Power branding integrates the message

Welcome to my world. This is the first of a four-part series examining a discipline I like to call Power Branding. Branding, of course, is the ongoing process of creating a unique and compelling brand image in the minds of current and potential customers. Power Branding involves taking it to a new level by evaluating traditional branding philosophy from a multidimensional perspective. Specifically, giving consideration to four key activities:

  • Building brand identity
  • Communicating a value proposition
  • Cultivating the brand/customer relationship
  • Creating brand equity

In this instalment, let?s consider the first task. It?s critical when you are marketing a product or service to always remember that your brand image is a composite of impressions delivered at multiple points of contact with the customer. For example, my mental image of the Lexus brand is not one-dimensional. Rather, it is a combination of inputs including advertising, direct mail, what my brother who owns a Lexus thinks of his, how the salesman at the dealership treated me when I took a test drive, and what The New York Times had to say about Lexus and corporate social responsibility. Doesn?t that ring true in your experience with brands that you like or dislike?

This premise builds a case for integration in marketing messaging that ensures your overall marketing campaign speaks with ?one voice? in the marketplace. My point here is that nothing you do in branding your product or service will really matter at all if your messaging is not integrated and focused.

That is clearly job number one,and it happens through a clearly defined marketing and creative strategy, identifying key messages relating to the features and benefits you bring to the marketplace, and effectively coordinating all of your different ?voices.? This includes advertising, public relations, packaging, sales promotion, relationship marketing and online communications.

Brand identity has to do with how the consumer views and interacts with your brand. Consumers perceive and consume brands on several levels:

Brand as product — This includes the physical attributes, features and benefits of your product or service. It might be an easy-open closure for seniors, a qualified FDA heart-health claim or a novel new delivery form.

Brand as organisation — This includes your policies and procedures, business practices, and your corporate citizenship within the community. Customers are increasingly aware of and interested in what type of company you are behind the image they readily see, and with the Internet, that information is easily accessed.

Brand as person — We have found through years of qualitative research that consumers generally describe brands using terms that they might use to describe a friend or acquaintance. For example, I might describe Maytag as ?reliable? or ?dependable? or ?trustworthy? in my attempt to characterise the brand as I perceive it.

Brand as symbol — This refers to the imagery connected to or projected by a brand, including graphics, logo or even a colour scheme. When I think Nexium, I see purple. When I think Nike, I see the swoosh. There is a reason for that.

All of these perspectives play into your customers? impressions of your brand image, and each one needs to be considered as you craft and build a memorable and relevant brand identity.

There are, of course, many national marketers who are actively implementing these types of strategies on an ongoing basis. Look at the Altoids brand. There is probably no more compelling brand personality in marketing today. Breath mints are the epitome of a low-interest category. No one actively thinks about it. Yet Altoids has managed to create a unique and memorable niche for ?curiously strong mints? and they own it outright.

Each ad maintains the same outrageous visual style, and the second you see an ad for Altoids, you recognise it. Even line-extension ads promoting the breath strips and sours have maintained that same distinctive tone. Masterful. And as a result, they own the category and brand loyalty is intense. Ever had someone open a box of generic mints and say ?Want an Altoid?? Enough said.

So to recap, Power Branding begins with the task of building brand identity. It?s vital to consider your brand from various perspectives because the consumer certainly will.

In my April column, I will discuss the whys and hows of creating and communicating a value proposition.

Jeff Hilton is president and co-founder of Integrated Marketing Group, based in Utah. www.imgbranding.com

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