Issue #18 January 2012

Branding - More than a Logo

It seems the words "brand" and "branding" are becoming somewhat overused these days. This is  particularly the case when people talk about "branding" a business, when they are actually referring to imaging or reimaging. In business, brand involves much more than just logos or names; it is the culmination of a user’s total experience with a product or service (or company) over many years. In the knowledge economy, brands are one of the few sources of competitive advantage because, if they are successful, they create a resonance in consumers’ minds that is hard to copy.

In 1997, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in New York for Sheraton General Managers and Directors of Marketing, where one of the main speakers was the Senior VP Brands for Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. For me, this presentation was the highlight of the conference with her most important point being that successful brands create a special relationship between the customer and the company or product by meeting not just functional but also emotional expectations in the experience they deliver and the way they are presented. This means is that consumers uasually choose brands to reinforce their self-image and generate peer-group approval.

Brand can be defined as the sum of the tangible and intangible benefits provided by a product or service and it encompasses the entire customer experience. Brands are thus pivotal to the relationship between companies and their customers.  A successful brand has both a unique point of differentiation from the competition and values that the customer segment really wants.

Companies or products do not start as brands but achieve this status as they develop over time. A good brand can save the consumer time and effort and act as a shorthand device of trust when making a choice between competing products. It reduces the risk of a potentially poor choice and offers the consumer a guarantee of consistent performance, quality and thus satisfaction.

The visual elements of the brand, including the name and logo, provide a universal reference point that must be maintained through a harmonious and consistent application of both the name and the associated graphic elements. For successful brands, this reference point conveys meaning far beyond its core elements and must be carefully managed at all times.

Many famous brands have a heritage and exceptional longevity, such as Moët & Chandon founded in 1743, Coca-Cola developed in 1886 with its famous glass bottle appearing in 1915 and Cadbury’s founded in 1831. In contrast, Google has been around for just 13 years and Facebook only 7 years. When a brand fails to deliver continuously the values, promise and trust that underpin the relationship with their customers, then it usually fades away or in some cases die a sudden death. Examples of this are Pontiac, News of the World and in Australia, Starbucks.

Brands can operate at a local, regional, national and global level, depending on the target market and the position the brand seeks to achieve within that market. Developing a brand is a highly strategic process with the Brand Strategy fitting into a business’s strategic planning hierarchy between the strategic goals of the organisation and its key business strategies. In this way, the brand strategy directly guides all marketing and communications, internally as well as externally, creating alignment with core values and key messages across all areas of the business.

Is your business or product a brand, and are you managing it effectively? Do you have a brand strategy guides and directs the experience you deliver to your customers?

If you like more information on brands and branding, contact us on 4771 4566.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

 So said management guru Peter Drucker.
 
Boston-based global consultants, Bain & Company found in a survey of 1,200 international executives that 9 out of 10 agreed “culture is as important as strategy for business success.”
 
Organisations with strong, well-developed cultures have higher performance levels than organisations that lumber along from strategy to strategy. This is because a good strategy may affect only a narrow outcome whereas a strong culture influences everything an organisation does.
 
While corporate culture is receiving considerably more management attention than in previous years, Bain research also shows that fewer than 10 per cent of companies currently succeed at building high-performance cultures.
 
The key to success is ensuring that culture and strategy become so interwoven they cannot be separated. Embedding engagement as a way of organisational being and practice builds the road to organisational culture change.
 
A company’s strategy – for managing employees, for acquiring customers, for increasing shareholder value – must be always mindful of the culture the company wants to foster. Employees, customers - even shareholders - are emotional beings, and it is the company culture that appeals at the deepest level to those and other constituents.

When a culture of appreciation becomes woven into the fabric of a company’s strategy, then the significant gains possible through employee engagement will be realised.  And the only way to make the strategy work is to make sure that the people parts fit.
 
Affecting any change in an organisation's culture requires many shifts in belief, focus, practice and leadership. Missions, policies and strategies in themselves are not enough to shift a culture; however, these are valuable tools that support culture change.
 
Changing practices and procedures, and changing the behaviour of people, requires setting and embracing the intention, then following through with organisational learning and support.