Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Developing the brand.

To develop a brand, you must have a marketing strategy. Once you have that, spend as much money as you can on establishing your brand. Give products away to get great customers to use them early on and build momentum. Build the biggest, boldest branding campaign you can and take all the new business you can get. Power through the hiccups and play catch-up with all the other elements of the business. Grow as fast as the market allows you. Have a gigantic vision - don’t wait until you’ve done it all to make bold claims or it’ll be too late. Branding establishes your identity depending on how loudly you scream about it. Make the claim and pay it back. Work to get your brand and reputation to exceed who you are because your brand has an enormous impact on your valuation.

The most successful businesses are those that tie their product to a single concept in the customer's mind, such as Volvo and safety; Federal Express and overnight delivery. The more specific the focus, the more everybody in the company can have that focus too. Brand recognition can help raise the barriers to entry for smaller, more obscure rivals that might compete on technology or on marketing, but can’t compete on both. Technologies frequently change, but a great brand goes on and on. A product or service can be copied or imitated, but a brand cannot.

When you develop a brand program, don’t forget your employees are a primary audience. They must understand what the brand promises so they can translate and interpret it. Branding serves both to focus people’s strategic thinking and to shape customer’s perceptions of the business’s unique value proposition. Successful brand marketing is effective even when the consumer isn’t thinking of buying your product. It plants a seed in the mind of a consumer not yet in the market. In businesses where products or services become obsolete quickly, a strong brand is one of the few things customers and employees have to hold on to, but a brand means little unless it’s accompanied by quality, consistency and flawless execution.

McDonald’s core brand attributes are being reliable, fast, wholesome, American and family-minded. If Mercedes made hamburgers or computers, it wouldn’t get much advantage from putting its logo on them. Consumers are smart enough to know what the boundaries of brands are, so new offerings must be complimentary to the company’s existing core products. Many successful new products are really extensions of existing products. The core attributes of the Coke brand are permanence (“Always Coca-Cola”), authenticity (“The Real Thing”), and feeling good. The Coca-Cola company conducts regular consumer surveys to determine how the beverage scores on more than a dozen value attributes which have included “young,” “modern,” “warm,” and “friendly.” More people buy Coke than any other cola and, most importantly, they enjoy the experience of buying and drinking Coca Cola. The fond memories of childhood and refreshment that people have when they drink Coke are often more important than a little bit better cola taste. It’s this emotional relationship with brands that make them so powerful.

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