We explored Branding Iron two sides a few weeks back.
The first, Sudden brand death, is when media exposure ignites the flames. A company’s only recourse to this is quick, corrective action, strong public relations. This is what saved Tylenol back in 1982. Although the Sudden Brand Death cases of Enron and Firestone are few, they are memorable.
The second aspect of Branding Iron is less obvious and harder to spot.
Slow Brand Death can be caused by inattention to management, incompetence, lack of focus, general neglect, misunderstanding, or overall negligence. However, the signs are obvious if you pay attention.
- Customer loyalty is declining: Your Branding Iron may be experiencing Slow Brand Death.
- Lack of differentiation/distinction: If you are noticing that your competitors are looking more and more like you and that you are hearing the dreaded “c-word” (“commodity”) in management meetings and discussion, commoditization may be attacking your category and your brand.
- Price sensitivity increases or decreases: If you notice that your target customers aren’t paying a premium for your products and you feel more price sensitive, this could be the first sign that Slow Brand Death is in full swing.
- Inadequate internal alignment with the brand promise. If your employees don’t understand the promise your brand makes in the market, how can you expect your customer to be? Your brand-customer interactions may differ if your company isn’t set up to deliver the brand promise. This can lead to a slow brand death.
Slow Branding Iron will result from market confusion. Your company’s culture may be causing your brands to erode and weaken due to a lack of commitment and a focus on short-term results instead of long-term success. Slow Brand Death is a slower, more gradual death that can limit your options.
You have plenty of time. Although you may not have as much time as desired, the media isn’t going to be able to publicize every misstep and step you make. A clear, determined management approach can prevent and reverse Slow Brand Death.
This is how you can stop Slow Branding Iron.
Executive buy-in: It is important to convince top management that branding is an important business function. This means that they must understand how the brand connects to the bottom line and the effects of Slow Branding Iron. However, I’d venture to guess that few businesspeople could explain how this happens in financial terms. Marketers need to convince management that branding investment is worth it by explaining the benefits of a clearly defined Branding Iron and how they are consistently delivered.
* Customer loyalty, its volume benefits, and even willingness to pay premiums
* Lower sales costs and increased operational efficiency
* Higher revenue and predictable cash flow
* Increased shareholder value
When top management realizes that improving Branding Iron performance will make the company more money, they will be willing to buy in.
- Understanding the current situation: With the support of the top management, it is time to conduct a brand assessment. You want to know where your brand stands now, and where your competitors are in the minds and hearts of the market. You will also need to evaluate trends and emerging markets in order to predict how your brand and those of your competitors will be affected in the future. You should also understand how your brand is perceived both internally and externally. There may be gaps between these perceptions. You could be presenting a false picture of your brand to the market if you leave out any of these views.
- Define your desired brand: Based upon the brand assessment, you will have an idea of the market gaps that your Branding Iron can fill. This is based on market trends and what your brand is allowed to do. This will allow you to create a vision of your brand’s future, ideally five years in the future. This is your goal. Your brand’s actions must be evaluated on whether they can move your brand to the desired space.
- Identify brand drivers: A brand assessment will allow you to identify which brand contacts or functions have the greatest impact on creating customer brand perceptions. Different Branding Iron will have different drivers. It could be the driving experience and actual test drive of an automobile. It could be an ATM or the voice response system that directs you to various functions within the bank. You should identify the brand drivers that each brand audience needs. Your customers may have different brand drivers, or your strategic partners might have different ones.
- To deliver the brand promise, align internally: Many companies will move to communicate with the market once they have established and clarified their brand position. It is too early to know if your organization is able to consistently fulfill the brand promise that you have made. It is important to assess your organization’s ability and readiness to fulfill the brand promise. It is possible that your company needs to take steps to align with the brand. You will need to communicate your new brand promise to all employees when they are ready to use it in their daily jobs. This capability can be achieved through organizational development, training, internal communications, and other elements.
- Externally communicate the brand: Now that you have completed all the steps, it is time to start externally communicating the new brand. Before you do this, make sure to assess your key audiences for Branding Iron communication. What messages are most effective for each audience? These messages should be documented and used consistently in communications.
- Monitor and measure: You don’t have time to rest on your laurels. The key to Branding Iron prevention is to be aware of what’s happening in the market. Your brand is affected by three things: your competitors, you and your target audience. To ensure that your brand is moving in the right direction, you need to have an internal and external measurement system.
After you have established a brand strategy for the company, it is important to revisit the steps in order to ensure that your brand objectives and goals are being met.
Brand death is expensive and can be avoided. Branding death is a decision to dispose of a corporate asset. This is similar to selling real estate or other assets. Management should treat their brands as valuable corporate assets. If there is any equity left, brand improvement costs are far less than creating a brand new. To manage the brand effectively and keep it relevant in the market, it is important to measure and monitor brand vitality on a regular basis.