Strategic Brand Management

Nowadays it can be very simple to copy what a brand is selling. Imitating the way the product is sold and delivered is a different thing. Through Strategic Brand Management businesses can learn to analyse how a brand is acting inside and outside as it grows. To have an efficient brand strategy means to be able to understand the company's competencies, spot new opportunities and deliver the brand promise.

Strategic Brand Management walks hand in hand with the Brand Management Principles but looks at things from a much wider angle and companies often use this viewpoint to build their brands, going from a Brand Vision to a Brand Evaluation .

Brand Vision is the starting point for any brands' building process. When companies find the right ingredients, they tend to use them over and over again as they are a winning formula. Companies, therefore, do not leave the right direction once it has been found and stay focused on a long-term vision.

To develop, grow and improve brands use an analysis which in many ways reminds of the SWOT analysis. This model is called BRANDSPHERE AUDIT and helps managers to distinguish between all those forces that could support as well as obstruct their projects. When a practical strategy is found and proved to be effective, the company needs a system and structure to transform their project into a real brand. Organisational Culture is another important aspect of Strategic Brand Management and deals with staff recruitment and performance. Last but not least is the Evaluation of the brand performance.

When a brand is powerful, there are three main components always present and boosting each other:

  • Future: vision and plans for the following five years (immediate results are idle and ineffective);
  • Purpose: how is the brand going to make a better place for customers;
  • Values: how is the brand planning to grow.

The first element does not focus its attention on the technical and functional aspects but rather on experiencing the joy of the environment which surrounds the service or product. In doing that, a company has to address its vision towards a five years plan considering all those factors that like social and economics changes, may or may not influence the brand. Once these aspects are identified the company has to identify those that are most going to affect the way the brand will perform in the five years ahead and consider further means of development.

The second element is the brand Purpose and how a brand can be distinctive making a consistent difference when presented to the consumers making their life more enjoyable and rewarding.

The third and last component of the brand vision is the Value, and it refers to the quality of the product or service. It represents the belief that stands the test of time which makes the customer decide whether a behaviour or an outcome is good or not.

Values can be divided into four types:

- Core Values shared by all the members of the organisation and that determine a particular behaviour which belongs that particular brand;

- Aspirational Values refer to what the group inspires to, a particular behaviour which is not yet delivered;

- Permission to Play Values which are the basic and straightforward standards common to most organisations;

- Accidental Values which emerge without a direct mediation of the management.

Choosing the right value could be a demanding task, but there are a few hints to recognise core values and learning history is one of them. A clever way of doing it is by organising a debate with a chosen member per department to discuss the major crisis the brand has faced so far and see what actions and solution were proposed. Analysing the actions we can recognise the primary drivers of behaviour. The team should meet again after some time, to check the relevance of the values and see if they delivered the hoped support for behaviour, communication and development, if they can be easily achieved and if they give that extra to the organisation, setting it apart from its competitors.

Brand vision and evaluation have to be supported by a strong organisational culture. To start with it is necessary to have a clear idea of what culture is represented with a unique definition as a collective set of mental models, expectations, values and artefacts that reflect the implicit and explicit rules driving people's behaviour.

The diagrams you see above is called Competing Values Framework is made to help people to understand the type of culture of the organisation they work for. It uses two dimensions to show how the company is organised: one dimension mirrors the way the company is structured, the other shows how the company looks for new opportunities. By the different combination of the two dimensions, we can obtain four different cultures:

- Adhocracy Culture = creates new ideas, new brands and new opportunities;

- Market Culture = externally orientated, stable but driven by competition;

- Hierarchy Culture = more control based focus on doing things properly;

- Clan Culture = collaboration and long-term development.

With this scheme, it is much easier for companies and organisations to understand what culture they belong to and what they could do in the future regarding the acquisition and merge to better support their brand vision.

Every organisation should be able to see what kind of people their team is made of. There are four different main groups spotted so far:

- Brand Champions : actively promoting the brand ideas:

- Brand Saboteurs: work against the brand ideas;

- Brand Agnostics: interested but not committed;

- Brand Cynics: not involved in the brand idea.

To grow bearing its original vision, a brand has to understand what type of organisational culture better suits for them and what needs to be changed regarding staff training. A careful and sensible approach on recruitment is, therefore, necessary to teach the new employees to live and love the brand and powerfully support it.

People prefer and buy one brand instead of another as a reflection of a particular need they have, and their choice fulfils their functional and psychological Need State, which is another important concept of Strategic Brand Management. Catalytic Mechanisms is another one. These instruments can be used by managers to turn goals and ambitions into actual performances, and they help managers to stay focused on long-term objectives rather than short-term actions that are not as efficient as the first. They also ensure managers will always follow the brand vision applying a particular type of rules called "teeth". When broken, these rules will affect the members of the organisation as they create e psychological bond boosting their underlying inclination.

To show to which extent a brand can be positively or negatively influenced the Brandsphere Audit model is presented. The five components (Corporation, Distributors, Marketing Environments, Competitors and Consumers) are known as the five forces that affect the brand success.

One of the reasons why brands exist is their interaction with their distributors. This is a very dynamic process where the values of both brands and distributors have to be the same. Other than that, distributors represent the image and the geographical coverage of a brand, and that is why the objectives of the two have to be aligned. The power increase of the distributors can affect the brand management balance as well as the strategies used to control their power.

There is a particular mechanism that can turn customers into decision makers. This is done when brands understand the role buyers want them to play. Moreover it happens when it is clear what motivates those consumers who are not involved in the process of choosing the brand, to pick them instead of their competitors. The choice brands make about their competitors is crucial. Where managers compete with key players, customers base their decision on the choice of offers they have. At the same time, they are not entirely aware of the extent of the competition between brands.

Competitors can be divided into two broad categories: Newcomers and Leaders of the market. With an accurate analysis and study of their competitors, managers can understand their strength and their impact on their brand. Last but not least is the marketing environment where political, economic, technological and social factors could influence the market scene with risks as well as opportunities. A good team will, therefore, analyse the whole picture deciding how the five forces could affect their brand success. Audit brandsphere could, in such a way, replace SWOT analysis and help to reevaluate and rexamine brand vision and goals, designing new successful strategies.

The result of a focused analysis of the brand culture and objectives as well as a precise brand audit gives a clear picture of what our brand should be like. Once the comparison with competitors has been made, a company can, therefore, develop the right strategies to reach customers and gain new ones both on a functional and emotional level. This is what we call Brand Essence and can be represented as a pyramid, very helpful to plan a stable brand promise.

Here from the bottom to the top we can find:

- attributes transformed into

- benefits

- emotional rewards

- values

- personality traits.

To make the brand work as it should, there is another model which is worth to analyse. This is called the Atomic Brand , and it is used to find the right resources to reflect the brand principles. The name comes from its structure, very similar to an atom where the nucleus is represented by the brand essence and the electrons by:

- the brand's distinctive name (to identify the brand);

- the brand's sign ownership (to identify the brand);

- functional capabilities (to position the brand);

- service components (to increase reliability);

- risk reducers (to improve reliability);

- legal protection (to communicate in a clear and concise manner);

- shorthand notation (to communicate in a clear and concise manner);

- symbol feature (to communicate in a clear and concise manner).

Once the product is eventually sold a company should monitor how the market reacts to it and enact the brand promise. To do that there are many different techniques.

Some of these are:

- A proper evaluation checking through a questionnaire given to the stakeholders asking them if the brand has achieved its goals analysing data;

- Analyse the customers and channel members' behaviour to get a greater volume and margins.

Moreover, to measure the brand equity, loyalty and satisfaction need to be considered. People will be loyal if satisfied. Other critical components are quality, status and association of the brand that is perceived by customers.