- Not making branding “Everyone’s Responsibility.” Marketing alone cannot continually build and strengthen the brand. If everyone in the organization is not holding the brand promise as a decision standard and a behavior guide, then Marketing’s best efforts will fall short. If every touch-point with the customer must be delivered in alignment with the brand, then every employee – customer-facing or not – must understand how to deliver the customer experience and how their jobs and responsibilities contribute to making this happen. Take some time to understand what the customer is experiencing. Monitor your call center. Read complaint and compliment letters. Mystery shop yourself. The areas in your company needing to be better aligned to deliver the brand will become clear very quickly.
- Changing too much or too often. Brands do not change radically; they evolve. A well defined brand with a strongly differentiated position doesn’t need to change too frequently. If you find yourself looking for a new brand position every couple of years, slow down, do some research and get it right. Then stick with it. Monitor competitors and consumers to make sure you need to change before you abandon your position. And even when you determine you must change, do it gradually so that you bring your market – and your brand equity – along with you.
- Do not over-brand. In some companies, everything is a brand or branded. This might be because no one really knows what a brand is, or it might be because the organization doesn’t have enough brand discipline to keep this from happening. The creation of new brands should not be undertaken lightly and should be done with the utmost deliberation. This is an expensive undertaking that will require resources and support for years to come. Only brand what needs to be branded.
- Not understanding your brand from the consumers’ perspective. “We know what our customers’ want.” “We know what our customers think of us.” Perhaps the two most dangerous sentences ever spoken in a business meeting. The very fact that you are employed by the company almost pre-determines that you do not know what your customers are thinking. And the higher up in the organizational structure, the more likely it is that your perceptions are wrong.
- Not understanding your brand space. “Gerber’s Adult Foods.” “Levi’s Men’s Suits.” Many new products fail because management does not understand where the brand fits for the consumer. Understanding your brand space (in short, the areas of the market where your brand fits) can help you avoid miss-steps in new product introduction and can help you identify brand extensions that might be very valuable.
Avoiding these mistakes will go a long way toward keeping your brand strong. But perhaps the best “tip” I can give you for building a strong brand is the most basic: manage your brand. Many companies treat their brand with benign neglect. At best, they don’t hurt their brands, but they are certainly not building their brand into an asset that can be leveraged for growth and profitability. So for starters, in order to avoid these mistakes, recognize your brand as an asset and manage it as you would any other business asset such as buildings, capital equipment or employees.
Building a strong brand is not rocket science, but it does take consistent hard work and diligence. Remember that your brand is a valuable, flexible and powerful business asset. Creative, careful and consistent attention will help you build and strengthen your brand, maximizing the return you will get for your business in premium pricing, customer loyalty and increased sales.
[Thank you, Debra!]