DEFINITION OF BRAND:

Below is an industry definition of brand that is called from academic texts and the writings of leading brand professionals. It is included here because many otherwise knowledgeable marketing people totally misunderstand its meaning and scope. They think too narrowly about �brand identity� that entails mainly logos, tagline and advertising. Thus, they entrust their brand to their ad agencies and design firms. In truth, these are the most expensive applications of brand � and the least important! Here is what brand means.

�Your brand resides within the hearts (feelings) and minds (intellect) of your custom
mers and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some you cannot. Your brand happens, with or without you.
Successful brand managers understand (by measuring) the needs and wants of customers and prospects. They seek to meet these needs and wants in a differentiating way, versus competitors. Then initiate integrated strategies throughout the company at every point of public contact, consistently over time.�

VALUES OF A STRONG BRAND:

In this economy, when budgets are reviewed, line items tied to spending on �brand� often do not survive the cut. Research shows this stems from management not fully understanding the scope, value � and even the savings � of investing in a strong brand. This is a tragedy because correctly applied brand management practices are essential to survival in this economy. When companies do not invest � or under-invest � in their brand, here is what they are sacrificing.

BENEFITS OF BRAND INVESTMENT:

  • Leadership in any climate. Leading brands are seen as the �go to� company. Perceived as �the glass half full� in minds of editors, analysts, customers and employees, creating resilience in times of a poor economy and/or negative press.
  • Higher prices and margins yield greater profitability, but also provide shelter from (low) price-only competition
  • Shareholder value, warranting higher share price, smaller market dips and faster recoveries than their peers
  • Market share gains in depressed markets when lesser competitors struggle, fail or become acquired
  • Marketing efficiency. By leveraging existing brand equity (awareness, values and loyalty), company can launch new products faster, with smaller budgets
  • Sales efficiency. When customers believe you understand and satisfy their needs (clearly) better than competitors

MEANING OF BRAND STRATEGY:

Brand strategy is one of the most fraught areas of marketing, though clearly also one of the most important. There are many problems with definition. The key point is you can �t have a strategy without a clear objective. Restating a goal is not strategy, execution is not Strategy, and tactics are not strategy. A brand Cannot function without a strategy and the function of brand management is to implement brand strategy.

RESPONSIBLE FOR BRAND STRATEGY:

�Corporate conviction and commitment offer the key to excellence in brand management and these are things that can originate only at the highest level within a business, otherwise, like a thinly-rooted plant, good practice will be washed away by the first winter storm.�

For several decades marketing was characterized by powerful brand:

Management systems that devolved marketing responsibility onto the shoulders of bright but young brand managers eager to make their mark quickly. They had substantial powers over the brand strategy, image and positioning.

This is changing irrevocably as brand strategy becomes too fundamental a part of a company�s worth to be left to a relatively Self-contained marketing department. Marketing is now too complex a discipline and one with too many cross-functional implications for companies to entrust it entirely to junior managers.

Brand responsibility is thus moving higher up the line in many companies. In some cases this means establishing a central strategic unit, which oversees brand strategy globally while leaving tactical activities to the local markets.

Adding impetus to the tendency to make the chief executive the top brand manager is the realization of the growing importance of devising and implementing a coherent strategy for the corporate brand.

Even though the CEO is the guardian of brand strategy,� it is the collective power of individuals in an organization that provides and sustains competitive advantage. When all employees �and not just senior managers �are engaged with the organization �s purpose, it enables the organization to adapt to changing circumstances, develop plans that are founded in organizational reality and deliver bottom line value.�

Brand strategy development must involve all levels of marketing management and stands a better chance of success when all other relevant internal departments and external agencies are actively involved.

Brand strategies � we employ best practices in brand management to focus sales messages and strategies for competitive advantage and maximum customer value, this year and next

Product launches � we help develop and launch new products that are proven to meet real customer �needs,� with ROI-based processes that reduce risk and costs, and speed time-to-market

Brand training � prior to launch, we train staff and suppliers that engage customers, including the sales department, marketing, service, support and HR. The goal is to demonstrate how to �live the brand�

Marketing communications � we guide integration of sales messages, including verbal, printed, broadcast, Web, advertising and PR � to support brand strategies

Results measurement � we develop multiple metrics � both internal and external � to validate strategies, reduce costs and risk, increase efficiency and time-to-market

Strategic marketing consortium always has provided up-front "external" brand positioning and messaging strategies. What�s different is now we go broader and deeper within the organization to help meet today's brand challenges. For example, we help companies start the product development process with the customer, at the R&D level. We also guide "internal" branding issues such as organizational structure, assigning of stakeholders, and training of staff and suppliers so they can "live the brand." Externally, sales communications, advertising and PR are integrated with the brand strategy at all touch points. And finally, there�s a continuous feedback loop of metrics to assess progress, cut risk, save money and get smarter over time.

We also are not immune to the intense importance today of sales growth, efficiency of operations and ROI. With these in mind, we help companies meet these needs in the context of building their brand.

MESSAGE FROM THE TOP

Articulate a clear brand strategy. A well-defined vision and mission, including short-and long-term goals of the organization, must be identified from the top of the organization. This then carries into senior management, and should further permeate throughout the organization. The entire management team should be highly visible and engage their employees on a regular basis, with a consistent, continuously delivered message. As importantly, be sure that the mission is not just lip service, or a corporate slogan/jingle, but rather one that is truly meaningful.

COMMUNICATE IT

The heart of an employee branding strategy. Communicating to employees is key to any successful employee branding initiative. Employees want to hear both face-to-face and in writing about corporate direction and changes affecting them and the organization. This can include speeches, regularly scheduled meetings, corporate newsletters, a company Intranet and, preferably, a combination of many modes of communication.

LISTEN

An open door is an open mind. When we are born we are all trained to speak, but there is much less emphasis on the importance of listening. Employees shold share in development of the vision and brand strategies. An employee survey is one way to start. Find out how they perceive and feel about the brand and what input they have to share.

As your branding strategies become further defined and adjusted, be sure that all employees are kept in the loop. Be sure employees not only understand what the company and brand stand for but also the policies that drive the internal brand message.

NETWORKING

Treat your organization as a larger business community. Employees should be encouraged to foster stronger working relationships across the organization. This gives them not only a sense of belonging but also an understanding of how others in the organization work and the challenges they encounter.

MOTIVATION

Reward employees and they will reward the company. Sure, it is a tough business environment. And maybe the top talent won�t be jumping ship so quickly, but employees need to be rewarded for their work. This does not always have to be in the form of monetary rewards. Other types of recognition (for individuals and teams) can go a long way. Be careful not to make it an elitist program though, as this could de-motivate rather than incentives employees. And don�t forget to encourage risk taking as, far too often, companies tend to be risk-averse, which will inhibit creative thinking.

CAREER PATH

Help employees build their own futures. By helping employees develop a career path, they will not only understand the present value of their work, but the future value as well. So what is the value in all of this increased employee awareness and quest to build a more dedicated staff?

First of all, it can bring about innovation and change�a dedicated employee is a more creative one. You get employees who are more committed, who are willing to spend that extra hour in the office, and can problem-solve as well as embrace necessary change. And, by effectively encouraging and rewarding employees, it can ultimately lead to new ways of doing business, creating totally new business processes that can further increase productivity and results.

And, of course, no business can grow without the customer. A satisfied customer is a result of not just the experience with a customer-service person, but rather of the efforts of the entire organization. Therefore, a dedicated workforce throughout the organization equals a truly customer-centric organization. One that takes ownership in the customer to all levels. Finally, all of this not only helps the company to grow, but strengthens the brand itself. Your employees are not only encouraged, but also choose, to speak highly of your company and its products and services, even when not on official business time.

Considerations for brand strategy

Three basic truths have to be borne in mind when developing and implementing strategy:

Remember that markets are dynamic, not static

1. Setting a rigid course which allows no organizational or operational flexibility is disastrous in today�s fast moving world. If a brand maintains a very rigid course and is run only in relation to its own history and standards while other brands are changing around it, then often that brand can find itself out of step with the market.

2. Remember that part of a successful brand strategy is defining what is immutable and what is flexible. Execution may change while the brand strategy remains the same. Tactics may vary while the brand strategy remains the same.

3. There are many ways to respond to market conditions or even lead them by using Relevant execution and tactics, which are still true to the strategy of the brand.

Remember that in today�s world �everything communicates�

1) Brand strategy must be implemented and executed at every single point of interaction a stakeholder may have with the brand. It is not something just carried by the advertising.

2) In the service sector this is a particular challenge for brands as they seek to direct the behaviour of thousands of staff to deliver a certain promise. It is now virtually impossible to claim a service advantage where one cannot be absolutely consistently delivered.

3) You have to win support for the brand across the organisation. The individual employee�s ability to deliver the brand promise consistently makes all the difference between a business that merely owns a trademark and a business where brand capital is constantly augmented. The problem is the lack of success of so many �living the brand� internal programmes.

4) The new way of assimilating the desired brand values into the whole business requires systems, structures, plans based on comprehensive gap analysis, and a mobilisation programme designed to exploit the particular skills of brand experts to engage hearts and minds of everyone as �brand capital generators�. [Gilmore, 2001]

Remember that in today�s world brands have stakeholders beyond just consumers:

1) Employees and shareholders are the obvious ones but increasingly there is pressure on companies for transparency and standards in all aspects of their enterprise.

2) Skilled people can choose where to work; investors have a wide choice of investment opportunities; customers can choose what to buy and where to buy it. This choice means that your stakeholders have both the right and the opportunity to understand and influence what your company does and doesn�t do.

3) Kotter and Hesket found that over an 11- year period, companies that put the emphasis on customers, employees and shareholders significantly outperformed those that focused on only one or two of these groups.

4) Social responsibility and the brand as �citizen� are growing topics of interest and concern. Recent events surrounding ethical business in corporate America have further exacerbated this.

5) Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not a management fad and will become integral to all business and communication strategies. The business case will become better quantified and increasingly accepted as part of the corporate balance sheet. [BBG Newsletter, summer 2001]


To read more articles on Textile, Fashion, Apparel, Technology, Retail and General please visit www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article

To promote your company, product and services via promotional article, follow this link: http://www.fibre2fashion.com/services/featrued-article/featured_article.asp