When it comes to brand management each new initiative is different in terms of resources and execution, however the ultimate goal is the same: building a brand that is differentiated and profitable. Marketers often get sidetracked by everyday tasks such as sending e-mails, updating the social media pages and responding product-related inquiries. Their to-do list is usually long and sometimes tend to pay less attention to the final output.
I listed below five brand management principles that force me to think of the end result of every Marketing initiative. I apply them to each project to make sure I work toward what’s really important when it comes to building a strong brand.
Focus on what’s important
Any important Marketing decision has to start with an important question: Is this new initiative in line with what the company is known for? A brand that wants to be too many things ends up being nothing, and give specialized competitors the opportunity to claim a slice of the market. The more focused a brand is the more it breaks through the clutter.Loss of focus leads to brand failure. Below is an example:
Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberry, decided to compete head-to-head with Apple for a slice of the consumer market instead of focusing on the market segment where the company has a strong competitive advantage: business customers. The result: RIM has recently laid-off 2000 employees, and the company struggles to remain competitive.
Differentiate your brand
One important question I ask myself at the start of each project is: will this project contribute to my brand’s differentiation strategy? Or Am I just following the competition?
A strong brand stands up for something unique in the mind of the consumer. The reasons are simple: fierce competition and the multitude of choices consumer have today. If are not able to provide your target market with a reason to buy then your only option is to compete on price.
The market for hybrid vehicles offers an excellent example of successful differentiation strategy. The undisputed leader in the segment is Toyota Prius, with US sales of over 18,000 units in March 2011, according to http://www.hybridcars.com. The number two brand, Honda Insight, is far behind with only 2700 units sold. The reason for their success is obvious in my opinion: while their competitors took existing non hybrid models and added the word “Hybrid” after the name, Toyota implemented a complete differentiation strategy: a stand alone name (Prius) and a design that is looks different than the non-hybrid models. As a result, “Prius” is the synonym for “hybrid car”.
One of the biggest challenges Marketers face is a “noisy” communication environment, where the “core message” is difficult to communicate. The same differentiating message has to be repeated over and over in order for it to be understood. Consistency means having a simple and clear core message and using a smart communication strategy to reinforce it over and over again.
Italian shoe manufacturer Geox built their brand around an innovation that allows the insole to absorb sweat while it expels it as a water vapor through the micro-holes in the out-sole. This differentiation idea is reflected into the core message and tagline “The shoe that breathes” and depicted visually by a shoe sole that “breathes”.
Simplify your communication
Consumer’s attention span is shrinking, which makes the Brand Manager’s job challenging. Brands have about 10 seconds to make a first good impression. That’s why the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle is highly effective and recommended.
Simplifying your communication means focusing on the essentials and leaving the rest out. In terms of product, simplicity might mean “easy to use”. In Marketing Communications it means using plain language and getting to the point quickly. Less is more. Simple is better.
A method to verify this principle is to ask for feedback whenever possible. If the feedback you are getting is positive you can put a check-mark beside simplicity.
Develop visually appealing Marketing materials
I strongly believe that aesthetics plays an important role in the purchase decision, although a lot of people don’t like to admit it. Product packaging and marketing materials that “look good” can make the difference between success and failure. I often use visual appeal as a differentiation point, in categories where the main competitors don’t pay attention to how the brand presents itself to the world.
If a consumer has to choose between two products with the same features he/she will prefer the one that looks more appealing to the eye. That’s because visual appeal is usually associated with a better user experience and functionality.
The principles above help me be efficient and see the big picture. What about your experience? Please feel free to add to the list.
My name is Michael, a Toronto-based Professional Certified Marketer. I am the publisher of BrandUniq, the Marketing and Brand Management blog that offers strategic advice on how to build strong and differentiated brands.