While many executives will rightfully claim that they understand the benefits of a great brand, the bigger test is how well they defend it when things go wrong.
Take Target’s recent credit card security breach that potentially compromised as many as 70 million customers who, up until that time, expected the national retailer to protect their identities. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time -- during the holiday shopping season -- and will likely cost them in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements, penalties and lost revenues.
Yet to Target’s credit, they came out very early to notify and apologize to those who were affected as well as the consumer-buying public, offering a 10 percent discount on all purchases made the weekend prior to Christmas. This is the mark of a great company; one that lives up to its promise by trying to make things right when things go awry.
At the most basic level, a brand is a set of both tangible and intangible items -- stories, illustrations, activities, statements, culture and much more -- that collectively invite an individual or entity to enter into a “memorable” relationship with a business. This customer relationship and experience will in turn generate brand equity for your business, thus creating new and repeat sales.
So as 2014 gets underway, I’d encourage your executive team to undertake a brand audit process that encompasses five general elements:
Brand communications. Review past and current advertising and promotional materials that also includes website and social media. Determine if the messaging is clear, concise and -- most important -- relevant. Get others who are not involved in the day-to-day responsibilities of creating such collateral to give their two cents. It will help prevent “group think.”
Brand strategy. Review the company’s business and marketing plans and measure it against what the brand is supposed to represent. This should be a frank review of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses as well as an evaluation of the market opportunities and threats that could support or potentially impede the success of the company.
Related: It's Time to Embrace Your Brand
Brand positioning. Take an honest look at how the company’s brand is positioned and how it measures up to the competition. Better yet, interview or survey key management and staff about what they believe to be the company’s positioning and mission as well as their understanding their beliefs about the brand, either real or perceived. Some surprising truths -- both positive and negative -- will come forth.
Customer journey. Review how customers shop for the company’s particular products or services, who are their influencers and what their buying pattern is. The experience from their perspective is important to understand as it is all part of the brand.
Customer analysis. It’s important to perform both qualitative and -- if budgets allow -- quantitative research to understand customer loyalty, perception, awareness and attitude towards the brand. Customers will make or break a brand by how much, or how little, they embody it.
Chances are, many companies are already doing a lot of this, but most likely in a piecemeal manner without the full participation of the C-suite. The time has come to embrace the potential of the brand and its full revenue and valuation potential. Let’s make 2014 the year to realize the brand’s full capabilities in elevating an organization’s bottom line.
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