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Brand Building Challenges (Know Before You Go)

Designing, developing and achieving successful brands are perhaps the most difficult tasks a marketing professional will ever incur. The primary obstacles faced in building brands include time to value, living the brand and brand messaging.

Time to value
Sales and marketing professionals are generally incented and measured on short term sales goals. Stakeholder interests and executive management are most focused on sales results in the current period, or perhaps as far out as the current quarter. Similarly, brand building investments require immediate and quantifiable expenses while results are difficult to quantify and future based. These business truths put brands in a precarious position as their development is a long term loosely measured asset which competes, often unfavorably, with precisely targeted short term financial priorities.

Brands are long term assets and it is not wise to suggest otherwise. While positioning brands as demand generation methods is not credible, thoughtfully planned brand building initiatives can directly compliment already qualified sales prospects or prospects in the sales funnel. In fact, experienced sales and marketing staff leverage their branding programs with select funnel accounts in order to gain additional credibility enhance their competitive position and accelerate sales cycle durations.

Brand building strategies which measurably reach a balance between the need for immediate financial results and the development of a long term asset, while simultaneously demonstrating clear and direct short term benefit between longer term brand building investments and increased near term sales success with in-the-funnel prospects, will stand the best chance of ultimate success. It is absolutely critical for marketing or other brand building professionals to provide education and measurable (often milestone) forecasts to the executive team and secure firm executive sponsorship before commencing branding programs.

Living The Brand
Brands are enterprise-wide living assets. They must be consistently exercised and fulfilled throughout the organization – from R&D to manufacturing to marketing to sales to distribution to returns to accounting. From the receptionist to the CEO, the brand must be enforced at every internal and external interaction. Successful brands are integrated and one with the company culture and provide a highly referenced framework for designing, developing and delivering superior technology solutions to the organization’s target market.

Less experienced technology companies too often craft a brand along the lines of tagline, fail to consistently implement the brand’s promise and then after time fail to understand why the brand is not successful. It is crucial for brand builders to achieve early and broad support throughout the company so that the brand promise is lived, messaged and applied with consistency throughout the enterprise.

Brand Messaging
Brands compete for buyer attention with marketing messages of all types. Media fragmentation and increased volumes of aggressive advertising and marketing tactics position consumers on the defensive. The customers’ signal to noise ratio is already deafening and will certainly continue to escalate, thereby, causing prospects and customers to tune out company messages with increased ease and frequency. Developing a branding message capable of penetrating the barrage of market noise and attracting customer notice is extremely difficult.

There are several recommendations to succeed in this complex task:

  • First, brand messages must be cleverly crafted so that they stand out as both novel and meaningful. Some brands construct messages that are entertaining or humorous, however, these traits work better outside the technology industry. Conjuring a brand message this is original and delivers a psychological impact normally requires outside creative expertise, deep market awareness, customer research, fresh thinking and several iterative management sessions.
  • Brands that dovetail competitive advantages generally achieve earlier and more sustained success. Remember that for competitive advantages to be valid, they must be relevant, measurable and unique.
  • Brand focus is a branding design element of considerable debate. Some experts suggest that without focus, a brand is bland, lacks creative association and fails to stand out. Other brand experts prefer to avoid brand specificity so that the brand does not pigeon hole the company’s offering and the brand can evolve as the company evolves or reinvents itself. Both arguments are valid and seasoned branding experts typically develop brands which achieve a balance or offer their own evolution in parallel to the company’s evolution.

While the challenges to successful brand development are formidable, brand builders are time and again passionate and seasoned executives who pursue and succeed in career paths dominated with obstacles. In fact, history shows that many of the most successful corporate brands were personally driven by a single person. Steve Jobs was both the inspiration and driving force behind Apple’s brand, Jeff Bezos personally crafted Amazon.com’s brand, Sir Richard Branson drove Virgin’s brand, Phil Knight inspired and managed Nike’s brand and Howard Schultz directed Starbuck’s brand. Brand builders consistently recognize the power of brands and leverage their passion and experience to excel beyond powerful deterrents.

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