Define 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:
“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.
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.
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.
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