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Q & A

This Q and A section is included to give you some additional perspective on the branding process. Branding is such a large subject that not all the issues fit snugly into the standard textbook approach. There are hundreds of questions that could be addressed, but the ones covered here are judged to be some of the most likely ones that brand and marketing managers in small and medium-sized firms will face.

Q1: What are the 10 most important things about branding to get right?

Q2: How does branding a product differ from branding a service?

Q3: How long does it take to develop a branding plan?

Q4: What size company should be serious about branding?

Q5: Why does branding seem so confusing?

Q6: Should I hire outside consultants to help with my branding program?

Q7: How much should a company spend on brand execution?

Q8: Is marketing the same as branding?

Q9: What are some of the most common mistakes people make when branding?

Q10: Who is more important to a brand — existing customers or new ones?

Q11: I’ve already got my logo and marketing materials. If I go through the branding process now, will I have to scrap all the work I’ve already done?

Q12: What’s the difference between brand quality and perceived brand quality?

Q13: What is the best way for a small or mid-sized company to promote and build awareness for its brand?

Q14: The branding process seems like too much to do. What do you advise?

Q15: What's next after you have completed the branding process?

Q16: What has changed the most in branding over the last 5 years?

Q17: How important is the Web to a company’s branding program?

Q18: If the Web is so important to building a brand, what do you do if you have a limited Web budget?

Q19: How can a small or mid-sized company afford to do adequate market analysis?

Q20: Is there any special background required to become skilled at branding?

Q21: Where should I start to get employees involved with the brand?

Q1: Most important things about branding to get right?

A:
  1. Understanding the customer
  2. Positioning
  3. Differentiation
  4. Perceived quality
  5. Core brand message
  6. Pricing and your value proposition
  7. Have a big idea!
  8. Your Web site
  9. Getting your employees involved
  10. Keeping your product or service relevant

Q2: How does branding a product differ from branding a service?

A:
The underlying principles of branding are the same, but the emphasis by component can vary. A service brand, for example, is more dependent on the actions of its employees than a retail product. In some professional services categories how a buyer and seller relate can be of major importance. When the service involves lots of collaboration over a long period of time, the employee’s personal chemistry with the client is critical.

Q3: How long does it take to develop a branding plan?

A:
It can be completed in 3 months, if you work at it.

Q4: What size company should be serious about branding?

A:
All companies in a competitive situation need to brand if they want to gain market share and be able to sell at a premium price. All companies with a Web site need to brand -- today it’s imperative.

Q5: Why does branding seem so confusing?

A:
  1. Not everyone describes branding in the same way. If you question 100 people on branding you will get 100 different answers.
  2. The process involves 67 elements and sub-elements.
  3. Branding involves many intangibles, so things can seem fuzzy at times.
  4. Few colleges teach the subject, so most everyone is learning on the job.
  5. 98% of the books on branding do not cover the entire subject.
  6. Managing a brand is like shooting at a moving target.

Q6: Should I hire outside consultants to help with my branding program?

A:
Yes, if they really know what they are doing and you can afford them. A lot of branding can be done on your own, but a good consultant can save you a lot of time and maybe some money.

Q7: How much should a company spend on brand execution?

A:
After the brand strategies have been developed, it varies depending on whether you are launching a new brand, milking a declining brand or are in a highly competitive category. It can also depend on how important advertising is, how important your employees are, etc. However, a rule of thumb is some where between 5-10% of sales. Small companies can launch a good plan for as little as $25,000.

Q8: Is marketing the same as branding?

A:
Yes and no. Marketing accounts for about 60-75% of the branding process. The scientist in the lab who comes up with a new product enhancement and the salesperson who gets distribution in the store are examples of some of the other functional areas that are part of the branding process.

Q9: What are some of the most common mistakes people make when branding?

A:
  1. Lack of consistency between the various brand elements
  2. Putting off the process of coming up with a big idea
  3. Not maintaining clear points of differentiation
  4. Focusing too much effort on the current market conditions and not getting ready to take advantage of evolving market segments or emerging trends

Q10: Who is more important to a brand — existing customers or new ones?

A:
Both are important, but you should make sure your loyal customer base is secure before you spend money to prospect for new ones.

Q11: I’ve already got my logo and marketing materials. If I go through the branding jprocess now, will I have to scrap all the work I’ve already done?

A:
Not necessarily. If your logo works and your marketing materials support your brand vision and message, by all means, keep them. However, if you find that your materials do not support your brand, there is a possibility that your existing materials may actually be harming your business. At the very least, they are not helping. In that case, changing the logo, the message, the positioning, and more may be costly — but it will prove to be more profitable for the company in the long run.

Q12: What’s the difference between brand quality and perceived brand quality?

A:
Actual product quality is what comes off the manufacturing line. It encompasses the materials used, the product design and the craftsmanship built into the product. And then, of course, the product has to work. But if the operating instructions are faulty and you can’t get the product to work, your perception of that product is that it’s a lousy product even though, in fact, it may be the best product in the category. On the flip side, if you can get the product to work, and you tell a friend who is thinking about buying the product that it is fantastic, that person would perceive the quality of that product to be very high even though he had not actually tried the product. That’s perceived brand quality.

Q13: What is the best way for a small company to promote and build awareness for its brand?

A:
Small budget brands generally can get the most bang for their buck by integrating the following six branding communications tools:
  1. A branded Web site
  2. E-mail marketing
  3. Search-related marketing (e.g. Google Adwords)
  4. Offline and online public relations
  5. Print-on-demand marketing materials
  6. Web 2.0 marketing tools

Q14: The branding process seems like too much to do. What do you advise?

A:
Fair question. Branding does involve a lot of tasks, especially for small and medium-sized organizations. Relax. Do what you can. Some branding is better than no branding at all. What is important is that you gain some understanding of the total process, so that when you bump up against some branding situations, you at least will have some perspective.

Q15: What's next after you have completed the branding process?

A:
The branding process is never completed because it’s an ongoing process. Brands operate in an environment of constant flux. Technology advances, customers’ needs change, market segments shift and competition is continually presenting new challenges. No brand is immune to these outside forces. To survive, brands need to regularly assess their relevance in the ever-changing marketplace and adjust as necessary. If they don’t, the competition will.

Q16: What has changed the most in branding over the last 5 years?

A:
The pace of change. Everyone knows that change is part of the branding landscape, but the pace has accelerated significantly over the last several years. When you combine the onslaught of technical innovations, the Internet, the spread of global brands, the increase in competition and ever-shifting consumer demands, the pace can feel jarring. Never before has the speed of change been so rapid. The speed can be disconcerting. For example, when you introduce a new product or service knowing it will have to be replaced in 12-18 months, you feel unsettled.
The customer also finds this pace uncomfortable, because in some categories there never seems to be a good time to buy. For example, if you buy an ipod today, you know there will be a better one coming soon. The good news is that your competition faces the same problem. Brand managers, who want to win, need to be more nimble, more flexible and more alert than ever before. They should also be proactive in reinventing their brand. Your market-intelligence needs to be faster, better and it might be prudent to review and revise your brand plan every 6 months, or sooner, if needed.

Q17: How important is the Web to a company’s branding program?

A:
Extremely. A Web site is a company’s most important branding tool because it is the most cost-effective way to communicate with customers and prospects. It allows you to present your entire brand story to more than a billion of people for less than a dollar a day. It allows visitors to your site to get to know your product or service in-depth and to purchase on the spot with just a single click. It also provides for customer service after the purchase.
When a visitor comes to your site his experience is the brand experience. In essence your Web site is your brand. Your Web site’s interactivity allows you to have a dialogue with a prospect that can translate into sales. Your Web site also makes your offline branding communications program more effective because prospects can go to your site for additional information about your brand.

Q18: If the Web is so important to building a brand, what do you do if you have a small Web budget?

A:
Even the smallest Web site (5-10 pages) can effectively brand. Be sure that the content tells the brand story consistent with your brand’s architecture. It doesn’t cost extra to spell out your positioning, your points of differentiation, your credentials or a big idea, etc. Make sure your meta tags are good, so the search engines can find you — and let people know how they can buy your product or service. In fact, sometimes small sites are a blessing, because it’s easier to keep your brand message cohesive and the site easy to navigate. It’s quality, not quantity that counts.

Q19: How can a small company afford to do adequate market analysis?

A:
It’s very hard to get a good handle on the total size of a market unless you subscribe to one of the large research services. However, what small and mid-sized companies can do, is focus on the competition in their local market. By analyzing your competition’s marketing materials and their Web sites, you can get a pretty good picture of how your brand stacks up in your particular market.
You can also use the Web to get free customer and prospect feedback. Every brand’s Web site should prominently feature a suggestion box. This technique is a quick way to get information on perceived quality, customer satisfaction and your brand’s relevance in the marketplace.
The suggestion box is also an excellent way to spot emerging trends. Remember trends start with people, not with companies.
There are lots of ways to gain the market intelligence needed to manage and improve your brand. You are probably more resourceful than you think.

Q20: Is there any special background required to become skilled at branding?

A:
No. Sometimes people with a background in marketing seem to have the upper hand, but in reality anyone who is passionate about the brand, and really wants to beat the competition, can learn to brand.

Q21: Where’s should I start to get the employees involved with the brand?

A:
The place to start is getting the senior management team to endorse and accept responsibility for the brand’s architecture. Hopefully, they will have been involved in the process, so it doesn’t appear as a fait accompli when the branding plan is presented to them. If senior management doesn’t care about the execution of the brand, and its relationship with the customer, then neither will the employees on the front line.

 

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