Brand Management Isn't a Luxury
You Can Afford A Realistic Brand Management Plan
Proctor & Gamble pioneered the concept of brand management in the 1920s. Their ever-popular Ivory soap led the way through intentional product positioning, differentiation, and market segmentation. However, brand management has evolved beyond just product, price, promotion, and placement. Today’s brand management is multi-dimensional. Now it’s brand personality, voice, experience, reputation, and shared values that build brand loyalty.
Not Everyone Can Be Procter & Gamble
For many organizations, it’s not feasible to have dedicated brand managers like Procter & Gamble. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a brand management plan. It is something that is within reach of any size business. However, you do have to believe that managing your brand is equally important as any other business function. It only requires a little forethought to build a plan that is realistic for your company to implement. But what is it that makes a plan? It can be as simple or as complex as circumstances dictate.
Brands are multifaceted and dynamic. And a comprehensive brand management plan needs to be equally diverse. All critical brand experience touchpoints require attention. It all begins by building a good foundation.
Building A Brand Management Plan
A good brand management strategy starts with the right kind of infrastructure. Your company’s plan should build off your brand strategy, be captured in your brand standards, and managed through intentional governance.
It is impossible to manage a brand without a clear definition of what the brand is. You need something to manage against. Vision, mission, values, value proposition, promise, and brand character define the brand. Also, it guides the visual and verbal identity system that is so crucial for communication.
Standards are at the heart of any branding system. They define the governing principles that guide the real-world application of the brand. They standardize more than just the use of logos, colors, and fonts. Standards must also address the verbal expression such as naming, tag lines, and nomenclature. In-depth standards will even establish behavioral guidelines. Brand architecture principles can also be included to guide how new brands are introduced or acquired.
Brands are not self-managed. A brand management structure defines the roles, responsibilities, and protocol for who will manage the brand and how they will do it. Just like any other corporate asset, someone has to do the work —even if it is a shared responsibility across different job functions.
Some brand decisions are a matter of standards interpretation. But other applications have far-reaching implications that require leadership direction. Decisions made in the best long-term interests of the brand are a result of a well-defined structure and process.
BRAND MANAGEMENT UNIVERSE
The Brand Management Universe is the entire range of touchpoints that fall within brand management responsibility. Each company or organization will be different. A comprehensive brand management plan identifies those areas that require some level of guidance. Knowing what areas need brand oversight or influence will help define the scope of a brand management initiative.
1. Brand Communication
Communication is the most common application needing brand management guidance. However, there are several sides to communication from a branding perspective. Marketing communication is the external expression of the brand intended to build awareness, recognition, and competitive distinction. Corporate communication is the internal expression of the brand expected to reinforce brand values and principles that guide the corporate culture.
Employees need to be on board with what the brand stands for. They have to understand and believe in it. This will enable them to bring the brand to life through both internal and external engagement. A brand reinforcing culture doesn’t happen by accident. A comprehensive brand management plan should include provisions for maintaining a brand culture that reflects what it stands for.
The experience customers have with your brand can form long-lasting impressions — both good and bad. The primary goal, from a brand management perspective, is to ensure that the experience is a consistently positive reinforcement of the brand. Take into account the environment, behaviors, and rules of engagement.
Managing a family of multiple product or service brands is one of the most challenging aspects of brand management. Decisions will need to be made on brand relationships within the portfolio and to the master brand. Acquisitions, mergers, product line extensions, diversification, and many other portfolio factors will require careful brand management guidance.
The product and services that comprise the offer are at the core of what the brand does. After all, it is the primary benefit that the company provides to its customers. A vital goal of the brand management plan is to maintain alignment between products, services, and the company’s positioning. Proper brand management ensures that the brand is managed in its entirety, externally to the customer and internally to the employees.
STAYING AHEAD OF THE GAME – BENCHMARKING
Brands are not static. Brands adapt and evolve. Markets fluctuate. Competitors pose new threats. Customers alter behavior. One of the most critical roles that brand management can play is to keep ahead of these trends. A good brand management strategy will have a plan to periodically audit the market and conduct research to that extent possible. These findings will factor into any adjustments to the brand platform or other standards.
EVEN SMALL BUSINESSES CAN DO THIS
Creating a brand management plan may, at first, seem daunting or unaffordable for a small business. But any kind of plan, however modest, is better than no plan at all. It is not an impossible task. It can be scaled to fit with the type and size of the business. Start by focusing on what matters most. Consider what gets measured to track results. Make use of existing resources. For example, current staff can share brand management responsibilities. Enlisting the help of outside expertise can also be an option.
Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. It’s worth protecting.
Unfortunately, the investment in building a brand often erodes for lack of a plan or will to oversee its implementation. At Diverge Branding, we don’t just help build brands; we advise and help develop a brand management plan that’s realistic to implement.