The term “brand” gets thrown around like confetti in business and marketing, yet very few understand what it truly stands for. You can leverage these powerful tools to drive business growth only when you appreciate the essence of a brand, branding, and brand management can you leverage these powerful tools to drive business growth.
A brand is not simply a logo, tagline, or symbol associated with a product, individual, or company. But, it is the way the said entity is perceived by those who benefit from or experience it. In other words, a brand is all about the sentiments that a product or service evokes and something with which consumers connect emotionally. It is not the same as products because products are market offerings of a company that merely satisfy customers’ needs and wants.
Let’s take Apple. Most people are Apple brand fans not because of their products or cool advertising. When we talk about the Apple “brand,” we aren’t referring to anything tangible but rather our perception of Apple, what it stands for, and the feelings it evokes in customers. Therefore, brands are simply perceptions, and branding is how an organisation, company, or individual shapes the perceptions.
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What is brand management?
Brand management is a marketing process of building and managing a better brand image. Over time, it involves techniques and strategies to increase a brand or product line’s perceived value. The primary aim of brand management is to add value to a brand by enabling the price of products to go up while building a loyal customer base through solid brand awareness and positive brand associations.
Effective brand management helps an organisation or company differentiate its products from competitors, attract more customers, and build a better relationship with the target market.
Functions of Brand Management
Strategic brand management is key to driving positive brand awareness and strengthening customer relationships. But how? Here’s a list of brand management functions:
- Identifying the target market and the factors that influence their purchasing behaviour
- Building a brand identity that aligns with the market image of the brand and accommodating new brand identity needs from time to time
- Developing a brand message that resonates with the offerings’ value proposition and the needs of the target market
- Communicating the brand message to the target customers and handling brand communication in the market
- Building brand equity and measuring it from time to time
Steps of Strategic Brand Management Process
Strategic brand management revolves around building brand equity and ensuring its growth over time. Therefore, the brand management process involves the planning, executing, and controlling marketing and branding strategies, including activities to promote brand equity building, measurement, and control.
A strategic brand management process comprises four main steps:
- Identification and establishment of brand positioning and values
- Design and execution of brand marketing programmes
- Measurement and evaluation of brand performance
- Growth and sustenance of brand equity
1. Identification and establishment of brand positioning and values
Brand positioning plays a critical role in communicating a brand’s unique value to its customers and dictates customer preferences and buying behaviour. As a result, it serves as the basis for customer loyalty. Therefore, the first step of a strategic brand management process entails a clear understanding of what a brand should represent and how it should be positioned with competitors. It usually involves the following concepts:
- Mental maps: A point-of-view perception of the different brand-linked associations in the consumer’s mind.
- Points of parity: Convincing customers that an offering similar to a competitor makes the brand good enough for inclusion in the category.
- Points of difference: Convincing consumers that the benefits they associate with a brand would not be found in a competitor brand.
- Brand mantra: A short phrase capturing the brand spirit.
- Core brand associations: Attributes that best characterise a brand.
- The frame of reference: Recognising the target market and identifying the nature of competition.
2. Design and execution of brand marketing programmes
Once the brand management team has figured out the positioning strategy, the next step involves planning and implementing marketing programmes to position the brand. The steps involved here are as follows:
- Creating brand elements: Brand elements refer to the brand names, logos, symbols, URLs, taglines, packaging, etc., that identify and differentiate a brand from its competitors. Customers associate most with brand elements, facilitating brand awareness and associations.
- Choosing brand marketing activities: Integrating brand marketing activities create favourable and strong brand associations.
- Tapping secondary associations: This involves linking the brand to characters, countries, sporting and cultural events, distribution channels, and the like to improve the brand equity.
3. Measurement and evaluation of brand performance
Measurement and evaluation of brand performance are essential to understand the impact of various brand marketing programmes. It involves developing and implementing a system to measure brand equity or social value. To implement a brand equity measurement system, marketers need to complete the following steps:
- Brand auditing: A brand audit is an overall evaluation of the brand’s current market position with respect to its competitors. Conducting a brand audit involves an assessment of the strengths and limitations of the brand and suggesting ways to improve brand equity.
- Brand tracking: Brand tracking studies directly collect brand-related information from consumers over time. It helps measure a brand’s current health regarding consumers’ perception and usage.
- Brand equity management system: It refers to a set of tools and research processes designed to identify the sources and consequences of brand equity. It enables marketers to develop the best possible tactics for building, measuring, and managing brand equity.
4. Growth and sustenance of brand equity
Once the brand equity has been built, the real challenge is sustaining and expanding it overtime to ensure that the brand grows. It is a continuous process and involves the following steps:
- Establish brand architecture: Defining the brand architecture means setting down general guidelines about the brand structure, brand elements, and branding strategy. It includes brand portfolio and brand hierarchy. Brand portfolio lists the different brands a company has to offer, and brand hierarchy is the number and nature of unique and common brand elements across the firm’s products.
- Manage brand equity in the long run: It involves marketing decisions that will affect the brand equity in the long run and determine the success of future marketing programmes.
- Reinforce and revitalise: The ultimate step to ensure the growth and sustainability of brand equity is to make the best possible tactical decisions to ensure that a brand continues to enjoy its sources of equity. It involves brand reinforcement to convey the brand image to consumers consistently and brand revitalisation to either recapture lost sources of brand equity or identify and establish new ones.
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Brand management plays a deciding role in shaping a brand, the various strategies providing support and sustaining the brand in the long run. Moreover, brand management enables identifying, establishing, and maintaining brand equity over time and helps build the brand’s corporate image.
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1. What are the three types of branding?
The three most common types of branding are company branding, product branding, and personal branding. Besides, most businesses and organisations fall under one of the following branding categories: 1. A new and emerging business looking to tell their brand story 2. A growing firm looking to update their image and position themselves better in the market 3. An organisation or business undergoing a significant change and looking to reinvent their audience perception
2. How do you brand a company?
Regardless of whether you want to create a personal or company brand, building a new brand involves the following essential steps: 1. Identify your target audience and research your competitors 2. Choose your focus and personality 3. Pick your business name (and write a slogan/brand mantra) 4. Decide the look of your brand (font and colours) 5. Design your unique brand logo 6. Craft a compelling brand story and apply your branding across your business
3. What is brand positioning strategy?
Brand positioning means creating brand associations in consumers’ minds in order to make them perceive the brand in a specific way. In other words, brand positioning defines how a brand is distinctive from its competitors and the image it has in consumers’ minds.