Standing Out Through Effective Branding (1)
These series of articles will catalogue ideas I shared with Ben Avle, host of the CITI Breakfast Show on the topic “How to stand out among the crowd: Effective branding”.
Bernard: “Standing out among the crowd: Effective branding”, how are you going to approach this topic?
Prof: Well, there are a couple of things I will speak to so let me just give you the overarching framework. I’ll start by speaking to what a brand is and what a brand is not. Then I’ll discuss seven characteristics of winning or flagship brands, then I will discuss some types of brands, and then I’ll discuss seven steps to effective branding, then I’d look at ten special considerations in establishing strong successful brands and then I’d close out with this context relevant issue about global brands because I see quite a number of local companies are going international and quite a number of international brands are also coming into Ghana so I’d look specifically at seven steps to building a strong global brand just to give a certain perspective to how that should work as well.
What is a Brand?
Bernard: That’s very thorough, so let’s start with what is a brand?
Prof: Some marketing gurus have defined a brand as a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of a prospect. And it’s important to understand from the very beginning then that brands are about connections and about people. So you need to understand that a brand is not useful to you as an organisation on its own but it’s useful if it delivers value to prospects, customers or consumers. A brand is also a valued promise that an organisation makes to its most important external and internal audiences.
Brands are about both internal and external audiences and a little later on I will be speaking to how employees are a very important part of organisational branding efforts. A brand is also the complete expression of your core values. I noticed in the Citi FM reception you have something about aiming to be the most influential radio brand. That’s very profound for me because if you don’t understand how your branding effort is connected to the core mission of the organisation then you will have a problem. The brand is also a promise expressed as a benefit that your target audiences value. Brands are also lasting impressions created by any form of contact with an organisation. I’ll say this again because this is my most favourite definition. The lasting impression created by any form of contact with an organisation whether through people, the media or any form of transaction. So it’s the product of not just the proactive communications of marketing but of people’s direct and indirect experiences and perceptions of an organisation, its services and products. So it’s very important that we understand it’s any form of contact with an organisation whether through people, the media or any form of transaction.
Bernard: Just a quick comment on your definition. It means that even if you haven’t set out to create a brand or to call something brands once you interact with people…you are sending messages? So are you a brand?
Prof: Absolutely! We are all sending messages. Whether you are an incoherent brand, a poor brand, an excellent brand, it’s a matter we can discuss a little later. But once you are constituted as a corporate entity, as a public sector organisation, as an NGO, even as an individual, you start sending off messages. So whether or not these are coherent messages that create the kind of image you want to put out, it’s something else that we could discuss.
Characteristics of Winning Brands
Prof: OK, so let me move on to characteristics of flagship or winning brands. The first is that excellent brands inspire loyalty. They have large followers who patronise the brand and make the brand profitable. Winning brands are also responsive; they also help us reduce search time. I mean when you enter any place and you want to choose a particular product or service and you have a certain favourable attachment to a particular brand, it totally reduces search time. Flagship brands also provide what we call quality assurance. They allow companies to charge more and they are ultimately the best insulation against competition. World class brands are ultimately the best insulation against competition. . I mean if you take Russell Group Universities in the UK, these are the twenty-four topmost research intensive and teaching institutions and it counts for something if you go to Russell Group University. So if you’re doing Warwick or LSE or Oxford or Cambridge, it counts for something. So when you’re pitching an MSc in Finance from an Imperial College London versus a non Russell Group University, just because you’re Russell Group alone, it puts you ten miles ahead of the competition. So ultimately if you have a strong recognisable and likeable brand, it is the best insulation against competition. It’s important at to also say that strong brand names play an integral role in marketing and strong brand names have been argued to create high levels of brand awareness, stimulate consumer preferences and contribute to product success. Strong brand names matter.
Types of Brands
So the next issue I want to discuss is what I call types of brands and this is my own configuration. The standard brand literature has things like product branding and corporate branding and house of brands and range branding. I want to look at it a little differently. I think there are five key prevalent themes for me looking at the global brand landscape, and even the landscape in Ghana and Africa. You can have what we call personal brands. So you can have a Hinson brand, and an Atta Mensah brand and it’s very important that you build and articulate personal brands in a very conscientious manner. Then you can have product brands like Sunlight, or a Mercedes Benz E200. Then you can have company or institutional brands like PriceWaterHouse Coopers Ghana, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Asante Kotoko and the University of Ghana Business School. Then there are nation brands like brand Ghana, brand Kenya, brand South Africa, incredible India and Malaysia truly Asia. Then you have what is call supranational brands like brand Africa, or a brand Asia. Supranational brands go beyond just the geographical confines of one nation. All these types of brands deserve certain levels of attention and brand articulation to make them successful. So let me now come to what the meat of the presentation is in respect of the original brief you gave me which is, ‘Seven Steps to Effective Branding’.
Seven Steps to Effective Branding
The seven steps to effective branding consist firstly of a step one which entails “defining you brand”, step two: “review your industry market place”; step three: “review your place within the industry; step four: “conduct a brand DNA analysis if you want to be effective”; step five: “deliver the brand promise:; step six: “personalise your brand”; step seven: “conduct mandatory brand reviews” because what gets measured gets done! So I’d go through these in turn if you’d allow me.
Bernard: Yes please
Prof: So the first thing is about defining your brand. This is a very critical step because it determines what your brand truly stands for. If you don’t define your brand there would be no brand direction, there will be no brand choreography and nothing good can happen for your brand. Now if your brand is a business maybe you’re in the alcoholic beverage industry or you’re even a church, you need to understand that when you’re defining your brand you need to create what we call a checklist of its core strengths. Core strengths matter. Brands fall or die based on the quality of their core strengths. So if you’re defining a personal brand like a brand Avle or a brand Atta Mensah, you should look at the skills and the expertise that you possess especially those that make you stand out.
You also need to know what your brand stands for and why it’s important for your brand to be known for what its known for; so brand values also matter. Your values should in one way or the other show that you are contributing something that is particularly unique and that adds value to the lives of consumers.
Robert E. Hinson is an academic can be reached at email@example.com