What You Need to Know About Branding Strategy as a Brand Manager

Hi Readers,

During my stint as the P&L head, business manager of the CPG start up in Africa, Marketing was directly managed by me. In a span of 5 years, I launched 3 successful brands in 3 different categories.

As I understand now, brand management is as much an art as a science.

Most CEOs understand that Sales= clients= revenues (YES!!!), HR= people related issues and systems (necessary evil!!), Finance = bean counters, penny pinchers ( Cant liev with them, cant live without them!)

Marketing confounds them the most!! They are extremely nervous about signing off checks that give the marketing teams their bugets.

When I look at what passes for marketing out there, hell, I’d be nervous about funding it too. I mean, what do you get for all that money? How do you know if it’s working or not?

And branding, that’s even worse. It doesn’t help that the name conjures up images of branding cattle, or somebody being branded a criminal. How about that, branding has a branding problem. Ironic, isn’t it?

Here’s how branding works.

Your company and its products and services have associated attributes that affect customer buying decisions, employee morale, and investor confidence. They also affect your company’s market share, profit margins, and bottom line. THATs THE EASY PART!

Branding strategy enables your company to measure and change the perception and affect of those attributes.

Here are five things that i think that every manager needs to know about branding strategy.

  1. Customers experience thoughts and feelings when they consider your company’s product or service. It’s the same thing with potential employees and investors. It’s called brand reputation or perception and it exists whether you do anything about it or not. (Be aware, these are my definitions. Some differentiate on symantics; I don’t.)
  2. Brand reputation is a function of experience with your company and its products. It’s the sum total of many things, including product features, quality and reliability, customer service, even executive presentations. It goes way beyond marketing, PR, ad campaigns, and websites.
  3. Branding strategy is not a one-off; it’s a component of your overall corporate strategy. Hopefully that begins with some sort of strategic planning process that defines your company’s vision, goals, and key strategies. Branding strategy is integrated and aligned with those.
  4. Contrary to what the name implies, branding strategy is not about names per se. It’s about using certain tools to achieve strategic and operating goals. For example, branding can be used to position similar or the same products in different market segments, typically at different pricing levels. That means changing perception without changing the product -a neat trick.
  5. There are a myriad of decisions and tradeoffs involved in developing the right branding strategy for a company and its products and services. There is method to the madness. For example, a product line’s goals, market requirements, and value proposition will lead to a unique branding strategy. At least it should.

What is driving brand convergence today?

Media fragmentation, communication clutter in the markets, too many brands competing in an increasingly tight space at the top of the consumer pyramid ( leaving the BoP vacant!!), inability of the brands to penetrate the BoP markets….all these are reasons enough for brands to contemplate convergence- it may even be crucial to their survival.

Think of it as “collaboration” between brands, who are able to identify complementary and supplementary values that are logical for them to work together- leading to the brand convergence that we are speaking of.

The dictionary meaning of the word “convergence” varies from “the act of synergistically coming together” to “contraction” to “similarity of form and structure.”

So what are the prime drivers for brands to converge today- according to me they are the following

  • Primarily non-competing brands will clamor to get together in today’s tough times. For the competing ones, even though some synergies might be working at the back end, it will take further evolution till they converge in the consumer space unless of course the companies merge or brands are bought over.
  • The brands should have a similar Target Audience in order to contemplate convergence. This might be obvious to some, however the similarity should not end at the demographic level but also extend to the psychographics and buying behavior.
  • They should have similar brand appeal and perception. Each of brands coming together should only enhance and/or reinforce the basic image of the other one. In a sense they should complement each other in terms of the perception consumers carry about them.
  • The converged entity/product has to meet a genuine consumer need. Convergence for the sake of it will not just add no marginal value to the brands but a venture gone wrong can in fact erode brand equity.
  • The converged offering needs to have a unique value proposition, different or greater that the individual offerings. In a way the joint offering should be more potent than sum of all individual offerings.

The last point nails it! The essence of a successful collaboration (convergence ) is that the SUM is greater than the individual numbers that each brand brings to the table!!