Thought Leadership on Branding/Growth Strategies presented by Catalpha Advertising & Design.
A company’s brand can be more valuable than its most successful product. The operative word here is “can.” Consider Apple. It has created, very strategically, a brand culture of “raving fans.” Its customers anxiously await information about a new product and are happy to pre-order. Apple has worked hard building its company culture, with a unique business model and marketing plan that created the iconic image that has withstood great challenges over the decades. A lack-luster launch, negative publicity and the passing of Steve Jobs haven’t diminished the faith of Apple’s loyal followers.
Think about a local brand in your area that you are loyal to and consider why you choose it over a cheaper brand or a more popular brand:
- Berger Cookies
- Under Armour
- Natty Boh
- Mars: The Friendly Food People
- Rheb’s Homemade Candies
All of these are recognizable locally, but not all have a global reach. They all have the same opportunity to build a reputation that reaches beyond a regional market. Perceived value, happy memories and preferred taste are common reasons cited by fans for their loyalty.
How do you feel about each brand, and what made you feel that way?
How a customer feels — the emotional connection that is created by experiences with a company and/or product — is simply the brand identity that person associates with the product or service. Those feelings become associated with the visual pushed out to the public. The process of creating the consumer relationship with the brand can be complex. I find it sad that there are companies so wrapped up in doing business that they are blind to the impact of their identity on the everyday success of the company.
There are many factors that drive the reach and consumer impression of each brand on my list. Under Armour and DEWALT have different business goals and needs than the smaller regional brands. You may think that your company is too small to manage your consumer impression like a big company can, but that isn’t true. Even small companies can build an iconic resonance in their market. A company’s worth is irrevocably tied to its brand value.
So it comes back to the question, ” Who is driving your brand?”
No one entity has exclusive control over the results, so it is in the best interest of the owner to manage what can influence company equity. Brand influencers are:
- Brand Owner
- Brand managers
- The media
- Prospective customers
Brand owners define the company culture and brand image. This should include how employees present themselves to the customers. Brand is more that the visual and sound triggers customers associate with the company and products. Why not leverage the assets you have (employees) to magnify your impression on customers? It isn’t an additional expense, but it may have significant results.
What other assets do you have that may be under-used in creating your raving fans?
Brand managers can be employees as well as professionals hired to create and manage marketing, from press releases to packaging and advertising. They are responsible for creating the consistent message and increasing brand impact.
All of your employees whose job affects customer service in even the smallest way influence your company’s persona in the market.
The media publishes information with or without your assistance. So when they call, it makes sense to respond to their needs to ensure they have the right information. But why wait for their call? Include a public relations effort in your marketing plan and brag about new hires, product releases/upgrades and significant events in the company. You can also publish through your social media accounts.
Customers develop a relationship through all the touch points available in this global economy — from direct communication with the company or experience with the product to reading comments online. They can be a raving fan or an ambassador for your competition. People more readily express negative opinions than positive ones, and that can reach far beyond your regional market. Have a plan on how to react to negative comments as well as positive.
Prospective customers are actively researching and are in the process of developing an opinion of your brand. Look at your public persona objectively though their eyes. What does your brand say to prospects the first time they come into contact with it? Maintaining web presence with content that speaks to the buyer’s triggers is easy and reaches far beyond your local footprint.
Customers’ opinions and feelings about your brand are powerful because they aren’t paid to promote the product. The power to influence those opinions is in the hands of the brand owner, manager and employees. The smallest act can have as big an impact as a full year’s marketing budget. Walgreens knows this. Its employees greet every customer walking in the door, talk with customers in aisles and say goodbye even while they are ringing up another customer. The in-store experience is noticeably better than its competitors.
Whether you are a sole proprietor or a large corporation, your brand is a beacon to the consumer. Defining the personality and look of the brand has to come first. It directs the creation of every marketing campaign and tool, their tone and style. The logo and style of advertising become linked to emotions for everyone who knows the brand. Even with the many influencers that impact brand impression, as an owner or manager, you have significant power to influence the public’s impression.