IMI Magazine

IMI Magazine

Brand management


How to attain those core values

Service brands are predominantly perceived through the service associated with them rather than the material things to which the brand symbols are attached. The essence of a good brand is that it stays true to the spirit of the things it represents, says Edward Moulding. Brands represent the added value between the customer and company, and in this respect they tend to be an intangible, abstract perception in the mind of the customer.

A brand is a promise, and in the end you have to keep your promise.

You buy the brand because you consider it a friend. That trust, that sense of reliability and confidence, is the reason you invest in it. The whole definition of a brand is about that kind of predictability and security, but if you betray the trust, then the customer will take a long time to forgive.

Success lies in focusing on the brand core values and the ability to translate those concepts easily to all concerned. McDonald’s mastered this through strict adherence to simple aims – quality, cleanliness and uniformity. Uniformity is the crucial differentiating factor here. McDonald’s did it by doing simple things well.

Key Concepts

Brand Equity

Brand equity represents the degree to which a brand’s name alone contributes value of the offering to a customer. There is a direct correlation between brand-building activities and profitability, and is based on –

  • the degree of consumer attachment to the brand (‘brand loyalty’)
  • the description of the associations and beliefs that a consumer has about a brand
  • the notion of the financial value of a brand as a distinct asset

Brand Identity

Brands must be able to describe themselves, both internally and externally. It is this that gives them their ‘Unique Selling Proposition’.

Appearance matters when a brand is being judged. After all, it’s about claiming a place in the mind of the consumer. This must be cultivated. It’s about reputation and is made up by the following concepts –

  • Physique: This represents characteristics of the service
  • Personality: A brand acquires a personality through communication and experience of the brand from those people identified with it
  • Culture: The brand has its own culture, which the service physically embodies; it implies a system of assumptions based on underlying values
  • Relationship: Customers and employees have a relationship with the brand. It provides a conduit for an intangible relationship through association with the brand
  • Self-Image: It is claimed that through a customer’s attitude towards a brand, a type of inner relationship is developed, e.g. an extension of themselves

Brand positioning

There are just three factors associated with a brand’s position in the market place and are essential for creating a clear brand definition –

  • Vision: Where the company or organisation  is heading
  • Meaning: Expressed through the creation of image attributes. In the end it is the customer’s  perception that will position the brand
  • Relevance: Understanding the brand’s boundaries – the limits beyond which it fails to be true to itself.

Brand values

These are the essence of the brand expressed in key words such as quality, creativity, integrity, corporate social policy. They can be divided into three groups –

  • Functional: What the brand ‘does’ for the customer
  • Expressive:   What the brand ‘says’ about the customer
  • Central: What the brand and the customer ‘share’ at a fundamental level

A product offer has five levels –

The core benefit – seeing ourselves as benefit providers (customers buy solutions to problems)

The generic product – (for example, 30,000 Km service)

The expected product – the normal expectations of the customer (fixed right first time)

The augmented product – the additional services, benefits added to the product (call centre, service guarantee)

The potential product – what it may become in the future (exclusive services)

Making branding work

Own minds, not products – don’t think in terms of just branding current products/services; rather focus on planting the brand in the minds of customers.

Dare to be different – brands need a distinctive personality to attract a strong following.

Brand love – developing a strong personality will engender a loyal following over time. It must build up a personnel relationship, shared values and interest. It’s a two- way process.

Put a price on the brand – this will afford the brand the attention its status deserves.

Make it a touchstone – a brand is a perfect instrument for focusing the efforts of employees. It can act as a guiding light for behaviour inside the organisation (and outside as well hopefully). It cannot send out messages that conflict with its identity.

Know your place – where branding is concerned, a company must know what it wants to do and where it will position itself in its industry.

Get continuous feedback – to survive, a brand must continually improve. There are no brands with sufficient brand value ‘equity’ to be able to shrug off making improvements.

Protect the brand – effectively, there is no barrier in law to against fake goods or alternative services. The real barrier is the added value and experience associated with the brand itself. If the sum of the brand’s attributes is greater than just the product or service, no alternative suppler can authenticate the brand experience.

Nurture the brand – by constantly monitoring to ensure its wellbeing.

We are all capable of asking the questions that define our own brand: What kind of business is it? What benefits does it provide to the customer? How is it different from others?

Further reading

The definitive guide to marketing planning, by Angela Hatton (publisher Prentice Hall). Branding, by Stephen Coomber (Capstone). The inspirations of Tao Zhu-gong, by Wee Chow Hou. (Prentice Hall).

Edward Moulding  MBA LAE MIMI is aftersales director for Thai Yarnyon, Volkswagen Group  products importer for Thailand.

BrandingMissing a trick?

Block Exemption changes have put branding issues firmly under the spotlight for manufacturers. But if enhanced brand image is treated purely as a deterrent to new market entrants in the car sales, repairs and parts area, manufacturers could be missing an opportunity to increase the scope and reach of their corporate identity, says Martyn Fisher, director of Turner & Townsend.