The Business Case for Brand Building

Highlights

  • A good brand building business case defines what a brand is and is not. It's built on clear goals and research, and it's honest about the tough challenges that stand in the way of success.
  • The upside of a brand development program is improved customer engagement, customer advocacy and sustained revenue growth.
  • The downside is confusing brand identity with brand development. The former may create fanciful logos, catchy tag lines or visual aesthetics but by itself will not correlate to improved financial performance. Only the later, brand development with strategy and tactics, will reach more prospects, convert more customers and grow revenues and profits. In fact, unless your branding program applies specific methods and forecasts measurable revenue growth, you're doing it wrong.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Our company has been growing and we've reached a point where some outside public accounting services would be helpful. We met with several accounting firms. The first one touted their people, expertise and commitment to client service. But so did the second one. And the third one.

But the fourth one passed on the same story claims and demonstrated real points of difference. That difference was backed up on their web site and with a colleague I know that uses their services. Their difference was solidified in their brand. As you might guess, the firm with a differentiated brand won our business.

This lesson here is clear and transferable.

Brand Building

Corporate Brand Defined

Your corporate brand is the customers perception of your company or its products.

It's what the customer thinks of when he or she hears your company name. It's how they understand your company based on its reputation, visibility, differentiation and several other factors that influence purchase decisions.

Brands are not what you want them to be, they are what they do. They cannot escape what they do. If the two are different, you lose credibility and trust, and then lose customer acquisitions and retention.

Many business owners and senior executives think they know their business better than anybody. However, that's not completely true. Customers often know their business better. Customers see the business firsthand, without bias or wishful thinking. They see the business from the outside-in, not the inside-out. They see what the business is, not what it aspires to be.

"A brand is what other people say about you when you aren't in the room."   — Jeff Bezos

The Goal of Branding

Brand management shapes customer perception of your company or products. When done successfully it can drive increased customer acquisitions, customer share and retention. Other goals may include increased price premiums or reduced competition.

It works because human perceptions are malleable. Neuroscience clearly shows that our brains prefer meaning and association. We want things to make sense. We want to compare things in relation to other things.

There are many brand building strategies. Some work better than others and all vary pursuant to each company's objectives.

Marketing methods to shape customer perception include improving credibility and trust, brand awareness, customer engagement, and company and product differentiation to name a few.

Each of these methods contribute to improving customer perception and buyer preference. And each should be developed only in as much as it directly impacts revenue or profit growth. Simply growing a brand for non-financial reasons is not sustainable.

When correctly managed, the result is a brand that customers prefer and patronize. A brand that influences purchase decisions, advocacy and referrals. A brand that reaches more prospects, converts more customers and grows company revenues. These are the goals of branding.

Why Brands Matter

Brand research published in the Marketing Transformation Report shared several quantifiable financial results from successful brand programs. For example, the research found that Business to Business (B2B) marketers with active brand management programs delivered 18 percent more leads to the salesforce, 21 percent higher contribution to the sales pipeline, and 21 percent higher marketing ROI than marketers without these programs.

Brand Impact to Leads, Pipeline and ROI

Research shows active brand building acquires 18% more leads, delivers 21% more sales pipeline contribution and increases marketing ROI by 21%.

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The research also found that strong B2B brands use competitive differentiation to increase marketing conversions and sales win rates. And they do these things while at the same time commanding price premiums and reduced discounting.

For Business to Consumer (B2C) industries the research found that marketers with active brand management programs achieved 4 percent higher year over year revenue growth and 21 percent higher marketing ROI than marketers without these programs.

B2C Brand Impact to Revenue Growth

The research also found that B2C brands increased customer loyalty which translated to more successful product launches, more frequent repeat purchases, higher average Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and longer customer retention. When loyal customers trust the brand, they are willing to pay more for similar products.

And successful brands don't just grow revenues, they also reduce expenses. The because they are designed for specific target audiences. They use Ideal Customer Profiles, personas, target markets and carefully constructed communications to replace generic conversations and irrelevant offers with precision marketing. That saves time, increases conversions and lowers the cost of customer acquisitions.

And brands don't just inspire customers, they also motivate employees. They are proven to lower recruiting costs, raise employee productivity and increase employee retention.

Brands matter because they drive increased revenues and profits.

When Branding is Needed

Here are the tell-tale signs that indicate the need for an improved brand.

  • Company growth has stalled. This is driven by not attracting enough of the right target audience or not winning enough purchase decisions. The later cause is measured by declining sales conversions, which is often indicative of failing to differentiate.
  • Company profits are in decline. Companies experience downward pricing pressure when they fail to stand out as unique. Their lack of distinction makes them a me-too contestant, drives margins downward and forces them to limp along in commoditized markets.
  • Customer churn is on the rise. This often occurs when customers have no affinity for a supplier. Without a connection, customers view suppliers as easily substitutable and are quick to jump ship.
  • New competition shakes things up. Innovation and market disruption are accelerating. Upgrading your brand or rebranding can create competitive positioning and help stave off new competitors.

Sometimes new brands are needed simply because the existing brand is old and tired or the company outgrew its identity. Sometimes what once differentiated the company no longer does. Other times the brand just no longer resonates with customers.

The Challenges

Despite a wide body of brand research demonstrating clear value, developing brands that deliver sustained payback is no easy task. There are two primary challenges.

First, most fail to differentiate. They either promote the same things as competitors or they promote distinctions without meaningful differences. For a brand to work, it must be relevant, measurable, unique and sustainable. Test your identity and messaging against these four criteria before you go to market.

Second, with the rise of consumer technologies, such as social media and mobility, customers are more connected, informed, empowered and demanding, and that has forever changed the power and sustainability of brands.

Companies no longer yield control in determining their brands. That control is being ceded to customers. That's why I started this post with - brands are not what you want them to be, they are what they do. They cannot escape what they do. You have to live the brand for it to work.

If the business case for brand management is right for you, consider the 3-step guide to designing a successful brand and also explore the branding best practices.