey – aware, consider, try etc
Brand image following is just one of the things you should look at when you are trying to understand why your business is flat, or even worse, going down. Let’s now look at some of the others.
The Typical MBA Five Steps to Brand Building
Most MBA students are taught a five-step process for brand building, at least in theory anyway. They are:
- Describe: This is done through a product’s logo as well as its description on packs and other communications’ material. A successful brand will describe what it is through a consistent look, feel, tone, colours, symbols and messaging. This then builds to its brand equity which forms in the minds of customers both current and potential.
- Position: A brand needs to differentiate itself from its competition with some unique value. This can be done through its packaging, colour, aroma, distribution or another element that can set it apart. Using them to position the brand will provide customers with a reason to believe and to buy.
- Promote: Promotion can take numerous forms and channels, such as video, social media, TVCs (Television & Cinema), print ads or online advertising. It can include straightforward advertising but also customer reviews, retail offers, websites etc. All of these will increase the brand’s awareness, hopefully spontaneous recall, as well as improved perception.
- Personalise: Several books have been written about people “loving” brands. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, building strong loyalty and a solid fan base is important. With so much choice available today, personalisation and individualisation have become essential characteristics in many categories. They make people feel closer to the brand through increased resonance and a perception of importance. These are two of the essential ingredients that build fans / followers.
- Evaluate: This is in fact both the last and first step to successful brand building. It is important that a company keeps on monitoring and reviewing the performance of its products, services and brands. Hence evaluation & review of a brand is an essential element of brand building.
While these aren’t wrong, I believe that we can all do a whole lot better. As I said above, this is the theory, but I imagine that you are an expert or at least a professional, who already understands just how much effort goes into brand building. There are far more than these five simple steps.
When I realised that there is a lot missing from this list, I decided to expand it, but not too much so it remains manageable. However, my clients get a far more detailed process, as I am sure you can imagine. (Contact me to learn more)
Did you notice that the MBA list is all about the product or service, and that there is nothing mentioned about the customer or consumer? Big mistake!
So here is my process for brand building, a shortened version of what I use when supporting my clients. It works whether your brand is a product or service, new or established, local or global. Try it out and let me know what you think.
My 7-step Process For Simplified Brand Building
1. Gather as much information as you can about the brand
You already have far more information than you realise! Start by finding as much information as you can and bringing it all together. In addition to brand image and equity measurements, you need trend information on shares, distribution, stock levels, customer penetration and profiles. Look for changes in the trends and identify where and when they happened. This is the equivalent to an autopsy after death – but hopefully you are reacting long before your brand is on life-support!
2. Identify the category in which you are playing.
This is the category from the customers’ perspective, not the industry definition your retail audit supplier uses. Talk to customers if you can, or watch and listen to discussions on social media. The exchanges will often mention comparable brands, suggestions for switching et. All this will provide a better indication of the category than your industry knowledge ever will.
3. Understand your customers and talk to them – a lot!
I already mentioned speaking with your customers to understand the category you are in. But I want you to make a habit of speaking to your customers – both current and potential – on a weekly, and ideally daily basis. You should anyway have Google alerts set up for your brand, category and customer groups, so you are following what is happening on the web. If you don’t, stop reading and do that NOW!
If you are a regular follower of this blog, then you will know that we promoted and use C3Centricity’s 4W™ Template to store everything we know about our customers. You can download a free workbook including the template HERE.
4. Define your USP and desired image
Now you know the category in which you are competing and what customers want, verify whether your brand has a USP (Unique selling proposition) and an appropriate image and equity. The description of your brand should include functional, emotional and societal benefits. To learn more about identifying these, and how to measure all aspects of your brand image, personality and equity, read “Brand Image, Equity, Personality & Archetypes: What Every Marketer Needs to Know.”
5. Develop a Big Idea on which to communicate
Once you have your USP it’s time to develop a big idea on which to communicate it. Big Ideas should be based on a relevant insight about your customers. For an improved process of insight development, please check out “Customer Centricity is Today’s Business Disruptor (Insights are its Foundation).”
6. Promote the brand where and when your customers are
This is the step that seems to be difficult for so many brands. They think that by advertising on digital media they will get their message across. But there are (at least) two things wrong with this approach. Firstly, are you customers online and is so, where? Pinterest may be perfect for a fashion or cosmetic brand but not for many other industries.