Getting your daily required bran is important to your health. And, getting the required branding in your business is equally important to the health of your company.
Many people are confused by branding. “Often people think the brand is the company’s logo,” said Carol Chapman, principal and co-founder of The Brand Ascension Group in Colorado Springs. “They believe having a logo, a Web site and a marketing plan takes care of branding.”
Another misconception is that branding is only for consumer companies, when it is important for all types of businesses.
“At its core, branding is a process that starts at the internal levels of your business with a clear understanding of what your brand stands for and the culture you create that delivers on the desired brand experience,” Chapman said.
It is creating a strong emotional connection which influences people’s choice to do business with you versus your competitor. Unlike marketing, branding is the process of creating and living the message. Marketing is the communication of your brand’s message externally through a company logo, Web site, brochures, etc.
Colorado Springs-based Aleut Management Services was formed from two well-known companies. A year ago, the company began a branding process in order to create its own brand identity, avoiding confusion in the market and building a strong business.
“We needed to give our brand backing and create confidence among our government customers,” said John Baily, Aleut Management Services president and CEO. “We needed a process that would help us build a brand, get it out to the market and most importantly, get buy-in from our employees.”
The process begins by defining what you want the brand to be and then creating the infrastructure that will establish the business culture so that you are everything you say in marketing.
“You have to walk the talk,” Chapman said. “What keeps a good brand from becoming great is inconsistency.”
Great brands always evoke the desired emotions and consistent perception in the minds of the market.
For example, we gladly fork over $4 or more for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. We don’t spend that kind of money on a cup of coffee because we like the logo. We do it for the Starbuck’s experience.
Regardless of what markets businesses are serving, they are all serving emotion-driven humans beings.
“Government contract decision makers purchase on brand and confidence as much as price,” Baily said. “They want to have confidence you are going to be around to see the contract through.”
A strong brand has a powerful influence on a middle-market business’ ability to reach the next level of growth. Having a strong connection to customers will make them want to come back for more.
“Your competition can often copy the product or service you sell, but it is very difficult to copy how you deliver on the promise of your brand,” Chapman said.
For example, there are many different cola products, but there is only one Coke.
Strong brands drive revenue and have a significant impact on the market value of a company. According to a 2002 Interbrand and J.P. Morgan study reported in BusinessWeek, on average, brands account for more than a third of shareholder value. Top brands like Coca-Cola accounted for 51 percent of shareholder value. That means if you took away all other assets, Coca-Cola would still be worth more than $70 billion just for its brand.
One of the biggest obstacles of great brands is a lack of commitment from the leadership team. Many CEOs don’t proactively support the branding effort and often neglect to put it at the center of a company’s strategy.
Branding often falls to marketing, but in fact, everyone in the business is responsible for branding. The leadership team is responsible for creating a plan with a clear vision and definition of what the brand is. It creates the passion for the brand throughout the entire organization.
Baily said he worried that his employees might see branding as a feel-good program and not take it seriously.
“One of the surprises was how positive the process has been,” he said. “Our employees have really bought into branding and are taking it to heart.”
So how do you get started?
Model highly successful brands, educate yourself and read everything you can.
Chapman recommends “Good to Great,” “Brand Sense” and “The Experience Economy.” When you are ready, start by defining who you are and your values.
Second, be very clear about articulating the values to employees and translate these into behaviors they can exude.
And third, understand that branding is never complete. It is an ever evolving process that the company has to live day in and day out.
“You have to let go of old beliefs in order to really engage in the process,” Baily said. “Be open and utilize people to help. Listen to employees and talk to customers. And most importantly, understand that you don’t have to do it your way to be successful.”
Good branding is like watching your health. It takes a conscious strategic and deliberate process that continues for the life of the business.
Chapman will be the featured speaker at the May 18 Peak Venture Group Middle-Market Entrepreneurs meeting. For more, information visit www.peakventure.org.
Ann Snortland, principal of Snortland Communications, is the spokeswoman for the Peak Venture Group Middle-Market Entrepreneurs. She can be reached at email@example.com.