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Why Brand Matters
by Laura Pasternak


Whether you realize it or not, every business has a brand. How you develop it is the
difference between creating your point of distinction or blending in with the crowd;
projecting a positive image or eliciting a negative one; growing your business or
merely existing; successfully reaching your target audience or missing the mark
altogether.

Brand does matter. Those who build their brand and manage it successfully can
profit mightily. Here are six principles for creating and building brand as well as
real-world examples of why it matters.

Strong brands trigger hot buttons in the consumer.
We buy for emotional reasons and then rationalize those purchases. Know what
triggers your target audience. For Volvo buyers, it’s safety. In fact, Volvo and safety
have become synonymous. Volvo has taken this emotional connection and
strategically built its brand around safety. The company’s Web site says, “Explore
the beauty of safety with 2006 Volvos”. The site even has a “Volvo Saved My Life
Club” section with stories of real people who were protected by their Volvos in car
accidents. These stories are emotional, but also underscore how the Volvo brand is
associated with safety. As a result, the company has developed a very loyal
customer base.

Brand isn’t just a smart logo and tagline.
These are merely applications of the true brand—a concept that exists in the mind
of your consumer. Your brand is an experience for the customer. Nobody delivers
this idea better than MasterCard® with their “Priceless” advertising campaign.
Although they rely on consumers to purchase items with their MasterCard® credit
cards, they know that buyers want to feel good about their purchases. What will
make them feel that way? The experience tied to that purchase. “There are some
things money can’t buy. For everything else there’s MasterCard®.” Although they
acknowledge that there are some experiences you can’t buy, they also elude to the
fact that there are many more experiences that you can buy. In other words, they
make the consumer feel as though MasterCard® can give them the experiences
they desire. Experiences are reinforced through the company’s regular promotions
in which cardholders can win trips, cars, cash and in a recent promotion, a house.





A brilliant ad campaign: Thousands of dollars.
A 60 second television commercial: Hundreds of thousand of dollars.
Building a brand that makes customers feel good about their purchases and results
in double-digit revenue growth for MasterCard®: Priceless.

Know what customers associate with your brand and how to
capitalize on it.
You know that brand taps into emotion. Since customers buy for emotional reasons,
their perceptions color your brand. Take Martha Stewart. She is well aware that
living well appeals to consumers on an emotional level. Her company, Martha
Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), has branded itself accordingly, stating on the
Web site that “...Martha Stewart shares the creative principles and practical ideas
that have made her America’s most trusted guide to stylish living.”

Even when Martha was charged with insider trading, she continued to reinforce—
even capitalize on—the “stylish living” brand from behind bars: making delicious
meals in the prison microwave, collecting apples from the prison grounds to make
applesauce, entering Christmas decorating contests, etc. In the process, she won
the admiration of her fellow inmates and the continued brand loyalty of her
customers. The MSLO brand remained strong in spite of the challenges the company
faced. Today, it is a nearly $500 million empire with television shows, books, a
magazine, house wares merchandised through Kmart, a catalog business and a
furniture line with Bernhardt. MSLO has deftly mastered the art of convincing
consumers that they can live the good life. Reinforcing, capitalizing and continuing
to build on that brand has worked and “it’s a good thing” for MSLO.

Brand is part art, part science.
The balance is a delicate one. Creativity strengthens and enlivens brand. But the
science of branding is equally important. You can’t build a successful brand without
both. You must understand your target audience’s likes and dislikes as well as their
hot buttons. A brand campaign can be artistically presented, but if the consumer
doesn’t know what you’re selling or can’t identify with it, your campaign has failed.
The Disney Company has done a masterful job of creating a brand that blends art
and science. Visit the company’s overview section on their web site and you will
understand why this approach has created a powerful brand worldwide. “The Walt
Disney Company has remained faithful in its commitment to producing unparalleled
entertainment experiences based on its rich legacy of quality creative content and
exceptional storytelling. Today, Disney is divided into four major business
segments: Studio Entertainment, Parks and Resorts, Consumer Products, and Media
Networks. Each segment consists of integrated, well-connected businesses that
operate in concert to maximize exposure and growth worldwide.”

Careful market research, focus groups, maximizing brand exposure, continual
education and advanced technologies are all part of Disney’s brand science. The
organization is in tune with what their target audience wants: wholesome, family
entertainment in a world of imagination. And, they are constantly measuring,
evaluating and adjusting their efforts to maintain this brand. The artistic component
of their brand obviously can be found in the creativity and quality of amusement
parks, movies, merchandise and media channels (i.e. television, web, magazines)
that have represented the Disney brand since 1923. Together, art and science have
built the world’s largest entertainment company.

Successful brands are the sum of all of its parts.
As illustrated above, Disney has been able to address all aspects of the branding
process to create a powerful brand and an organization that has continued to grow
in size, offerings and sales over the last 83 years. Likewise, multiple aspects of your
business must integrate to drive the effectiveness of your brand. Some of these
aspects include:

* Understanding your market and your customer.
Brands should be customer-driven. What does the customer want or need?
What kind of experience does the customer want to have with my brand?
How does my product/service make the customer feel? You cannot affect
brand perceptions of your business without understanding your customers.

* Ensuring that brand is reinforced within the corporation as well as
externally.
A strong brand is represented in every customer touch point including
customer service, direct sales, call center interactions, product/service
delivery and all other direct and indirect contact with your customers and/or
the media. Marketing alone cannot carry a brand. Moreover, your brand is
built on customer experience and perception. The best marketing and
advertising means nothing if your brand isn’t carried beyond it or the
promises don’t ring true.



* Reflecting your business values and goals through your brand.
It is one thing to imply that your brand reflects these philosophies or values;
however, it is quite another to back up those assertions with specific actions.
In doing so, you will strengthen your brand as well as customer loyalty.
Disney presents a great example. The company has a worldwide outreach
program, which supports public service initiatives, community outreach and
volunteer programs helping families, children and the arts, as well as a
program that supports environmental efforts. Disney’s environmental beliefs
have led the company to create The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. The
fund has distributed more than $6 million among 200 environmental
conservation projects in more than two dozen countries. Their worldwide
outreach program has donated more than $190 million in cash, public service
announcements and volunteerism globally . Disney employees volunteer
their time and talents in their communities, contributing more than 402,000
hours of service to outreach projects. These actions are deliberate and help
project a community-focused and environmentally conscious image. In turn,
this concept drives customers’ perceptions of the Disney brand as a magical
kingdom where all is good.

* Crafting external communications, both oral and written, to properly
represent your brand.
The message and tone in these communications should align with your
brand. Every opportunity in front of your customer is an opportunity to
reinforce brand. A visit to any of the Disney properties reinforces the
importance of consistently representing your brand. Cast members (as they
call their employees) adhere to strict brand guidelines—from meticulous
detail about their appearance to how they communicate with park guests.
Park cast members and characters are warm, friendly and helpful. Their
interactions with customers convey the notion that they truly care about
children and families.

Moreover, Disney’s career site states, “Yes, there really are dream jobs.
Here, the bottom line is imagination, our culture is magic and wonder, and
required previous work experience: childhood dreams.” When employees feel
that they are living out a dream, they will perform better and customer
interactions will be stronger. As a result, guests will walk away with a “feel
good” impression and the notion that they really did live out a dream.



* Representing your brand through your products and services.
McDonald’s golden arches represent more than hamburgers. They reflect the
company’s commitment to quality across the board—quality in its food
products as well as quality in its employees, franchises and community
outreach programs. To reinforce their brand, the company maintains high
standards throughout the organization.

Franchise operations are held to rigorous quality assurance requirements. The
company recognizes how crucial these franchises are to representing the
McDonald’s brand. As founder Ray Kroc once said, “McDonald’s doesn’t confer
success on anyone. It takes guts and staying power to make it with one of our
restaurants.” It is that commitment to superior service that consistently has made
McDonald’s the premier franchising company around the world. This same
philosophy extends to its community outreach programs like the Ronald McDonald
House. Since its inception in 1974, more than 10 million families have benefited
from the company’s dedication to this program throughout the world.

Brands gain value over time…if they are consistently built
and reinforced.
It worked for Nike. Less than 15 years after their entrance into the marketplace, the
athletic shoe giant became a global brand. Their success came from an intimate
understanding of their consumers’ needs and desires; continuously introducing
innovative products; establishing good management practices and, of course, great
branding.

To build brand value over time, you must give careful attention to ongoing
assessment and management of your brand, exploring questions such as: Does my
brand have a substantial and positive impact on sales? On growing market share?
Can my customer relate to my brand? Are we building brand loyalty with every
customer interaction? Building your brand is an evolving process that should be a
constant driver for your business. You can’t wait until something goes wrong or
sales start to plummet. You must be proactive in building on your brand
thoughtfully and consistently. Follow Nike’s lead on building brand: “Just Do It.” You
won’t be sorry.

Ultimately, brand matters. And not just for the big consumer product giants like
Coca-cola, Nike and Disney. For service companies, it is all about brand. Your
company’s success is determined by the perception your customers have about your
services.




In short, your brand must grow with your business. You need to continuously
reevaluate what is and isn’t working with your brand in your customer’s mind.
Brand is not static. It needs to evolve in order to thrive. It must also reflect
philosophical and operational changes within the company.

It is easy to implement a brand strategy and then leave it to its own devices.
However, if you seek to build strength and longevity in business, then your brand
must be tended to carefully and regularly.



Laura Pasternak is President of MarketPoint, LLC, a brand management firm that helps
businesses improve results by identifying, integrating and managing customer-driven brand
equities and strategies. Visit www.yourmarketpoint.com to learn more, or call 1.866.21POINT
toll-free or 410.418.8490.






Visit www.yourmarketpoint.com to learn more, or call 1.866.21POINT toll-free or 410.418.8490.
Copyright © 2006 MarketPoint, LLC. All Rights Reserved.




 
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