Brand Strategy Tips for Success

Connected People in NetworkDefine your core proposition and manage your brand strategy consistently throughout the whole company to build long-term brand equity.

Large, successful companies like Nike and McDonald’s know how to manage their brands well to maximize the bottom line. Mid-sized companies can achieve branding success by using the same key strategies as corporate giants.

“Brand is really everything you do. It’s not just your advertising, your brand name or the press release. It’s the experience you create over time,” says Catherine Ostheimer, Director, Marketing Communications for GE Capital Americas. Here are five key brand strategy tips she offers for mid-sized businesses:

1. Responsibility for brand management lies with everyone.

“Brand responsibility does not just sit on the shoulders of three people in the organization,” says Ostheimer. “All employees need to understand their role to make the customer happy. For example, Club Car Golf Cars ensured that all employees received education, so that the last worker who put the cars on the truck understood that he was the last one to see them before they were delivered to a golf course. It was his job to make sure that the order was right, the cars looked great and everything was in order on delivery day,” says Ostheimer.

2. Define your core proposition, the special promise that makes your brand different from the competition.

Easton-Bell Sports makes Giro protective cycling gear, Easton baseball bats and Riddell football helmets. In an interview for Bloomberg Enterprise, President and CEO Paul Harrington says, “Easton means engineering, high performance, style and design, protection and speed. It really means changing the game …and what that really means is increasing the performance of athletes, across all our brands.” Ostheimer says, “It’s really important to get at that higher order benefit and reach above the product offering to define what kind of improvement you are really trying to make in peoples’ lives.”

To uncover the core proposition, find what Ostheimer calls “the DNA of the organization,” either by conducting a brand audit or by going back to find out what the founders were originally trying to do when they created the company. A brand audit can uncover the brand promise, the brand personality, and the main attributes the company stands for among internal and external stakeholders. Those findings can then be used to create a brand blueprint that informs all strategic decisions right down to the logo.

“Mid-sized businesses need to think like ‘advertising ninjas’ and execute the right advertising tactic in the right medium at the right time to reach their target audience.”
3. Targeted advertising is critical to build awareness for early growth.

Large companies like Nike enjoy significant market awareness built over many years. By contrast, early-stage mid-sized businesses need to think like ‘advertising ninjas’ and execute the right advertising tactic in the right medium at the right time to reach their target audience. Rather than buying an expensive full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, Ostheimer offers three questions to guide advertising spending decisions:

  • Who is your target audience and where are they located?
  • What kind of information are your key customers and prospects looking for?
  • Where are they getting that information right now – e.g. trade publications?

4. Consistency and continuity are both critical for building long-term brand equity.

No matter the size, all companies need to keep both consistency and continuity in mind to build a strong brand. Think about how confusing it would be if McDonald’s arches were shown in purple sometimes. “You don’t necessarily need a logo cop, but you should maintain a company document that outlines how the brand name and logo are to be used consistently in all communications,” advises Ostheimer.

You might think a logo needs changing every 3-4 years, but think carefully before you move. “It’s important to refresh your brand when you’re making a major change in strategy and product offerings, but if they remain unchanged, you should not change your logo. Customers need to know you are still the same company,” says Ostheimer.

5. Ask the right questions to devise the best strategy for incorporating an acquired brand into a parent company.

Should the original brand name stay or should a new line be folded under the parent company brand name? Ostheimer advises, “In general, a master brand strategy makes a lot of sense from an investment and awareness building standpoint, as with GE Capital, GE Healthcare, or GE Aviation. However, sometimes an acquisition will be very different from all the other lines that it may make sense to keep the original name, like when GE purchased NBC.” Here are three critical questions to ask:

  • Can the product fit within our existing portfolio?
  • Does this new product marry up with our corporate brand promise?
  • Do we have a shared customer base?

If the answer is yes to these three questions, then contemplating bringing that product under the parent brand makes a lot of sense. If the answer is no to any of these, then think long and hard about whether it’s wise to change the brand.

Read More: GE

Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan

word-of-mouth emineo mediaIt’s not uncommon for people to confuse the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. I’ve found the easiest way to explain the difference is like this:

Marketing Strategy – Your marketing strategy is an explanation of the goals you need to achieve with your marketing efforts. (What) Your marketing strategy is shaped by your business goals. Your business goals and your marketing strategy should go hand-in-hand.

Marketing Plan – Your marketing plan is how you are going to achieve those marketing goals. (How) it’s the application of your strategy a road-map that will guide you from one point to another.

The issue is that most people try to set out to achieve the “how” without first knowing the “what.” This can end up wasting resources for a company, both time and money.

When it comes to marketing, we must always identify the what and then dig into the how. If you remember one sentence from this article, it’s this one:

Strategy is the thinking and planning is the doing. Here is an example of how the two work together:

Example:

Objective: To gain broader market adoption.
Marketing Strategy: Introduce into new market segments.
Marketing Plan: Develop marketing campaign that reaches out, identifies with and focuses on that specific segment.

A successful formula that can be used to further explain the importance on marketing strategy and marketing planning looks like this:

Marketing Strategy —> Marketing Plan —> Implementation = Success

  • Your marketing strategy consists of:

    The “what” has to be done.

    Inform consumers about the product or service being offered.

    Inform consumers of differentiation factors.

  • Your marketing plan consists of:

    The “how” to do it.

    Construct marketing campaigns and promotions that will achieve the “what” in your strategy.

  • Your implementation consists of:

    Taking action to achieve items identified in marketing strategy and marketing plan.

If you are preparing your marketing strategy and your marketing plan to go into your business plan these are the components that must go into each section:

Components of Your Marketing Strategy

  • External Marketing Message
  • Internal Positioning Goal
  • Short Term Goals and Objectives
  • Long Term Goals and Objectives

Components of Your Marketing Plan

  • Executive Summary – High level summary of your marketing plan.
  • Your Challenge – Brief description of products / services to be marketed and a recap of goals identified in your marketing strategy.
  • Situation Analysis – This section should identify the following:
  • Goals
  • Focus
  • Culture
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Market Share
  • Analysis of Your Customer – How many customers would you like to strive for? What type of customers are they? What are the values that drive them? What does their decision process look like? What customers will you focus on for the products or services that you offer?
  • Analysis of Your Competitors – What’s your marketing position? What’s their market position? What are your strengths when it comes to your competitors? What are your weaknesses? What market share are you going after? What market share has your competitor already tapped?
  • Identification of your 4 P’s (Product / Price / Distribution / Place)
  • Summary – Summary of above and how you will use this information to achieve the goals you have identified in your marketing strategy. Be specific – the more specific actions you have the easier it will to follow through on the last step which is implementation.As you can see your marketing strategy goes hand-in-hand in with your marketing plan. Without both you will find that you not only waste resources, but that you could also end up stuck without an idea of where to go.Another key point is don’t forget to measure any marketing campaigns that you launch in order to see what works and what doesn’t. You can use this information to guide you in the future.

Read More: About.com

Your Marketing Mix

4Ps_Marketing_Mix emineo mediaYour marketing mix is a combination of marketing tools that are used to satisfy customers and company objectives. Consumers often call the marketing mix “the offering.” Your offer is controlled by the following variables often referred to as the four Ps in marketing:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (Distribution)
  • Promotion

By using variations of these four components you have the ability to reach multiple consumers within your target market.

Creating a successful marketing mix that will increase results often takes experimenting and market research. There are many methods that can be used, both in person and the use of impersonal presentations. The key is to not always depend on “one” mix always explore other avenues. The combining and coordination of these elements will be more effective than depending on one.

You must coordinate all elements so that the prospective consumer is not being sent mixed messages that can cause confusion. Do all of your elements contain the same message? Take for example the following scenario:

“We are a company that specializes in marketing services and we cater to physicians, however the products we offer fulfill the needs of lead generation for lawyers. Our price is geared an enterprise budget and our magazine advertisements and promotions are being placed in magazines that have a subscription base of senior citizens.”

Do you see a problem with this? While in this scenario it is very obvious, I guarantee that by looking at your marketing mix you may find discrepancies that surprise you. Always make sure that your marketing mix has a message that speaks in unison.

For instance make sure that if you have a practice that caters to a niche market that your product is geared towards the need of that market, your price is within the budget of that market, you are distribution your product or service where it will be seen by that market. Lastly, gear your promotion to solve the problems that they are encountering.

If you remember one thing from this article it is that one of the main keys to the success of any marketing program is the ability to work effectively in shaping marketing mixes that meet the nature and needs of your specified target market.

Read More: About.com