“Are you on or off our branding strategy?”
In 2022, Inzyon teamed up with the legendary brand strategist Mats Georgson, of Georgson & Co, creating a unique strategic branding tool, giving a near real time answer to that question.
How should it be done?
A brand needs to be conceived not just as an ideal state but as a seamless chain from actions to business results. In short: the purpose of all marketing is to sell more, at higher margins, to more people, more often. In order to do that you cannot just be available and easy to buy, you need to actually get people to choose you. That is branding. To get there the associations to your brand must be beyond the category generic, you must stand for something unique and relevant to your target audience.
In turn this means the brands wanted position must be described not just as a cloud of generic benefits for the category but rather of less, more distinct, more sharp experiences. For instance, BMW is “fun to drive” – it is not a generic car benefit, nor is it the most important. But it gives BMW the distinct differentiation that makes it preferred and in turn also a top-of-mind brand.
Why is Brand Action needed?
From 30 years of theoretical and practical experience of brand management, Mats Georgson has observed the main reasons strategic branding efforts fail. They include:
1. Confusion regarding the associations that create salience (category-generic) and the ones that make people actively prefer a brand (Points of difference)
2. A naive view of branding as being driven primarily by communications (e.g. advertising)
3. A lack of control over what is actually being done to strengthen the brand. Strategies are often lost immediately in the streams of everyday business and individual pressures.
Unless these distinct, unique and relevant attributes are identified there is no proper brand strategy.
After that the company should steer its investments based on where these attributes can be maximized. A company can sometimes get way more leverage in spending on its product development or its customer service rather than making more advertising. But many times the opposite is true, making a product better in some way can often be far more expensive than building associations through communication.
Note also that communication for most companies also have a major problem in relation to brand building. With some oversimplification the model is that we go from awareness to interest to desire to action. Most companies spend an enormous amount of resources on the last part – conversion and sales. Advertising and what is often called “branding” is on the other side of the spectrum, driving awareness and perhaps interest. But the middle part is often underdeveloped. Again this is where the real branding takes place – building perceptions of meaningful differences that later affect choice.
What should be the focus?
Fixing brand strategy and subsequent management is a matter of analyzing four parts:
- Vision – where is the company headed, in inspiring and future oriented terms?
- Business strategy – what are the key decisions and priorities taken to make this come true?
- Brand strategy – in what way does this add value to the selected target group(s)?
- Culture – how do people work in the company to ensure all this?
Like a chain that is not stronger than its weakest link, the four components are all crucial. But a company that has strong and coherent content in three of the four parts only needs to address the weakest link. However a company under major restructuring may have to revisit all four parts.
When this picture is complete the more fine grained formulation of brand strategy can take place, defining exact and measurable points of difference.
How to implement Brand Action management?
There are three main parts to implementing it successfully.
- Why are we doing this – understanding the theoretical idea and how this will benefit the company
- How we are doing this – give the organization tools and training to do the job properly
- Measurement and everyday attention – what has typically failed in the past, so here is the solution to this particular problem.
Are people following the strategy? Are they trying to implement it – or is it business as usual? Continuously check your own and your partners’ channels – from advertising to social media to press releases, but also things like product descriptions, web updates, wherever you make an impression. Same with “echoes” from articles, reviews on social media, etc.
The Brand Action application supports in meeting this challenge. It enables significantly faster, and more insightful, branding decisions for both tactical and strategical positioning matters. It consists of a set of dashboards, each designed to support a specific set of brand management tasks and analysis with the intent is to significantly shorten the “time to knowledge” is any decision process relating to brand strategy and management. In any one given week we might have, say, 65 mentions of which 23 were on strategy. Suddenly we can know if the company is gradually succeeding at implementing the strategy it has set for itself. This lets the marketing director sleep well at night!
Many people first think “oh, we already have a news monitoring service”. But such services typically offer only sentiment scoring – positive or negative – which has nothing to do with the strategy. And while they can deliver keywords and such, they can’t classify complex messages. While such systems are useful for subsequent deeper analysis, the key to Brand Action Monitor is simplicity. Everyone should understand and be able to follow, week by week, the imprints your brand makes. In turn this will lead to better implementation over time.