A couple thousand years before the birth of Christ, ancient Egyptian farmers began burning individual marks on the hides of their goats to discourage thievery, introducing the concept of a “brand” to the world. A thousand years ago, Japanese warriors designed emblems or “mons” to differentiate their clans from competing families. Over time, these crests evolved into the seals or logographs that represented the trademarks of Japanese companies. During the industrial revolution, as the distribution of goods moved away from the generic “cracker barrel” model, branding became widely used to distinguish manufacturer’s products from commodities.
Today, branding has become integral to the art of creating a relationship between a company’s product and consumers of that product, in generating segregation among the competition, and building loyalty with customers. Which brings us to the concept of brand management.
Understanding brand management begins with understanding what a brand is. And isn’t. Your brand isn’t your logo or your advertising or the sign on your building. Those are all brand assets that help you manage the brand, but the brand itself is an intangible thing, most succinctly described as how your company is perceived in the marketplace. And this perception is defined mostly by the experience your customers have with you and the emotion created by that experience. So how do you manage an intangible thing like an emotion? By applying tangible brand assets to help manage the experience that creates the emotion.
Brand management is also brand building. And brands are always built from the inside out. That means it begins at the experiential level. So if you’re going to get serious about brand management set aside your logo and other brand assets for now and start with your customers’ experience. What happens at the initial touchpoint? What needs to be communicated and how is that communicated? What does the environment look, feel, even smell like? What Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is in place to ensure continuity and efficiency in your customer interaction? What is your brand promise and do all of your team members fully understand how that is delivered? Do they have the tools to deliver it? Are they empowered to deliver it? Once the transaction is complete, then what?
Creating a consistent, replicable and dynamic customer experience is the cornerstone of brand management. With that in place, the next step is to build the marketing infrastructure needed to communicate and support that experience. Your CRM system forms the foundation of that infrastructure. Next comes communication devices such as your phone system (answering protocol, voice mail, messaging procedures), website, wireless devices, etc. Only when all of this is built and in place do you begin with brand assets that fall under the generic term “creative.” This includes your logo, signage, packaging, music signature, attire, advertising, letterhead, collateral material, etc.
Here is where you become fanatic about continuity. Effective brand management requires that your brand promise is delivered consistently across all media with little tolerance for variance in style, tone or voice. Doing this means you have a graphics standards policy that everyone follows, every time. It’s not okay for someone in accounting to send a letter to a customer or vendor with a logo, position statement or other brand asset that is different from what they are seeing on Facebook. The more cooks in your kitchen the more difficult this is to control, as people have a funny way of wanting to put their own stamp on your company brand. Which is why you need a brand manager, even if that falls on you.
Your brand is your most valuable asset. Managing that asset requires an ongoing commitment and the application of resources beyond simply “advertising.” To find out more about how this works, give us a call. There is no cost or obligation for the initial consultation and the coffee is always free.