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Time to give your brand a checkup

Strong and healthy brands command immediate recall and loyal patronage

Not all products are brands. Most are commodities, driven by price and challenged by customer attrition or lack of customer loyalty.

Kevin Lane Keller, a leading authority in brand management, posits that products are brands if consumers are aware of them and have strong, favorable and unique associations with them.

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What makes a true brand?

There are several metrics to help identify whether a product or service is a brand.

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Among these are the following :

Brand audit results. A brand audit identifies whether a product or service is top of mind in a category, strongly recommended by present customers and quantifies customer conversion and loyalty.

The higher the numbers, the more sticky the customers’ relationship is to the brand.

Commodity products or services have names like all others, but they are not a brand simply because when a brand audit is run, they have no category performance ranking.

Often, their product names do not even appear in the category audit because consumers do not even recall their product or service names even if field interviewers aid the consumer.

Healthy and strong brands are recalled and patronized across generations.  However, a product or service may have a strong association with an older generation but not so much with millennials and Generation Z members.

That is because a brand faces crossroads from one generation to the next and only the strongest survive.

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Such strong brands are able to adapt and maintain their compelling value proposition from one generation to the next. For example, some among the younger millennials and Generation Z members may know Ma Mon Luk, Choc Nut and Caronia, but these were undeniably household names in previous decades and favored by the older Filipinos.

A healthy brand’s topline tends to rise consistently year after year, even performing above the industry. The brand audit will reflect how consumers perceive and relate to the brand.

If the brand audit shows a consistent rise in performance rank, then this should automatically be reflected in the brand’s topline, provided there are also no detrimental company operational performances in distribution, pricing and product, to name a few.

A healthy brand’s true measure is the lifetime value to its customers.  A fleeting relationship with a customer is what most commodity products and services experience.

A one, two or three-time purchase often happens with commodities. But true, healthy brands count years of purchases by the same consumers, starting with an average of three years of consistent, never failing and frequent repurchase.

The stronger the relationship with a customer, the greater the likelihood that usage will be passed on to the next generation.

Healthy brands are aided and not made obsolete by technology.  Technology is an enabler and a new touch point, like any other distribution space or media format to reach the consumer, especially the young millennials and generation Z members who grew up with technology.

For example, the younger generation continues to visit the retail space to touch and feel the new fashion items on their skin, but for regular, habitual product use, technology aids online purchasing.

So how can a brand be strengthened?

One, make sustained investments in branding.  There are no shortcuts to becoming and remaining a healthy brand. At the start of the branding endeavor, often for a first time brand, the percentage of sales advertising may be high but drops through time as you build a healthy brand. On a sustained basis and depending on the topline of the business, along with category competition as well as conservatism or aggressiveness of brand owners, it can be anywhere from 2.5 percent to 8 percent of expenses.

Second, produce great content guided by a differentiating and compelling brand story plus effective media buying.  A brand must have both. Even if you have a substantive media budget but your message is not compelling enough to potential consumers, then media and branding become an expensive cost item and not a worthy investment.

On the other hand, if your brand strategy and story are compelling, often identifiable beforehand in market research, but supported by a minimal media budget, traction is much, much slower, though whoever the campaign reaches will likely become converted consumers.

Have a capable brand strategist on your team.  Check out the credentials of your brand strategist. Best to find out what brands he or she has built from scratch.

If you are getting an external resource, check out the client roster, experience and most especially get feedback from their clients preferably coowners like yourselves.

Brand owners will not advertise who their brand consultants are but will definitely endorse when there is an attempt to verify credentials.

The “padrino” system doesn’t work when you are seriously building a brand you want to pass on to the next generation.

The fees of a very good expert strategist are much smaller compared to the benefits derived from building, growing and maintaining a strong brand that will rise above the category and be patronized from one generation to the next. —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: brand management, Kevin Lane Keller, Products
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