While the concept of personal branding has taken off, corporate branding seems to go in and out of favor. Economic cycles may have a lot to do with that. With the growth of the Internet and social technology tools, personal branding opportunities and activity have exploded. On the other hand, in some ways, the arc of Web 1.0 to 2.0+ (not to mention this current economy) has seduced many marketers into being focused on tactics at the expense of strategy including branding. Hot media tactics often substitute for the "strategy."
If you are skeptical that brands still matter in the age of 1-1, millennials and social media, or if you are just trying to run a business and make numbers and don't have the patience for brand consultant-speak or theories, here is a quick, simple refresher on good old-fashioned branding that works today, that can help you frame your marketing and operational tactics...to drive business results.
Your business enterprise and marketing programs will be more successful if they are guided by a cohesive strategy that meets the B.R.A.N.D. criteria.
Your brand strategy must be:
B—Believable (about Belief & Behavior too)
Your brand positioning needs to be credible both with your customers and employees. Would a Volvo strategy around the idea of "sporty" be believable? (they seem to own "safety" for life). In addition, your organization's belief in a brand vision and values and execution on that is critical. Many marketers and even some of my clients all too often equate the brand strategy with a logo. The brand is so much bigger. The brand strategy is about what your business stands for. It should be championed by the CEO, internalized by all employees and behaved and delivered, employee-to-employee, employee-to-customer. Just ask Zappos. And building this brand foundation internally has to take place before an external launch (ads, trade shows, Web site, social media...), otherwise you risk doing more harm to the brand (if your company is not prepared deliver on its promise).
You and your colleagues should be close enough to your customers to develop products and services that truly meet their needs including interacting with them in a meaningful way, through the most relevant media. (see "Nuts About Southwest" blog)
While your brand strategy should be relevant for today and for specific markets, it also needs to be flexible, broad and viable over the long haul. GE's "trust in good things" (1970s-80s) and "imagination & innovation" (this decade) brand positionings are enduring platforms from which diverse, effective concepts, campaigns and media strategies develop.
How you arrive at the brand strategy as well as measure your business' alignment with it and marketing effectiveness must be based on objective data and customer and market inputs versus gut. In addition, your brand opportunity should map to business objectives such as market share and profits (numbers!). If a niche positioning results in being a second tier player it is likely not viable.
One of the toughest challenges is to create a brand strategy that is truly unique. Solutions? Quality? Laundry list of commodity features? Zzzzzzzz. Apple's brand positioning around playful, innovative simplicity has not been duplicated and is seamlessly expressed across media too numerous to name.
So even if you think the B-word is a bad word, and the SM-word (Social Media) is a good word, you might agree that tying your SM programs to an organizing principle, anchoring tactics in an underlying organizational and market strategy (or B-R-A-N-D strategy) is a good thing.
By the way, the Five-Letter Word can also guide your personal branding efforts.
Read more of Kevin Randall's blog
Kevin Randall is Director of Brand Strategy & Research at Movéo Integrated Branding (firstname.lastname@example.org). Kevin consults on brand matters to Fortune 500 companies and specialized health care and business-to-business organizations. His expertise is understanding, integrating and applying research and brand strategy to create business and customer value. Kevin has been invited to speak on brand topics by Google, Harvard Business School, Wharton and Kellogg, and his articles have been published on six continents. His clients at Movéo include Siemens, CareerBuilder, Cardinal Health, Molex, GOJO/Purell and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Prior to joining Movéo, Kevin worked for Interbrand where he developed brand strategies for companies such as Abbott, Alcatel, Cricket Communications, Ford, GE, McDonald's, Motorola, Nationwide, Roche, Smucker's and 3M.
[neuromarketing image by Antaya, wikimedia commons]