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What's Your Brand

From The Business to Business Marketer

Your brand is your company’s most valuable possession. As technologies change and competition grows, the one quality that endures is your brand. It lives much longer than any founder or foundry.

So just what is a brand? Is it your label? Your logo? Your tag line? While each helps deliver your branding message, none alone is your brand. Your brand is the result of constant reinforcement of a distinctive core benefit that your company or product delivers to your customers.

With Allstate, that benefit is protection. As a customer, you know Allstate will take care of you no matter what happens, because “you’re in good hands.” That comforting message has positioned Allstate very nicely against all the can’t-beat-this-price claims in the insurance category. Of course, brands differ from company to company. Yet they all begin the same way.

It’s As Much Analyzing As Advertising.
Branding doesn’t begin with a TV commercial or a new logo. It starts by truly understanding-or carefully determining-what your company’s core values are. This involves some serious corporate introspection. What is your corporate culture? How does the market perceive your company? Does that perception truly reflect the nature of your company? What is it about your company that makes you better or different than the competition? Once you determine your core values, you must distill them into an attainable brand promise. Then you incorporate that message not merely into advertising, but into everything from taglines to T-shirts, sales brochures to seminars. The Body Shop is a great practitioner of branding. Its core value is social involvement. The company contributes to rain forest preservation, takes an active role in women’s issues, and markets children’s products with informative storybooks about endangered species. You don’t need to see an ad for The Body Shop to know that. Just walk into any of its stores. You’ll be greeted by a salesperson wearing a T-shirt with The Body Shop logo and a social message. You know right away this is a company with a social conscience.

Your Brand Determines Your Future.
No one factor plays a greater role in the future of your company than your brand. It determines what you can charge for your product, how long you can sell it, and how successful you might be in other markets. A solid branding effort leads to numerous benefits. Here are a few of the more important ones.

What’s Your Brand?
Premium pricing. Stronger brands are able to sell at higher prices than their competitors, even if the product is no better. Take Morton Salt. Salt is the ultimate commodity. All salt is made the same. All salt tastes the same. Yet Morton’s charges a nickel or more a package and gets it. We’ve fallen in love with the little girl on the box.

Customer loyalty. Technologies change. Products evolve. Competition increases. Nothing weathers these storms like customer loyalty. Develop a relationship with customers based on trust, and they’ll continue to choose you in good times and bad.

Marketing flexibility. If customers trust your brand strongly enough, you can actually shift your core business with minimal risk. IBM is a great example. The company originally made calculators and other business machines. As new technologies emerged, IBM employed them to venture into new markets like personal computers and integrated defense systems. Because the IBM brand was highly trusted, customers chose these new products with little fear. In fact, the IBM reputation for dependability was so well instilled that not choosing it was deemed risky.

Higher status. Maybe your customers are other companies. Branding is just as important in business-to-business relationships as it is in business-to-consumer ones. Without a strong brand, you’re nothing more than a vendor. However, by consistently conveying your distinctive core benefit to these customers-higher quality, better performance, etc.-your relationship eventually changes. You’re no longer seen as just a run-of-the-mill vendor, but as a preferred supplier-an integral partner.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race.
As you can see, branding is a long-term strategy that will lead your company to growth, profitability and stability. However, it isn’t a quick fix. It takes time. You first must instill your message into the customer’s consciousness, then constantly reinforce it. So be patient. It’s worth it. Just ask any successful company.

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