The focus of this post is on how to build a brand, a critical element in the success of your business. Regardless if you are a startup organization, or you are trying to re-energize an existing brand; a strong brand is essential.
Think about why someone selects Coca-Cola over another brand, and you have your answer…it’s brand.
Here is a famous quote from the marketing genius, Philip Kotler on brand building:
“The art of marketing is the art of brand building. If you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything, and the low-cost producer is the only winner.”
– Philip Kotler
At a high-level, strong brands influence:
Building a brand is important because individual consumers and business leaders face an increasing number of choices in a complex business environment with little time to make important decisions. A strong brand is more critical as business complexity increases with the ability for a brand to reduce risk, set expectations, and simplify difficult decisions.
A strong brand that consistently fulfills its promises over time is essential to survival and offers the potential for competitive advantage if properly executed.
Here are some of the reasons why brand is important for consumers and organizations:
Hopefully, I have convinced you of the critical nature of building and nurturing a strong brand. The rest of the post provides a roadmap on how to build a brand or reinvigorate an existing brand.
When you think of brands you probably think of Apple, Microsoft, McDonalds, GE, Nike, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Amazon. In the complex environment we live in, great brands are still being built. Consider brands such as Toms Shoes, Tesla, H&M just to mention a few. Let’s start by defining brand and branding.
The process of branding involves selecting a brand position, identification of the brand, and creating a brand image.
A brand position provides a means to identify with the company, differentiate itself in the marketplace, and guarantee consistency to consumers. Selecting a brand position for an organization is the starting point for the brand strategy.
Once a brand strategy is formed, an integrated marketing communication (IMC) can be created to influence perceptions of the corporate brand, and if applicable each sub-brand across all channels. The brand position is an integral part of the brand identity and value proposition for a company indicating the competitive advantage to the target audience.
Selecting a corporate brand position and a sub-brand position provides a core component helping to build the brand effectively. In addition, marketing activities require performance at the corporate brand and sub-brand levels to support the brand strategy and IMC process.
Selecting a corporate brand position using competitive strengths provide an opportunity to support the brand strategy using realistic competitive advantages. The corporate brand strategy is the embodiment of the company and resides above the brand portfolio.
To determine how the corporate brand is perceived by its customers the market research team can survey a sample of clients from different markets or product lines. The survey otherwise known as perceptual mapping provides a technique to map visually how customers perceive an organization compared to competing companies. The surveys can use various content criteria, which could include items such as innovation, operational excellence, logistics, integrity, intensity, and collaboration.
The perceptual mapping helps to determine if the company’s operational excellence strength will resonate with different customer segments, or a repositioning effort is required to leverage its strengths. It may also uncover other positive or negative perceptions about the corporate brand that require action.
The positioning of the corporate brand leverages the business strategy and inherent strengths of the organization. In addition, the positioning provides a positive way to identify with the company, differentiate itself in the marketplace, and guarantee consistency to consumers. The positioning of the sub-brands provides the platform to create clear and consistent messaging to meet the company objectives team.
Each brand position should provide the ability to exploit a unique position in key markets. Positioning of the corporate brand and the sub-brands establishes a foundation for the other brand building components to form the branding strategy. The positioning selected establishes specific associations providing a clear and unique position in the key target markets. Positioning also assists the marketing team to provide clarity, continuity, consistency, visibility, and authenticity in the IMC approach.
Names and symbols used to express the brand provide a method for consumers to find the product and services of a brand in every environment. Creating memorable name and symbol provide the following benefits:
Selecting a brand name blends art and science. On the creative side, marketing partners, or internal brainstorming can assist with developing and selecting brand names by conducting extensive market research.
Symbols provide a quick visual identity for a brand. Logos and trademarks are important symbols for brands. Logos and trademarks should use the following guidelines in design:
Creating a brand image involves breathing life into the brand and connecting with consumers. The brand image is the mental image a consumer has about the brand from its brand messages and experiences used to form an impression of the brand. Three critical factors play a role in creating a brand image including affect, cognition, behavior, and the environment.
The Red Bull example provides details of how environmental factors including affect, cognition, behavior, and the environment are used by Red Bull to influence consumer behavior.
Red Bull’s brand image is constructed based on principles including;
Red Bull cans are made of recyclable aluminum that is slimmer than regular cans with a silver and blue color scheme and two red bulls locked in battle. The color scheme using predominantly silver provides a modern appeal along with the ‘red’ color scheme and action of the bulls symbolizes going to the extreme and fighting for what you want to achieve.
The blue color on the can is calming and produces images of authority, success, and security. Red Bull’s slogan is “it gives you wings” is associated with exceeding beyond what the individual believes to be capable of and transcending all expectations.
The cognitive system performs mental processes including understanding, evaluating, planning, deciding, and thinking. Cognition is defined as a consumer’s knowledge, meanings, and beliefs about the energy drink brands in this case based on experience and retained memory. The customer’s cognition of the Red Bull brand comes from its use of promotions to market the brand.
Red Bull initially focused on sampling at “cool” events, college campus, and targeted bars relevant to the millennial target audience. Event marketing with unique music and extreme sports events created a grassroots authentic word of mouth campaign further stimulating demand. The event marketing strategy and tactics created a lifestyle and aspirational brand for Red Bull. The event marketing complements the premium pricing strategy positioning the brand cognitively in the mind of the consumer.
Another strategy added later to great effect is the digital and social media using a content marketing strategy further enhanced the premium pricing strategy. Red Bull sets the trend as a content marketer adding significant value for the target millennial audience further justifying the price premium and exclusivity especially within the millennial generation.
Red Bull relies on its premium pricing strategy and its ability to cognitively differentiate Red Bull providing significant value to the target audience.
Red Bull’s packaging, labels, promotional items, and all visual communication tools feature the brand and product logo used as a stimulus (eye-catching). When a consumer walks into a retail location and sees the Red Bull logo and packaging, it activates the consumer cognitively to think about the positive event experience and the other mental structures that Red Bull controls.
The consumer demand generated from the grassroots marketing tactics provided the ability for Red Bull to request premium shelf space in convenience stores and grocery stores. Red Bull from the beginning demanded prime shelf space and the ability to place its unique branded cooler in an establishment; otherwise, it would not stock the retailer with Red Bull.
The brand relationship is how the consumer identifies with the brand, otherwise known as consumer brand identification (CBI) that is a critical factor in the branding process. The key components of CBI include:
The six factors directly affect the consumer’s level of involvement with the brand’s product category. The six factors have a direct influence on brand advocacy and brand loyalty.
The degree of similarity between a consumer’s perception of their personality traits and the characteristics of the brand. In other words, the higher degree of similarity between a brand and individual the more likely the consumer identifies with the brand.
Distinctiveness relates to an individual’s goal-directed behavior to seek differentiation through the use or acquisition of consumer goods or services to develop a personal or social identity. Simply put it can be the customer’s to express their identity through the consumption of brands that are not mass produced or consumed. The higher degree of brand distinctiveness a consumer perceives, the more an individual identifies with the brand.
Brand prestige refers to consumer behavior that seeks products and services that reflect or endow the individual with a positive association with the person they are or the person they would like to be. Simply put, it is the esteem an individual gives to a brand. The higher the perception a consumer gives to a brand that they feel is prestigious the more they will identify with the brand.
The idea that brands provide social and cultural meaning. The social benefits an individual associates with the brand provide cultural meaning or social membership. Customers are more likely to identify with brands as a method to engage and connect with significant social or cultural entities.
The level of warmth attributed to a brand by the individual consumer. Warmth is related to an emotional connection with a brand rather than a rational manner perceived as cold. The higher degree of warmth increases the chance of the customer identifying with the brand.
The ability for a brand to create memorable and positive prior experiences with the brand that the consumer draws on when deciding to purchase or not purchase a brand.
Once the brand building elements are selected the IMC coordinates and manages the marketing communications including consistency in messaging, promoting collaboration amongst all stakeholders. The IMC can ensure successful brand identity using a strategically driven method.
A strong brand weaves together your product and service offerings, giving it an identity in the marketplace. The roadmap on how to build a brand provides an approach to begin to create and develop your brand strategy. The brand building process can be used to re-energize and help you to think strategically about your brand to deliver bottom-line results for your business. Red Bull provides an excellent case study on how to build a successful brand from the ground up focused on delivering value to their target consumer.