Develop an effective branding strategy before you commit to real expense
Re-branding, with a new name or logo, does not come cheap and may prove to be a waste of money. It is not a quick fix for deeper problems. The value of a strong brand lies in the impression left with anyone who comes into contact with the organisation. In a business to business context, this places greater emphasis on people issues. Compare this with consumer products where values may be conveyed by product promotion and packaging.
The most compelling reasons for effective branding is to achieve loyalty and support a premium price. Purchasers rely on experience and their often long-held attitudes about a brand. Successful brands are often focused on one specific market segment. This is where the product becomes differentiated, easy to identify and is usually of high quality. This brings an emotional affinity to the product by members of the target segment.
Branding used to be the preserve of the consumer goods manufacturers, but today even the smallest business organisation, or not-for-profit organisations, must be aware of their brand image. This is how your customers see you, and sets the operating style for the organisation. A badly handled enquiry, or a hard to use website, may kill a sale long before you get an opportunity to bid for the business.
A big effort has to go into creating a brand, but once that is done then it can be destroyed very quickly. For that reason every brand should have a brand strategy. This must be communicated and lived throughout the organisation. That means defining what your organisation is doing to support your brand values, and what it is doing to destroy them. The trick is to find out what features and benefits members of the target segment want. Then you can make sure that your brand values reflect these back to them.
The diagram above shows how this can be achieved. The crucial factors are to understand how customers currently perceive your company and product, and how your staff perceive them as well. Then you need to define what aspirational values would move your product to its desired market position. Being able to describe the aspirational brand values in the form of a simple statement provides an operating framework for staff. Any decision, behaviour, or promotional collateral can then be tested against the brand value statement. This is the point when you decide whether re-branding could work for you.
Leading Edge has the research techniques to establish what the customers' brand values are - and the extent to which your company and your competitors are satisfying them. We have experience of running the facilitation and workshop process to give you the tools to manage your brand.
A well-constructed brand statement makes it easy to design a very specific image that everyone in the organisation understands and works towards. It may be the company way. This doesnt mean that it is inflexible and not customer-focused, but that everyone instinctively understands what is acceptable and what is not.
The issue is that people often only see the brand as the image that is used by the marketing communication department. This is a big mistake particularly if there is a mismatch with the culture. It can be a reason why staff from other departments feel that the marketing department is in a world of its own.
Case Study - Identifying gaps in staff 'soft skills' drives the training agenda
This branding survey arose initially from the specific issue of how to deal with the branding of one Division of the company. This led to the broader issue of the general application of branding across the group as a whole.
The initial focus was on a relatively young and potentially fast growing division within the group because its business is different in character from the other major divisions. It was this different nature of its business that led to the need to consider how the brand was seen in relation to the rest of the group. The aim was to be able to position it to take advantage of its growing market.
While the concept of perhaps needing to have some clear water between this unit and the rest of the group needed to be tested against the market, there were a number of cross-overs with other divisions that might impinge on this. Also the group's regional offices had created a complex matrix structure.
The 'brand' is not just the name and logo, but in modern marketing terms is thought of as more like the impression left behind after any contact with the company. It is therefore dependent on a whole range of variables that are involved in each transaction with the customer.
Typically, the brand name and logo may account for 20% of the impact on the client, but 80% is accounted for by the other 'augmenting' factors. These will be formed at the customer-supplier interface. The key encounter points with customers are called 'moments of truth' (Jan Carlzon 'Moments of Truth'; pub 1987 Ballinger Pub Co). The group had published five core values and the respondents were asked how they considered that the division's image fits with them.
These 'moments of truth' help to form the stakeholders' perceptions of the brand. How they are dealt with contributes to the 'values' of the augmented brand, i.e. what it represents to people through values like, loyalty to you, name awareness, and other brand associations in addition to perceived quality & intellectual property.
The interviews with customers and staff followed the structure of a pre-prepared questionnaire to cover all the discussion areas consistently. We used a car analogy to draw out the adjectives that people would use to describe the division, the group and then to define their ideal contractor. A few respondents found it easier to jump straight to the adjectives and didn't know which car to name. These adjectives are important because they are the de facto brand values.
To give an overview, it is useful to group customer satisfaction issues under the headings of the five 'dimensions' of customer service. These arose through research conducted by Parasuraman, Zeithaml & Berry (Journal of Marketing Vol. 49 1985). They established that there were five generic areas of service quality and they were able to demonstrate that all specific service issues can be allocated as a sub-set of them.
The findings provided an overview of how customers' expectations of customer service compared with the staff's view. To give an overview, it is also useful to group customer satisfaction issues under the headings of the enablers of the Business Excellence Model.
The image of an organisation is shaped over time by each encounter that the customer has with it. Each subjective and fragmentary experience of customers on the phone or speaking to front-line staff leads them to form firm judgements - good and bad - about that company.
These encounters are in effect 'moments of truth'. These may go well or go badly, but in terms of the impact that they can create, a bad performance probably counts 10 times as much as a good performance.
The benefit of using moments of truth as a measure is that:
- These are the critical points where typically things go wrong between customer & supplier
- They can be related to specific project issues and can be acted upon
- They help to define the 'soft issues' which rely on human qualities and training
- They are a major part of the customers' perceptions of the brand.
The company can use this information to improve its performance by:
- Understanding what is important to the customer
- Finding a datum point to measure improvement against
- Identifying specific actions to work against
- Naming the people responsible for making sure these agreed actions are carried out
- Measuring again to show improvement has taken place
- Supporting the brand values.
Using our experience of working with moments of truth in the construction supply chain we prepared a list of the 29 most likely to cover the full spectrum of customer service. These are expressed as simple statements.
The respondents were firstly asked to score the importance of the service level that they expected to receive against each statement. The most important moments of truth are the vital areas where the image of the group is formed, and represent a larger set of brand values that are important to the customer. Then they were asked to score their perceptions of the division's performance against each statement.
We focused on the service level 'gap', between what the customers expect and what they think they get. Generally, the importance that customers attach to a moment of truth can be considered as their reasonable expectation of the service level that would satisfy them. The findings showed the service level gaps for the group as a whole and then division by division.
The outcome of the study was:
- The customers' perceptions of the group's brand values
- An internal view of the brand values of staff
- Customers' preferences for naming and brand values
- General recommendations on brand strategy for the whole of the group's family of businesses
- Commentary of the suitability of the existing corporate identity
- A brief for the direction of changes to the maintenance brand from the perspective of name, style and brand values
- Recommendations for branding the other divisions.
You can find out more about how to measure your customers' expectations and perceptions of your brand then go to our customer service measurement page.
What our clients have said when using us to help develop a brand:
- "Helpful, professional and effective"
- "Real life situations - understanding of our industry and its nuances"
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