Understanding the importance of future-focused branding, an approach centered on where the market will be – not on where it is today – is essential for start-up companies entering the national arena as well as for well-established corporations. With the influx of technology start-ups, the competitive environment is fierce.
Organizations are pressured to creatively promote themselves to key audiences in order to achieve their business goals.
Companies interested in expanding their awareness nationally must craft a comprehensive marketing plan, beginning with a brand definition, to help ensure their organization and offerings are easily recognized by their audiences. A well-defined brand effectively articulates a company’s value proposition and differentiates it from competitors.
In constructing such a campaign, the first thing an organization needs to realize is that branding is a process. Within that process there are a variety of steps that need to be implemented in a particular order, including the identification of business goals and objectives, buy-in from executives and a post-launch evaluation program.
Addressing hard-hitting business questions prior to a launch into the hi-tech mainstream is critical for all companies. Such questions include:
• What are we selling/promoting?
• What is the interrelationship between master-brand and sub-brand?
• What do we want to become?
• What steps are required to get there?
• What kind of brand architecture should we consider?
• What’s the source of our brand authority?
Finding answers to these questions will lay the foundation for an organization’s marketing efforts. This discovery can be done successfully with a management consulting firm or agency, and it is advised that a neutral party is brought in to help flush out the message points. Once the exercise is complete, an organization should have on the table an outline of the key elements of its future branding message, objectives and goals.
Management and its business partners should work cohesively to develop and build upon these messages, incorporating them into the corporate vision and mission, ultimately resulting in pinpointing the key messages at identified target audiences. The company’s strategic selling propositions will come out of the master-brand statement, and the key message points will later be customized for each audience, communicating a consistent brand personality.
Securing executive buy-in is essential. Once key individuals within the company are on the same page with the company’s mission and vision, a uniform voice will serve as the brand ambassador. Then, stepping back, an organization can realize all the messaging platforms available, such as Web site, call center or product sales force, and realize how imperative it is to have a synergistic brand message.
Before launching a product or service nationally, the brand personality must be defined. This can happen only by taking an introspective view of the audience being targeted and how the brand will be communicated.
One key step often overlooked in developing brand awareness is research. It’s easy to consciously avoid pre- and post-launch research activities that can help better position the brand among target audiences. Avoiding this step, however, will add roadblocks later. Consider clarity of brand message by using research throughout the life of a brand, both as a means to introduce and position as well as refresh message points.
There are various audiences to receive the messages. A company must identify key audiences, beginning with those within the organization. Vested and nonvested employees are the best generators of good will, and one of the most important voices in a company. The peripheral audiences to the message delivery, and of equal importance, are industry analysts, Wall Street financiers and partners as well as prospects. Once messages have strategically hit these audiences, you are ready to externally launch to the prospective customer. Regardless of whom a company is trying to reach, all communications should stem from the same brand personality or essence as integrated, consistent and synergistic.
Delivering branding communications takes balance. Striking a balance between the blinding speed of the Internet and its infinite reach with the longer-shelf-life channels of communication, such as newspapers, magazines, direct mail and television, will maximize the reach a company will have in delivering its message.
Remember, a brand is dynamic. An organization is obligated to evolve it over time by developing a process to incorporate and react to market shifts. In the high-technology market, change can happen literally overnight. The best organizations engage in constant monitoring for shifts in their brand’s personality and in the competitive environment.