Enhance your bottom line by enhancing your (perceived) brand image

Enhance your bottom line by enhancing your (perceived) brand image.

Over the course of some 23 years working at the forefront of brand development and graphic design, I am often struck by how some companies don’t fully appreciate the strategic importance of strategic brand positioning. Some still have a narrow view and see their brand as simply having a logo – often created by amateurs. But of course, seasoned marketers fully realise that the greatest asset of any company can be a expertly developed and innovately marketed, fully integrated ‘brand system”, so much so that in many cases the brand has a financial value attributed to it on some corporate balance sheets. Coincidentally, from my experience, the brand savvy companies are usually the most successful leaders in their field and quite often are the largest.

Online brands have rapidly become established to the point where some are household names. Think of Google and Amazon. If I want to buy a book you’ll most likely head straight for Amazon or Barnes and Noble. They may or may not be the best on inventory, price and service – but they certainly have the strongest brands. Coca Cola, Google, Ferrari, Gucci, BMW, Harley Davidson, Nike, Apple… would be other good examples of top brands you would trust. Why risk going for a brand you don’t know when you know the brand you want is there waiting for you? That’s the power of branding – it’s not just the name but what the name says about the people you will be dealing with, the value, the consistency. The good news is, you don’t even have to have a huge marketing or advertising budget to create a successful brand, you can succeed by being highly effective at communicating and delivering your product/service to your chosen market.

These days, in such a competitive environment, it is taken as given that a product and service quality has to be 110%, otherwise you’re not even at the races. Product (or service) functional attributes are important of course, but they are not solely what purchase decisions are based on. Artefact is fortunate that we have the privilege of working with some of the leading Irish and International brands (particularly in the food, drinks and pharma sectors) who go to great lengths to promote and protect the integrity of their brand image.

A lot of companies are good at creating a product or service, but often are not nearly as good at promoting it through effective branding and creative marketing strategies. A realisation of the importance of Brand is vital for success. As consumers, we mostly buy on brand and less so on price, even in today’s economy. It is very difficult to convince us to move to another brand because familiarity leads to feelings of connectedness. People who feel they know you are more likely to deal with you than with someone they don’t know. In short, we need to help our customers develop a relationship with our product/service through the net effect of promises, statements, images and impressions we deliberately put out in the market place. This is not the same as selling our product/services on functional attributes only. If it becomes strong enough your brand can allow you to charge a premium price.

People like brands. Sometimes the brand is used to deliver psychological values of status, image or just plain feel-good – that’s why people like the idea of owning a Mercedes Benz. A car just gets you from A to B but a Mercedes Benz car says something about You! Developing brand loyalty takes time, regular, clever marketing and truly expert visual execution done by seasoned professionals. It is the ‘perceived image’ of your product or company, in the minds of your target customer, that can often be the ONLY differentiator between brands, and as a result, can make the vital difference between a customer purchasing or not. Your market positioning should be mirrored in your branding, whether you’re a low cost, high turnover business, (think Ryanair or Aldi) or a high quality/luxury based model (think Gucci or Rolls Royce). Unless your ambitions are very modest indeed, you have to start thinking brand from Day 1.

Crucially, the problem with many media or design agencies is a bit like the X Factor… many contestants believe they can sing, but as we all know, less than 10% genuinely can or have any real talent. This is why it can be a costly mistake to trust your branding development to pure creative agencies or just graphic designers, who although can be artistic, seldom have the high level of branding and marketing expertise you require to help you raise profile. Also, product branding (and consumer packaging) is a very different animal to corporate branding and is a highly specialist niche within the design field, requiring years of experience working with top brands to develop expertise. Creating top performing brands requires more than creating nice logos or pretty graphics.

As brand and design consultant at Artefact, having focused a lot of my career to date on product brand development in particular, (including what constitutes good design) constantly researching books, studies and publications on brand behaviour, strategies etc, I am convinced the effective branding is without question, the main key to building loyal customers and building profit. Undercutting the competition on price as a general way of operating is not the answer for most businesses in the long term. It can be a shortsighted mistake that many companies and inexperienced marketers make and is often a knee, jerk reaction based on sales pressures.

Clever branding is a long term courtship, not a hard sell. It is based on trust and consistency at every touch point. All of your communication channels need to project a cohesive and individual set of values and you should have very strict guidelines around the reproduction and usage of your visual brand identity. Often, this requires a fundamental change in corporate culture to achieve an alignment with the brand values you wish to project. If you do not do this, then you can damage your brand, your sales and your company reputation. In short, a brand must involve all of your employees. You are your brand… whether you realise it or not.

If you are thinking of creating or raising the profile of your brand, then you should be talking to Artefact.

Author – Wil Lyons