Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Developing a brand

Many people frequently misuse the term “brand” by interchanging it with advertising, marketing, naming or a design. These improper applications have caused much confusion as to what branding is and how it works. As such, “brand” has become a bit of a buzzword. But, what does it really mean and how does it work?

First, let's clear up the confusion of brand strategy vs. marketing strategy vs. marketing tactics. Here is a simple definition:

A brand strategy defines the unique benefits your brand offers to the target audience. It spells out clearly and concisely what makes your product or service different, better and special in the competitive marketplace. It clearly defines what it is you want the consumer to think about your product (brand).

A marketing strategy has a defined business goal, i.e. increase sales; generate more newspaper stories in the local press; attract new customers. Each marketing strategy uses the brand strategy as the cornerstone in developing “what it will say” to the customers, local press or prospective customers. They will all be “singing from the same hymnal,” with a consistent brand benefit message.

Marketing tactics are the actions you take to execute the marketing strategy. It could include any number of things…advertising, Facebook postings and other social media, new promotional materials, mailers, flyers, etc.

In practice: A brand is an experience living at the intersection of promise and expectation. Here’s how it works. A company expresses its brand as a promise, both overt and implied. That promise lives in consumers’ hearts and minds as an expectation. When brand promise and consumers’ expectations reflect one another, the brand holds tremendous value for both parties.

Eric D. Schulz
Effective businesses view their brands as tools that allow their messaging to cut through the noise of an overcrowded marketplace. Consumers use brands as a method for navigating their way through the marketplace. Each brand distinguishes itself, allowing consumers to identify their preferred products and services from those they see as being less desirable. When brand meaning and relevance are clear, the brand will hold a stronger position in consumer’s minds and the more likely they are to choose it.

Branding is not about getting people to choose your offering over the competitions. It is the act of managing consumers’ expectations so as to condition your target audience to see your offering as the only answer to a specific need. Brands are about feelings, not facts. How your customers feel about your brand isn't just a casual question. It is the ONLY question.

In order to develop, cultivate and nurture your brand, there are definite actions and qualities on which you must focus.

You can't fake honesty. You must believe in your own brand. If you don't have faith in what you do or sell, you can't expect your customers to believe in you either.

Focus on that benefit(s) and your means of delivering it. Never lose sight of what it is that your business seeks to achieve for your customers.

Keep it simple. Find out what you can do well for your target audience and concentrate on doing it.

Seth Godin says, “In my experience, people get obsessed about tactical detail before they embrace a brand strategy... and as a result, when a tactic fails, they begin to question the brand strategy that they never really articulated in the first place.”

The next time you find yourself spending 8 hours on tactics and five minutes defining your strategy, you'll understand what's going on.

-Eric D. Schulz

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