Summer 2008


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Building Strong Sustainable Brands. Is It Possible?


In a world of increasing global competition the importance of recognition is more important than ever before. Products and services are becoming indistinguishable and differentiation is a key to success. A strong brand can provide such differentiation. It provokes awareness and recognition of a product, service, or company and is the promise and expectation that is inherent in every consumer’s mind. The best brands have meaning and values. They have their own identity complete with visions, goals, and specific strategies. Companies’ such as Nike have developed such strong brands that they are recognized by simple symbols. A strong brand will stand out in a crowded marketplace and lay the foundation for success. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate brands and capture the minds of consumers. How can you build a strong brand among thousands of competitors? Fortunately, there is an answer to this question. There is a methodology to create, develop, and maintain strong brands. This can be done in five steps: Identification of vision, position, and core competencies, Internal/External Assessment, Competitive Assessment, Strategy Planning, and Implementation & Sustainability


Step 1. Identification of vision, position, and core competencies


In order to develop a successful sustainable brand, an organization must build its brand around its vision, position and core competencies. More often than not, organizations build their brand around what they regard as important, which is not necessarily what they’re good at, and do not focus on their vision and core strengths. Therefore, it is pertinent that the first step, in developing a brand strategy, is to clearly identify the vision, position, and core competences of the organization. This commonly involves focus groups with key stakeholders of the organization. This seems like a fairly simple step, however, key findings are generally discovered during this phase of brand development. Stakeholders are often surprised to find vast differences in what individuals perceive as strengths of the organization and inconsistencies in goals and objectives of the business. This serves as a very practical and beneficial exercise as it builds a foundation for the organization and paves the way for planning, developing, and implementing a valuable sustainable brand.


Step 2. Internal/External Assessment


Previously, we identified the vision, position, and core competencies of the organization. Now we analyze the brand itself and what a strong brand means to all stakeholders. What message should the brand convey? How should it look, sound, feel? What is its perception/image to users and non-users? What are the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of the current brand? What is the current brand strategy? What should be the future strategy?


Internal Assessment (Dimension 1):


The first dimension evaluates internal stakeholder views and perceptions. Generally, it is best to set-up focus groups and work closely with internal stakeholders to identify strengths and weaknesses of the brand. Individuals are probed to assess actual and perceived perceptions of the brand.


Touch-points including websites & blogs, news releases, brochures, annual reports, presentations, announcements, signage, mail, advertising, and product directions are reviewed and evaluated. It is essential to assess the clarity, accuracy, emphasis, style, tone, and voice of these communication methods. Brands should send clear, unified, and consistent messages.


External Assessment (Dimension 2):


The second dimension evaluates outside user/non-user perceptions. Outside perceptions will give you an in-depth look at weaknesses and strengths from the consumer level point of view.


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