WRITTEN BY YAHEL DEMETER
Building a brand is an art form, and there’s no single way to do it. Ultimately, it means one thing: getting your marketing channels to match the right product to the right person. This is the essence of marketing in my opinion, and branding is always part of your marketing activity.
With a strong brand, it’s easier to sell your products or services; it’s easier to convince customers; and it’s also easier to set higher prices than your competitors, as I will elaborate on shortly, and it’s easier to penetrate international markets and offer them your services and products with the necessary adjustments.
First off, let's start with the three stages of brand building:
1. Characterizing the Brand Triangle - Target Audience, Competition and Product:
When characterizing the brand triangle, you must visualize it as an actual triangle that links your product to the consumer and the competition, allowing you to better adjust your product or service to the competition and the needs of the target audience. The order is always the same: first you figure out what the consumer wants, then you find out what your competition offers or may offer (there’s also a tip for better handling of future competition) and then you adjust the product based on the information you collected in the first two stages.
First, let's start with the target audience. To understand who they are, what they want and the best place to present your product or service to them, you must understand their daily routine and their decision-making process. Characterizing a target audience is an important, profound and meaningful process, which I will try to sum up for you. In marketing, there is a contemporary concept called "Customer Journey," which describes the journey the customer goes through, both physically and in terms of marketing, until being exposed to your brand. A customer journey can encompass various aspects, such as: when they wake up in the morning, how they get to work, how well they sleep at night and how they are exposed to ads, and all the way to the point when they interface with your brand - how they hear about your product, how they decide whether to buy it and what they do with that information later on. In order to build a customer journey, you must first segment the market, and try to construct an imaginary character that represents that segment. If, for example, the segment is women on maternity leave, you must understand that they don’t sleep much, that their mornings are busy and that the only time they have to rest and consume content is in the afternoon. They leave the house either for necessary breathers, during which they’re preoccupied with their household affairs, or for errands and are therefore less available to pay attention to messaging and marketing content.
Once you understand what kind of audience you’re dealing with and the things they’re doing at the times you intend to market your brand to them, you must study your competition – of which there are two types: direct and indirect. Direct competition would be a brand that offers exactly what your brand offers, such as, a fitness coach versus another fitness coach. Indirect competition, for example, would be a fitness coach versus a TV program: both are fighting for the consumer’s leisure time. Therefore, when dealing with competition, you must understand the type of competition and know how to handle the "right" competition. You should also consider the possibility of competitors emerging in the future, and take them into account in your business plan. In other words, you should determine what it is that your brand doesn’t represent, and what your service doesn’t offer, which will appear to your future competitors as "windows of opportunity". This will allow you to manage the competition ahead of time, instead of the other way around.
After characterizing your target audience and competition, adjust the product so that it serves the needs of the audience in a functional way (note: need and desire are not the same thing. See this presentation to understand this concept) and is better suited to withstand direct, indirect and future competition.
2. Choosing the brand values and value proposition (also called brand assurance):
When determining your brand values , you should know that these are the values that represent the brand from the customer's perspective, that is, what your brand offers that other brands don’t (even if they offer the same product or service). In this case, you should find 4-5 unique values that are hard to emulate, rather than generic ones, such as "quality," "professionalism," and the like. Offer the customer something that is already a proven value associated with your brand, which your competitor would have to demonstrate if they wanted to claim it too. Once you have chosen the values, write down the value proposition, which is a statement representing what the customer will receive and how their life will improve if they use your product or service and come into contact with your brand. Here I’d like to stress that only you and the subcontractors you work with are exposed to the pledge/proposal and the values themselves. If you characterize them properly, the customers will sense that your brand values are reflected in your marketing channels and in your product.
3. Integrating brand values in marketing strategies and product visibility:
To maintain a consisted marketing front, you must make sure to represented as many of your brand values as possible in your marketing channels and in the products/services themselves. While it isn’t necessary to represent all of them all the time, one must not contradict the other. However, when it comes to your value proposition - it must always be present and evident in your marketing messages. You must consistently find the right ways to present your brand values and value pledge/proposition without explicitly writing them down. By the way, if you want to write them explicitly you can, but it would be ill advised because it may seem cheap and simplistic to the customer. Once you’ve built your brand base and marketing strategy, make sure to include it in a proper business plan to ensure that all of its values are correctly applied in all the required places. A proper branding process focuses your thinking and allows you to convey consistent marketing messages, which can subsequently increase your revenue. Many people and business owners don’t realize that if the branding is limited to a graphic product only, you get nothing but a pretty design and fresh appearance. A brand must ultimately have financial value, that is, the ability to generate money for a business or organisation. Although an up-to-date logo or matching letterhead don’t rake in money directly, they contribute to what is called the "brand equity."
Brand equity is a term that describes a situation in which the brand becomes an asset.
In other words, it is a component in the total cost of the product. If, for example, you take two cars that are manufactured in the same factory with the same design and mechanisms (and there are many such cars) and put two different symbols on them, you will get two price tags. The main difference is the brand equity. Equity generates revenue, as stated, which flows into the business/organisation in several primary ways:
REVENUE DUE TO COMPETITION
Competition does two main things to businesses: lowering prices and migrating customers. The stronger and more resilient the brand, the lesser the migration and the more the brand can maintain a fixed price range and even increase it due to its strength. The more famous the brand gets, the more positive its public image becomes, and the riskier it becomes to make mistakes that could, for example, cause customers to switch to a competing brand.
REVENUE RESULTING FROM HIGH LEVELS OF MEMORABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY
The more accessible a product is and the more associated it is with a stronger brand, the more it will be considered as the first option by customers who have to choose between one brand and another. When the need arises for a certain product, you first turn to the brands you know in order to estimate their price in advance, and immediately classify them by price, quality and availability. That is the power of branding, and a brand that is a real asset makes it to the top tier of these parameters effortlessly. Any compromise will always be a downgrade from the highest positioned brand, so that its equity is maintained even if it isn’t the one selected.
HOW TO MAINTAIN BRAND EQUITY?
When you build a brand and want it to become a future asset, there must be two cumulative conditions: compatibility with the target audience and consistency. The first condition refers to the degree of compatibility between the selected brand values and the desires and needs of the target audience. The second is the degree of compatibility between the values and their consistent application. In other words, in order to maintain the brand’s equity, you must maintain a consistent graphical presentation that affects the brand's memorability, and offer consistent services that boost customers satisfaction and prompt word-of-mouth marketing of the brand. If everyone sticks to the same marketing tune and guidelines, the brand's equity will increase and the customer will remember the brand and the qualities that arise from the brand values over time. As a direct result, the brand will be considered whenever there’s a need to buy a product, and the customer will be willing to pay a high price for it even if there’s a direct competitor that isn’t properly branded but offers a lower price.
In conclusion, remember that even if you have a winning product, you must also build a proper brand that will increase its equity and allow you to enjoy the many benefits of business branding. Also, keep in mind that a product addresses a need and a brand turns the need into a consumer choice, convincing the customer that it will address their need better than other brands. That is the power of branding, for better or for worse.
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