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Branding for Beginners

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Branding started because manufacturers wanted their merchandise to be distinguishable from the generic dross of others. This is still the case today, even when brand owners don’t necessarily make the product. Branding now often carries lots of psychological baggage and this perhaps reflects the high values top brands can command. This is a back to basics checklist.

Ten Things You Should Do

  1. Legal protection. Ensure that the key brand symbols, including logo’s, colours, sounds and, where significant and possible, packaging are trade mark protected in all countries where you operate or may extend into.
  2. Be different. You must know why your brand is different to competitors and alternatives. This difference must have real value for the customer if the brand is to have any meaning and real brand value (equity).
  3. Brand values and personality. These are critical to brand positioning. Think values for serious products – quality, integrity, value for money and so on. Think personality for consumer products – fun, friendliness, and so on.
  4. Research perceived values. Ask your customers what they most value about your brand and what associations it has for them.
  5. Look at alignment of values with your projected values. Check that the brand values you project are in tune with the brand values the customer has.
  6. Remember whose brand it is. Your brand exists in the heads of your customers. In a psychological sense it is their brand, not yours.
  7. Currency and relevance. Review periodically whether your brand image is still in tune with where you want to be in the marketplace.
  8. Have a brand policy. Intangible though they may be, brands are a key asset of the business. It is important to have a policy for their protection, investment and development to maintain their levels of recognition, goodwill and relevance.
  9. Think about different brand dimensions. Most brands are there for customer recognition – they are customer brands. However, the company also has other stakeholders such as current and potential investors who are interested in the corporate brand, employees are also stake holders who will seek and see different values in the brand.
  10. Consider brand balancing. Are your product brands consistent with your company brand. Consider playing the transfer market if you have misfit brands that would be of value to someone else. Also consider brands you could buy that would fit your portfolio?

Five Things You Should Not Do

  1. Don’t neglect investment. In a dynamic environment, with lots of messages, unless you speak for your brand, its share of voice and mind share with customers will fade over time.
  2. Don’t corrupt the brand. Respect and uphold brand values.
  3. Don’t overextend the brand. Projection of an existing brand into unrelated areas can weaken overall value and cause customer confusion.
  4. Don’t tolerate encroachment. If it looks like a real case of passing off, take legal action.
  5. Don’t throw away brand value. Established brands may represent a cumulative investment over many years. Needless re-branding means this value is lost and you start again from ground zero.


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