By John Maver
President of Maver Management Group
When the brand is a company, it is led from the top down. The CEO is the brand manager. Others have responsibility for different facets of the brand but ultimately, leadership of the company rests with the CEO. He must be zealous in guarding the way the brand is handled, positioned and utilized. One or two simple errors can destroy years of building and the CEO must remain ever watchful. It is easy to get distracted by the daily pressures, fires, and routine. Set aside time to rise above it all and specifically review your current activities to strength and protect your company brand equity.
Spend the time to decide on the right strategy – one that flows from the values of the company and creates real and lasting differentiation from your competitors. This speaks to the Core Purpose and Mission of the organization. It also reflects the tone the company wants to have in its positioning. If you have created the right strategic plan this will be easy to determine. You do have a solid strategic business plan don’t you?
Tighten the focus. Hone the brand message. Focus on qualities that set up barriers to entry. Drive to the core values and competencies required to deliver the promise. The stronger the differentiation and the stronger the brand image the higher the barriers to entry and the more loyal customers will be. Give them a reason to be proud loyal customers.
Don’t underestimate the power of symbolic communications. Visuals can have dramatic effect. Corporate brand design is important. The image gets set in your customers or clients’ minds. They come to associate you with that image and you want it to be a positive one. Think about a company. What image pops into your mind? If there isn’t one then the branding isn’t done very well.
Always set realistic expectations . . . then build a consistent track record. Under promise and over deliver. For public companies this means hitting the quarterly numbers. For private companies it means hitting the expectations of your stakeholders.
Credibility is built by public relations and executive interaction with the customers, particularly when there are few customers. They love to feel important and if you want your brand to be important it all starts with you and them. Advertising can help support and reinforce the brand position.
Educate employees on brand values and the brand promise . . . and then educate them again. There is significant synergy that can be gained from clearly outlining the company's strategy and then clearly communicating it to all employees. This harnesses resources and focuses attention on the key elements. The beauty of a simple strategic plan is that it clearly communicates to all employees not only the direction and positioning of the company but how you are planning to get to the objectives.
Make certain that all of your operation is consistent with the positioning and images. They must be driven throughout the total operation so that the image portrayed is consistent with that desired. For example, if part of your image is dependability, you want to insure that phone calls are returned promptly. It is more than the product that must be dependable.
Pay attention to the little things. There are so many elements that factor into the perception of the brand and having one or two small ones out of place can undermine the whole branding.
Building a great brand is a journey that is never finished. A brand is a living, breathing thing. It changes with the evolution of the company, the industry and the customers on a daily basis. The objective and basic positioning should virtually never change but the execution and fine tuning may change depending on the circumstances. Major brands and company positioning have been built and refreshed for many years with the same basic promise.
Maver Management Group Consulting