The Importance of Strategic Brand Management
Strategic brand management is meant to support companies in getting (or improving) brand recognition, boosting revenue, and achieving long-term business goals.
Managing a brand can (and should) include a multitude of aspects, from centralizing digital assets to upholding brand consistency across various touchpoints. When it comes to the strategic part of brand management, it indicates a more long-term aspect of managing your company’s brand.
This often includes future-proofing your brand – setting up sustainable processes and scheduled iterations to empower your employees in creating, managing, and developing the brand in a way that actually works – without the risk of any harmful brand inconsistencies.
So what is strategic brand management, really?
By establishing a brand strategy that upholds your company’s overall goals and processes, you’ll make sure that your brand can evolve and grow in a way that’s benefitting your business in the long run. A brand strategy is a combination of methods aimed at helping you put into words the uniqueness and identity of your brand – allowing you to increase quality in communication and customer touchpoints, for a stronger brand and (ultimately) enhanced selling power.
When you’ve got a strategy that is both agile and beneficial for your brand, allowing you to add value to its overall perception, you’ve made a long-lasting investment in the future of your company.
Why is it important though? Well, it’ll help you...
- Improve brand perception – strengthening selling power – through trust.
- Increase retention, customer loyalty, and brand value.
- Differentiate your brand to indicate uniqueness to customers.
- Allow marketing communication to be more impactful.
- Activate employees to up engagements and enable them to feel closer to the company.
- Make your company less vulnerable to drastic changes in your market.
How do you create a brand management strategy?
As you might’ve guessed, there are more than a few moving parts to account for when creating a successful brand management strategy. The most important ones are:
- Making sure your brand positioning and values are aligned.
- Actively monitoring brand reputation (who says what, where, and when).
- Centralizing your brand material to ensure stakeholders know what to use where, when, and how.
- Frequently measuring and analyzing brand performance – confirming all brand activities are on track.
Let’s look at it from a more detailed perspective.
Brand Positioning & Value
One of the cornerstones of creating a solid brand management strategy is to determine the positioning of the brand, and what the company wants to achieve. Not exactly a walk in the park, this one takes some time and thought. To create a strong brand positioning, researching the positioning of all competitors in the industry to see indications of differentiators is sort of non-negotiable (spoiler alert: you’ll want to position your brand to set it apart from the rest).
By creating your own brand space (your spot in the market), you’ll be able to find a niche position that’ll resonate directly with your audience, making you – when executed well – unmistakably you in every way, shape, and form. This will not only bring your company forward in the sense of recognition, but it’ll boost business goals and consequently, the overall performance of your organization.
Finding your brand’s position can be tricky, but it’s easier when you’ve established and documented the values your company upholds. If you, for example, are a dynamic and what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of company, you might want to position it in a space where you’re transparent and user-centric in your communications. Maybe you value innovation and progressive thinking? Then make sure your company is communicating with a more modern approach than your competition is.
Whatever values you’ll define, don’t let them fall to the wayside; integrate them into the core of the company. Empty words on paper mean nothing if you as a company can’t stand by them, and back your position and values up through every customer touchpoint.
Brand Reputation Management
For brand building and reputation management, media monitoring and social listening are essential tools in constructing a successful future for your brand. Make sure you know everything about what’s being said, where it’s being said, and by whom. That’ll play a vital part in any functional brand reputation strategy.
You’ll need to know if it’s on a blog post, through a social channel, or some other platform you might never even have heard of. Having a good sense of what’s going on will allow you to properly prepare for what’s coming. In turn, you’ll be poised to successfully steer a conversation in the right direction like the pro you are.
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritties. Did you ever hear the expression “Any PR is good PR?” Sure you did. Here’s some news for you: it’s not. Negative publicity can, when left out there, floundering in the world, unopposed, have the power to turn a company upside-down. Your brand’s reputation is based on the image it communicates, which does not need to come from you specifically, but anyone in contact with it. A customer, stakeholder, former employee, a random person with a prickly personality – anyone. When there’s negative publicity hanging around, your brand perception is at risk. A lack of trust in your product or service can permanently damage your company, and with more people believing it, the faster it spreads.
The role of brand reputation management is to take steps in controlling and influencing this – taking ownership of your brand perception, in the eyes of the public – making sure it’s actively dictated by you as a company. This is why it’s essential that you regularly monitor, respond to, and fix predicaments as they appear. Your brand is only as strong as what they think of it.
Brand Management System
Keeping your communications on-brand is one of the most vital aspects of a fine-tuned brand management strategy. Whether you’re a one-person show or a global enterprise (especially then, actually), centralizing your brand definitions, assets, creatives, and essentials is crucial.
Building a brand system like that can be done in different ways. Traditionally, you’d create PDF brand guidelines to show relevant stakeholders how to use your brand. This would often be associated with a set of creatives and assets – either on a Google Drive or in Dropbox.
The other solution is to create a digital brand home for your company, living in the cloud. There are currently a few alternatives for this, allowing you to set a space up with centralized, always-up-to-date brand guidelines that can be shared throughout an organization with no more than a link. In addition, these cloud-based brand systems provide you with libraries that host your creatives and assets, helping employees use the right assets for the right project – you might know this as digital asset management.
Whichever way you choose to go, making sure you’re centralizing and facilitating your brand flow seamlessly through your organization is your golden ticket to getting on the right track for creating and carrying out a winning brand management strategy.
Brand Performance & Analysis
Once your brand management strategy is well defined and active, you’ll need to analyze and optimize its performance for the best impact. There are several ways of doing brand audits; you can do it in-house, or with an external agency – all depending on the amount of time and money you have on your hands.
Regardless of who’s behind the wheel, make sure you cover these three areas:
- Internal branding – brand values, positioning, and company culture.
- External branding – print and online advertising, marketing materials, public relations, social media, website, newsletters, and content marketing.
- Customer experience – sales process and customer support; online and offline.
When looking at these aspects of your brand, analyze them from every vantage point. Is it all brand consistent? Does everything looks and feels the same? Is everyone in the company living and breathing your brand, both in the creation of brand material and real-life interactions with customers?
Some things are easily measured in terms of conversions and traffic, but some things will require you to have proper sit-downs with customers. Ask them how they see your brand. This way, you’ll know if what you’re trying to communicate actually is what’s perceived on the other end – that goes with every part of your brand audit.
These brand audits should, ideally, be conducted regularly. Make sure you revisit the topic at least once every quarter. That way, you’ll avoid being shell-shocked when things start heading the wrong direction – instead, you’ve anticipated it and controlled it to the extent that no harm will befall your brand.