Don't confuse brand with product
I meet companies on a regular basis that seem to confuse their product with their brand. They have this notion that producing better quality, better priced or cooler looking products is their brand. Still other companies talk of their service offerings as if they were their brand. Sure, having a great product and/or service certainly will help your brand, but, it is not your brand.
Your brand is your identity, think of it as this: It's the feeling your customer gets when your product or service is not around for them to consume. It is the feeling they get, when they look up at your advertising billboard on the side of a highway. Your brand is what makes you stand out from the rest. It is the desire for your consumer to wear your logo (literally or figuratively) with pride.
Your brand is made up of a number of things (including your product). We consider that a brand consists of four equally important elements: Customers, product, employees and shareholders. No brand can succeed if it does not take care of all four of these elements.
Are a very important component of your brand and you should choose them wisely. Many top brands are at the peak of their relevant market places, just because they have selected their clients wisely. McLaren, which manufacture high-end performance cars, for example, has a significant waiting list for its cars. Some of their models are sold to you only because they sent you a letter to say you have been chosen for the privilege of owning their car!
Without a doubt a critical factor of your brand, but don't forget the mouse trap story. A great product does not automatically equal a great brand.
Without employees who love your brand, you are going to suffer. You can have the best product or service, but if your employees don't support you, you will fail. Training your staff, developing them into brand ambassadors is critical. Many companies are ignoring this extremely valuable source of marketing potential. How many companies have employees going home, to friends and families, berating them (and therefore their brand)?
This is another important part of your brand and critical factor for determining success. You can have the best product, best employees and great customers, but without the correct shareholders, your brand will fail. Shareholders are a critical source of funding, which often gives rise to innovation, but having shareholders that don't meet your position could stall your brand through loss of credibility.
What to do?
As you work with your brand and the evolving nature of the market place that you operate in, you are going to have to review your positioning. This is not just changing your product to suit a new or revised demand. It is rather, the understanding how your brand fits into the landscape in which you are operating.
During your marketing strategy review, on an annual basis, you should be reviewing your brand position. For example: Do your values still ring true with your consumers? Have you evolved and are your values now different? Failing to follow these steps for example, will see a company forever chasing innovation at the expense of their clients.
Understanding your market place and your brand position within the space is something that requires constant attention. Truly successful brands place huge importance on their brand. They don't allow secretaries to change their logo colours, because they feel like it. They understand that their customers seek reassurance for their purchasing decision and seeing their brand can give their client this reassurance.
So if you have accidentally left your brand in the hands of unqualified individuals then we would suggest that you move quickly to remedy the situation.
About Mike Taberner
Mike Taberner is a Partner and Director at Brandesign, a brand development company. He consults on brand development and marketing channels to be used by clients. He is responsible for the strategy as well as the media portfolios. Contact details: Twitter @MikeTaberner