Every company knows the value of a strong brand, but firms often think too narrowly by thinking of branding as only a marketing exercise.
Dr Eden Yin, University Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Cambridge Judge Business School, has written extensively about branding, product development and innovation, and he believes that branding needs to permeate the entire firm and its culture. Eden shares some of his thoughts and insights on building a strong brand:
Companies should have a broader definition of brand and branding that involves the entire organisation.
Companies often have a narrow definition of brand and branding. In such a view, a brand is merely a name, a logo and a slogan. Yet brand or brand building is really about designing and executing communication strategies. A brand is the collective impression of all stakeholders, so it is the meaning attached to a name or logo by those stakeholders. Such a meaning and impression is built through numerous interactions between the company and every stakeholder over time – as every single activity an organisation pursues affects the overall impressions of itself in the collective mind. Brand building is not just the job of the marketing department, but the job of everyone in the organisation.
Companies should establish a customer-centric culture to build strong brands.
If everyone in the organisation participates in the brand-building effort either directly or indirectly, the firm’s culture is vital to ensure the success of building a strong brand. Just relying on KPIs won’t be adequate to incentivise or motivate all employees to provide the best experience possible at every touch point with stakeholders, so firms need to build customer-centric cultures that focus on delivering the most compelling value to customers. In the industrial era, customer-centric culture is something good to have, but in the digital era, such a culture is a prerequisite for companies to succeed in obtaining sustainable competitive advantage and a strong brand.
Companies should design a set of highly distinctive brand elements.
Besides building a customer-centric culture, companies also need to design a set of highly distinctive brand elements to be easily recognised and remembered by its stakeholders. Such brand elements include brand name, logo, slogan, signage, colour, tagline, jingle and so on. The general principles of designing brand elements are making it simple so customers can intuitively process the information, and making it comprehensive with as many brand elements as possible. The more brand elements a company possesses, the more likely it can create associations in the minds of stakeholders.
Brand building is not just about communication and social media, it is about building organisational capability.
Brand building is essentially about creating brand awareness and brand reputation or likeability. An effective communication strategy can establish brand awareness in stakeholders’ minds, but brand reputation can only be established through providing superior value proposition to satisfy customer needs consistently over a long period of time. The ability of a company to do so hinges on its organisational capability, so building a strong brand is akin to building a strong and unique organisational capability.
Companies need to develop a digital mindset.
In today’s business world, customers are becoming increasingly digital in conducting their lives, so this has transformed brand building. Companies cannot remain in the industrial era by just focusing on providing them with traditional products or services. Instead, they need to first transform their existing products or services into a digital offering – proving more digital components in the overall value proposition. A digital mindset will help firms reconceptualise their overall value proposition, and thus strengthen their brands in the minds of customers and other stakeholders.