What signal does your brand convey

Branding without market intelligence is a recipe for confusion.

A marketing beacon over Metropolis lights a glass-walled boardroom of executives gathered at long last to bless a Brand Review, a reaction to years of brand neglect. Lacking authorized templates or logo use guidelines, personal whimsy has become the norm for everyday and formal marketing communications. Now it has been decided. It is time to get their company’s brand in order – once and for all – and get back to business. But, how?

If this were a large company with deep resources, we could ask “what took you so long?” However, small to medium size organizations (SMBs) may be challenged on next steps for managing a brand. Brand, Branding and Marketing Intelligence are big, subjective, fuzzy areas of marketing, and a management can of worms. Willingness to control such things is easily superseded by the demands of daily operational and sales duties.

Unfortunately over time, our executive examples had allowed their markets to define their company over time – and not always for the betterment of sales, community relations and human resource interactions. This branding-by-autopilot didn’t get in the way during the early days when everyone wore multiple hats, customers understood, and everyone knew each other in the company and communities in which they interacted. With an acknowledgement of the problem, a threshold to a complete solution is crossed.

So, how will they grapple with any number of market realities that have bubbled up from below – of which a Brand disconnect is but a symptom?:

      • A mismatch of customer and company expectations
      • Expansion woes: where do we go from here? How?
      • New markets or company direction require new thought leadership. What should be we saying, to whom, how?
      • Frustration in the field. Energetic sales team members are loosing steam over lack of support, hitting a brick walls or being cast into unfair pigeon holes when calling on next level prospects
      • Competitors growing in strength and marketing savvy

Answering these and other foundational questions inform all other marketing/branding efforts. Before embarking on any bit of a Brand or Logo Review process, seize the opportunity to retool! To remold a Brand is one thing, to ensure the effort is strategically sound requires Marketing Intelligence. With Marketing Intelligence, in addition to a Brand and Branding work, a team also also sets the stage for gaining a competitive edge and increased market share – riding astride a company’s proper positioning in the marketplace.

First, let us backup a bit. Let us define and differentiate some of those “fuzzy” marketing areas.

Few would argue the importance of a corporate identity, a logo design, or redesign with attendant usage guidelines. Even so, A Brand is more than a logo, despite origins as a burning mark. Today, in a broader sense, a Brand signifies everything an entity represents.

Branding is the act of promoting a company or product with distinctive design or advertising, and a natural extension of activities associated with Brand. Branding is proactive, involving art and direction sanctioned at the highest corporate level. Branding activities involve: graphic design, photography, illustration, videography, and all forms of content development. If supported by Marketing Intelligence, Branding unleashes the power of integrated marketing communications on a prescribed mission to proactively charge marketing efforts while reinforcing Brand. The harmonizing of corporate Brand with Branding efforts result in effective market engagement.

Marketing encompasses and supports all actions required to communicate a corporate value proposition to its target markets. As a science, marketing includes the identification of meaningful markets, their motivations, and response triggers. Marketing Intelligence informs market strategies and tactics.

As we have ironed out the finer distinctions between brand and branding. Consider:

if…

Brand = logo = identity
Branding = (Brand) x (distinctive promotions)

Yet, if we were to end our argument here, branding essentially becomes a multiplier of promotions unchecked by any marketing focus.

So, we need…

Marketing Intelligence = (Branding) ÷ (value research)

With the addition of Marketing Intelligence to our arguments, a Branding effort becomes focused, directed at where and how it will do the most good while delivering a powerful Brand message as signature. An organization’s unique value proposition supported by an overall look and feel that is managed for consistency becomes a company’s Brand.

Conclusion:
Our boardroom of executives are now on the same page with respect to Marketing, Marketing Intelligence, Branding and Brand. A Brand as an identifying mark needs and deserves TLC. However, Branding as an activity requires focus, and therefore substantiated, timely marketing intelligence for meaningful results.  A company succeeds when Marketing Intelligence – that is, market and corporate information gathering – is precisely communicated and leads Brand and Branding efforts.