Strategic Insights: Branding part 2

Hi there, Professor Andy here. Ready to keep trekking  2012’s path to becoming a smarter designer? Yes, then lets continue our briefing of the strategies behind branding, and how they tie-in with marketing. We left off last week by realizing that today’s businesses value success not by sales numbers alone, but by ensuring that customers are satisfied and come back for more.

Marketing strategies are used to find out what makes customers happy now, and determine what will make them happy tomorrow. The customer is the center of focus in a marketing-driven organization. I’m oversimplifying a bit, I know, but I know you know what marketing does by now.

Branding is all the ways a customer interacts, engages, and views a company. As I mentioned it’s the symbolic embodiment of the company (or specific product) in the eyes of current, potential, or past customers, through consistent touchpoints.

Building a coherent brand platform

Branding strategy has in some ways gotten down to a science. Most people know that you need a logo, and consistent look and feel to all marcom collateral. But the real meat-and-potatoes to branding is not in the visual elements that we designers create or manage. It’s the idea of who that brand is, that informs all design tactics or output…and even tactics or output of marketing and communications tactics.

That idea of who your brand is in the minds of customers is called a brand platform, which includes four key elements:

  • Brand Personality: the human characteristics of the brand (who is the brand, if they were a real person?).
  • Brand Direction: the vision and goals of the brand (where is this person going in life?)
  • Brand Promise: the value to offer to your target market (why do people want to know this person?)
  • Brand Position: the messages for marketing communications (what is this person saying, and how are they saying it?)

The first three of those elements can often be pulled together, in-part, from elements of the companies (or brand, as it exists on paper) marketing strategies. Developing a position – that fourth bullet – that customers can come to trust is a bit trickier. There are four key criteria for developing a brand position:

  • It must focus on the product’s or service’s use and relevance to the customer.
  • It must be based upon the brand’s strengths. (Is it the biggest? The strongest? The best? Cheapest? )
  • It should distinguish the company from its competitors through clear communication of the values and benefits the company offers over its competitors.
  • It must be easily understood. If the brand’s message or personality is too complex, it can intimidate consumers and force them to look to other brands.

Starting with a well-defined vision clarifies the organization’s unique and intrinsic value. Your brand is the external expression of your organization’s unique value. Next week, we will discuss how we tie this all together, and build a brand from a vision.