Marketers, brand guardians and business owners will have spotted that more businesses than ever before are investing in brand-related activity to drive profitability. This is no surprise when you consider that an organisation’s brand accounts for an average 18% of its total market value.
The shift from short-term results to long-term brand building is driven by changes to the consumer mindset, as they soak up more information online, become vocal in criticising brands on social media and take more care to vote with their feet when it comes to purchasing decisions.
All of which means investments that shape brand perception are now vital for growth, competitive advantage and shareholder value. However, return on investment can be greatly diminished if the brand spend, organisation and implementation are not managed properly.
In my experience working with global brands on big brand change projects, there are always ways to find savings and efficiencies within the brand management budget – and the secret lies in structure, control and efficiency.
1. Make the brand the strategic starting point
According to VIM Group’s Brand Performance Study, businesses perform better when brand is taken as a strategic starting point. However, we found that only 7% of organisations use brand as a starting point for business decisions.
While management teams increasingly recognise the value of a brand, this does not always translate into investment.
Without backing from senior leadership, the brand will never achieve its full potential and brand-building could be limited to the marketing team. To facilitate a change, the brand should be elevated to the boardroom as a key talking point.
Representing the impact of brand investment in financial terms will help. The brand should also be considered a collaborative area of focus for all internal stakeholders such as IT, HR and Retail rather than just the marketing team.
2. Governing the brand
Good brand organisation requires a continuous cycle of investment, but it can also be one of the soundest investments a business can make when managed effectively.
Establishing a brand steering committee is a good starting point, as this will ensure the brand is central to all activities across the business. Make sure managers from all relevant departments are represented.
Led by a brand manager, the committee should monitor how the brand delivers its promises based on KPIs and will determine the best way to improve. This collaboration is the foundation of a coherent brand experience. Updating the approach to internal brand ownership is also recommended.
This means saying goodbye to the ‘silo structure’ between different teams with a stake in brand management.
Brand managers will become more like community or relationship managers, aggregating input from internal stakeholders to influence brand development, rather than writing the rule book on brand activity.
Greater oversight of the brand from all internal stakeholders will also make it easier to identify cost-saving opportunities within pre-existing procurement cycles.
3. Measure brand performance
Many organisations are not clear on the exact value of their brand or which analytics will best measure its performance. This can quickly lead to mis-spent budgets or decisions based on anecdote rather than hard evidence.
With more data, more brand touch points and new ways of interacting with consumers, it’s important to agree clear KPIs and monitor brand performance on a continuous basis.
These metrics should be used to trial and adjust. This will be particularly important during a programme of brand investment, for example if the organisation is adopting new technology or changing its visual identity as part of a digital transformation programme.
To make measurement of brand performance easy, an invaluable tool will be a brand dashboard that merges different data sets from the whole organisation to provide real-time insight on brand analytics.
4. Engage your employees
Many businesses have an untapped resource of brand advocacy in their employees, who carry the brand promise to the consumer and define its values in the way they live and breathe company culture.
Conversely, failing to engage employees in the brand through effective employer branding strategies can reduce enthusiasm around the company and make it hard to recruit or retain the right staff.
HR plays a crucial role as an intermediary, so it’s important that the brand is incorporated across HR tasks like hiring and selection, onboarding, performance reviews, training and development.
Events, freebies, and up-to-date e-learning platforms all play a key role in maximising the brand’s appeal both externally and internally, creating a virtuous circle of brand advocacy.
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