Branding entails a procedure that entails an end-to-end, holistic philosophical think that covers a brand’s present market position, targeted positioning, the overall market scenario, identification of platforms to be targeted, understanding target audience, research on growth and demand, estimated investment and returns and implementation. Of course, there needs to be ample analysis after the implementation to measure success or failure and what steps need to be taken to cash in, consolidate or fix.
Here are fifteen guidelines you need to keep in mind while working on your company’s or product’s branding strategy:
Understand present market position:
To begin with you need to understand what people think and feel about your brand. What is the general response to it? What is the common response to conversations initiated about your brand. We’ve known and heard of people mistaking a brand based on its name to associate it with something completely different. You have to understand that a brand not just a name, a logo or a slogan. A brand is the brand in itself. It stands for and represents everything that the company (yes, the brand) is involved in.
Who is your brand likely to find an audience with? What is your target audience? What segments of the society are likely to find value in your brand? Who are you communicating with? Who do you need to communicate with and how? These are some questions that you need to ask yourself and get answers before you can move to the next phase. It’s important for you to identify the strata or segment of audience you are targeting in order to streamline and make your brand communication more target centric and speak to the ones that will lend their ears.
It’s also important to understand the position of the market. What are the current trends? What’s working? What’s failing? What has been the proverbial “has been”? What’s “in”? What’s the next big thing? What are people saying? What is being shared socially and accepted virally? Focusing on these key factors will give you an idea of the nature your campaign needs to adopt. It will give you a greater control over things and could even arm you with a back-up plan if needed.
Identification of platforms:
There are multiple platforms and methods available for promotions and advertisements. There’s television, radio, outdoor, magazine and newspaper advertising, online advertising, social media promotions, on ground events, pamphlets and other collateral to name a few. While it may be a good idea to try and exploit everything available, it’s important for you to identify what platforms are likely to bring you more attention and eye-balls. What is most conducive to your brand is what you have to chalk out to focus your attention (and monies) towards. It makes sense for a big brand to be everywhere. However, if you are on your way to being one or aspiring to eventually become a big player, the right way would be to start sensibly and don’t cause a self-burnout. Know your nature of services or products, understand the vagaries of your industry, study your target audience and make your decisions based on that.
After identifying the platforms of promoting your brand, you need to estimate how much you will be required to invest. The procedure is known – you meet established and leading players of the platform you wish to have your brand on, get estimated statistics, demographics and of course, financial quotes from them. You also need to figure out if you require additional human resources. That will give you an idea on how much you need to allocate for your investment. There is bound to be overheads that one does not (more like cannot) estimate at the start, so it would be a good idea to keep a sum separately allocated to overhead costs.
Estimated returns on investment:
After receiving the quotes and the initial haggling and bargaining is through, statistics and market research will tell you what your estimated return on investment is. Pricing is obviously an important aspect and often, it is matched with barters and strategic tie-ups. In wake of which, the budget obviously goes down, but you need to factor in the costs of the barter and strategic associations when you are calculating your returns. After all, cost is cost and a penny spent is indeed gone. All these factors need to be put together. The end amount that you receive is your estimated return on investment. You need to deduct the costs incurred from the estimated returns and that would be your profit margin. Sometimes, certain branding exercises are not only for profit, but for presence. Of course, presence will eventually lead to profit. But the immediacy is for presence. And when that is the governing factor, returns need to be calculated accordingly.
Your overall plan to go ahead and implement your branding is your implementation strategy. The platforms you will use, the service providers and vendors you will engage, the resources you may need to hire, the time you will need to spend and the chalking out of daily, weekly and perhaps even monthly activity that would be required to bring things home. Everyone’s tasks and schedules need to be properly explained in great detail and everyone has to be made accountable for their responsibilities and roles that they have to play in the implementation of your brand positioning and branding exercise. What to include? Your branding exercise needs to include your brand name, the logo, creatives ideas that denote brand, designs, house color identification and related aspects that make your brand.
Creative ideation or brainstorming is one of those key sessions in a pre-branding scenario that can be both invigorating and liberating. It can get you and your team’s creative juices flowing and get things done.
The creative phase is reputably to most fun and fulfilling phase of any branding activity. It allows one to explore their creative side and learn and unlearn several attributes. This phase involves choosing the right colors, the look and feel, the overall communication and how it fits, the size and shape of the communication, tag lines, logos and more.
The implementation phase is by far, the most important phase of any branding exercise. It is the make or break phase and getting your implementation is what matters. If you get it right, you have hit gold. If you get it wrong, then all the hours of planning, strategizing and brainstorming would have simply gone down the proverbial drain. This phase marks the availability of your brand insignia everywhere. It also constitutes how easily accessible your branding activity is.
Post implementation analysis:
After implementation, it is important for you to take some time and study how you have gone about things. A post-mortem of sorts if you may. You need to look upon points such as overheads in terms of costs, human resources, external resources and platforms. That is just one part of it. The most important part of this key aspect of a branding exercise is how successful your exercise has been.
- How commonly are you found?
- Are you clocking an increase in inquiries?
- Are you registering increased responses?
- What is the visibility that you are getting?
- Has there been a marked increase in your sales?
- Are people reacting and responding to your brand?
- How did you fare in terms of estimated investment?
- Are you getting more calls trying to find out more about your brand?
- How do the returns on your investment add up compared to your estimations?
- Is there a certain degree of familiarity in the market when your brand name is mentioned?
Branding activity never ends:
Branding activity truly never ends. It is an on-going phase that ensues you remaining fresh in the minds of your target audience. You need to adapt and move with the times. There may be key changes that you need to incorporate based on the success or failure of your previous exercise. It’s a continuous phase.
You need to understand the importance of your brand and ensure that is it used with care and respect. There may be representations of your brand in media that may not give a good picture. You need to mention your branding policy and guidelines for usage.
Change but selectively:
The saying goes that nothing is constant except change. That holds good and change is important. However, you have to be very careful and selective about change. You need to first understand what level of understanding and brand connect you have been able to establish and how it will affect the way your target audience views you.