With today’s crowded markets and dizzying diversity of customer channels, branding has become more important than ever for success. With its ability to drive sales and customer loyalty, a strong brand can have a big impact on a company’s bottom line, as well as its potential for long-term growth.
But creating a brand is one thing, and maintaining it is something else altogether. In a world where one badly timed or poorly worded Tweet can send a company’s stock price into a freefall, even the world’s most profitable brands are protecting themselves by investing in expert, proactive brand management.
But what does it mean to implement an effective brand management strategy, and why is it important for businesses to do so? Let’s take a closer look.
What is brand management?
Brand management is the process of managing an organization’s overall branding efforts in a way that actively increases not only its reputation and value, but that of any associated products or services, too. From establishing a brand image and identity through growing awareness, recognition and equity, brand management works to organize every aspect of the branding process into a single, strategic whole.
As such, this process often extends beyond the activities that are directly associated with branding. A truly effective brand management strategy includes not only marketing, advertising, public relations and customer service, but also logistical elements like product design and distribution, and even internal considerations like employee benefits packages and code of conduct.
Why should businesses invest in brand management? The most successful brands are the ones that not only adapt to changes in the market and consumer tastes, but anticipate and even drive them — think of Apple and the iPhone, which has defined the standards of an entire industry since 2007.
Brand management is essential for achieving and maintaining a desired market position, and to differentiate products and services in the eyes of consumers on an ongoing basis. It’s the basis for making sure that an organization is effectively communicating its unique selling proposition (USP), and, as such, it’s not just a powerful driver of value, but an essential ingredient in a larger business strategy.
Successfully managing a brand helps make it recognizable to consumers, which can boost sales in the short term and eventually enable a higher price premium — i.e, greater brand equity. Brand management is important for making sure that a company’s marketing budget is used to its greatest effect, while helping to ensure a positive return on investment for those efforts.
A strong brand also helps companies maintain closer relationships with customers, increasing overall customer lifetime value (CLV) and building the kind of long-term loyalty that offers its own rewards in the form of increased word-of-mouth referrals and positive social media buzz. (According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of a company’s sales volume is generated by 20% of its customer base, suggesting that loyal customers have a tremendous value.)
Brand management can also provide a foundation for effectively dealing with negative publicity, which can arrive quickly and unexpectedly (and often unjustifiably) on social media. In addition, it’s a powerful internal tool that can help align team members toward a common goal. It can also help cultivate a positive culture, creating happier, more engaged workers who may also serve as brand advocates.
What’s the difference between brand management and brand marketing management?
How is brand management different from brand marketing management? The latter is a subset of the former, involving the creation and execution of specific campaigns to boost overall brand visibility or equity. In comparison, brand management is a larger process that also includes concepts like strategic brand management and brand asset management.
Brand marketing management
Of course, many companies have launched products, and supported them with marketing efforts, before formulating a brand identity. In these cases, brand marketing management uses the techniques and resources of a company’s marketing department in the service of promoting and strengthening a brand, as opposed to more immediate (and measurable) sales-oriented goals.
What’s the difference between brand management and strategic brand management?
Like brand marketing management, strategic brand management is a subset of brand management that’s focused on strategy rather than the mechanics of day-to-day marketing efforts. While brand management is the larger process of managing every component of a brand, strategic brand management refers to the management of the brand strategy itself.
Strategic brand management
As an extension of brand strategy, strategic brand management is concerned with the long-term perception and position of a brand. As a subset of brand management, strategic brand management can also be directed towards a specific, overriding goal — such as introducing a brand into a new global market, or a new product within an existing corporate brand.
What’s the difference between brand management and brand asset management?
Another subset of brand management, brand asset management is focused on organizing and optimizing a brand’s tangible components. This includes elements of the brand identity like logos, blog content, YouTube videos, unique or proprietary photography or music, as well as any registered trademarks and the official guidelines for their use.
Brand asset management
Brand asset management is an important tool for achieving consistency in the use of brand assets, and efficiency by streamlining access and eliminating duplicate work — especially for organizations with extensive branding and marketing footprints.
It also provides a means for all employees to access the assets they need to fulfill their duties, and defines the use of each of those assets within specific channels or geographic areas, ideally limiting them to the appropriate users. For instance, a trademarked logo could be restricted to certain members of the marketing team, while only videographers can access raw video files.
Digital asset management is a subset of brand asset management that focuses exclusively on a company’s electronic identity.
Brand asset management systems
Brand asset management is a complex task, often requiring the organization of hundreds of thousands of files. Specialized software can help businesses tackle this job, centralizing all assets into a shared directory, and offering a means to apply global guidelines and requirements for their use.
Leading brand asset management services also automate key aspects of the process like access and permissions, applying predefined rules of use for each asset to improve collaboration and ease of access for everyone involved. They also help companies make sure that their investments in developing these assets are put to the best use, and protected from theft, loss or mismanagement.
There are many brand asset management services on the market, so businesses can be selective. Leaders should look for a solution that can simplify the management of a large number of files in a way that’s user friendly and intuitive, to enable its most efficient use by employees. It should also be searchable, customizable, and scalable, offering easy integration with existing software and workflows.
Brand management strategies
What brand management strategies can businesses implement for successful brand management? While each company’s ultimate strategy will differ depending on its unique niche and target market, there a few universal components that any business can begin with:
Formulate your brand strategy. It’s important to begin with a clear understanding of what you want your brand to be, and what it currently is (if applicable). What’s your USP? Who’s your target market? What channels are most suited for your brand’s niche? Step one is conducting the necessary research to create a brand identity, and then a brand strategy to support it.
> Pro tip: Looking for help creating a brand strategy? Build a blueprint with the GfK Brand Architect.
Conduct a brand audit. If you’re optimizing an existing brand, as opposed to starting from scratch, you need a clear picture of your current strengths and limitations. That means conducting a comprehensive brand audit, a process that typically includes calculating current market share, competitive landscape and customer behavior and perceptions, and then matching those findings against goals or expectations.
> Pro Tip: Market research is a complex task. If you don’t have proper expertise on staff, don’t hesitate to reach out to a third-party specialist.
Coordinate with marketing. Depending on your organizational hierarchy, your brand strategy may defer to your marketing strategy, or vice versa. Ideally, they’re carried out collaboratively with one another. For instance, a marketing strategy must make proper use of brand assets like logo and design, while a brand strategy often relies on marketing tactics to enhance brand equity.
Upgrade the customer experience. Offering premium customer service — or in today’s parlance, a superior customer experience — has become a top priority for all types of businesses looking to distinguish their brand in a hyper-competitive marketplace. As a result, expectations have risen for many other companies to focus on providing the best experience possible as a core part of managing their brand.
If this seems like an obvious solution, it’s also trickier than it may appear! Providing customers with high levels of access to truly professional quality representatives — who know the topic and the brand they’re discussing inside and out — comes at a premium price. And today’s customers are usually savvy enough to tell the difference between companies that make the investment, and those that don’t.
> Pro Tip: A few ways to measure your success in customer service is by actively gathering for customer feedback (e.g., surveys, focus groups or website forms) and by measuring website analytics.
Leverage available software. Brand management is a big job with operation-wide implications, and it may require specialized software solutions to make it cost effective and scalable across an organization. Luckily, we’re living in a golden age of technological solutions. Some particularly helpful tools include:
Brand asset management software to ensure consistency and efficiency of use and access
Customer relationship management (CRM) to organize and manage customer contacts and leads
Marketing automation software to enable more targeted and effective messaging via social media, email, SMS and other channels
Hire a brand manager. By investing in a dedicated employee to oversee and direct brand management efforts, businesses can better ensure adherence to best practices and an advanced, up-to-date understanding of market dynamics. An experienced brand manager can apply advanced techniques to best leverage available resources, while working with other company stakeholders to help ensure that all efforts are aligned with a company’s larger goals.
> Pro Tip: In many cases, a third-party consultant specializing in branding and marketing can help companies improve their brand management capabilities, and even help create and implement an effective working strategy, without the need to hire a dedicated professional.
Monitor, measure and improve. Remember, brand management is an ongoing process, and it’s important to define and integrate the right metrics for success. These typically include key process indicators (KPIs) on brand equity, brand awareness and customer interaction. Other useful metrics may include financial performance, online reviews (e.g., Yelp or Glassdoor), and Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Continuous improvement may be critical for brand management, but there’s even more value in getting it right the first time. For businesses looking for guidance in making sure their brand represents them in the best possible way at all times, the right expertise can make all the difference.
At GfK, our branding and marketing solutions are designed to help today’s leading businesses better seize existing market opportunities, and discover new ones. Read more about our suite of Brand Intelligence Solutions to discover how we can help your business build a better plan for brand management.