I was having tea with a friend who intended to start a business within the next few months. The conversation led to a long discussion of whether one should build the entire company and product around a pre-set branding or should branding evolve over time. It’s almost like a chicken and egg discussion but it peppered the 90-minute afternoon tea very sumptuously.
Personally, I would go for the former. Branding is all about matching the needs of a targeted market segment with your company’s core expertise. You begin with designing the product, offering relevant services, set up the infrastructure and instill a mindset that are important to, and aligned with the values of your target audience. Then, you go through the necessary marketing communications channels to talk to them in a way that is understood and appreciated by them. In a nutshell, branding is about knowing the market’s problems, wants and yet-unknown-wants, and reveal your solutions in an unique and attractive manner that make you appear as the only logical and viable option.
What the brand should be isn’t a matter to be decided by the brand development, marketing or public relations department. And it certainly should not be coming from the advertising agency alone. Branding must involve the top executives of the company. They should drive the brand values across and down, to every level and everyone. We have a distinct picture of the mission, beliefs and expertise of The Body Shop because of Anita Roddick. When we talk about Microsoft, we cannot avoid discussing Bill Gates. Branding of a company goes hand in hand with the top guns in that company. The brand therefore encompasses the corporate mission, values, vision, goals and culture.
If you are like my friend, new to business or unsure, if you have a desire to create a strong branding for your target segment, you might want to take this simple 12-question Branding Test. Questions like “On a scale of 1 -10, how your clients/prospects perception align with how you want to be perceived” and “how you feel your marketing communications support your corporate strategy.” The questions are simple to understand. However, if you find yourself struggling with the answers, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your corporate branding or seek some professional advice.
The company drives the brand, the brand shapes the company.