What you say about your brand isn’t what it really is. It’s what the people you’re talking to think it is. Because of this, managing a brand is one of the most important things that marketing executives do.
How do you take care of a brand?
Brand management is the process of making sure that your company’s perceived value is the best it can be so that people will like and stay with your brand.
There is no better company to study than Apple if you want to learn how to build a brand.
You might think of style and sleek design when you think of Apple. Or just plainness. It has the Apple logo on it. You might think about how great it would be to open an Apple product or how good it would feel to use one. Or maybe their most famous advertising campaigns.
No matter what, everyone knows the Apple brand, and most people think it is magical. That’s a great way to manage a brand.
Even in the Google SERPs, page one results for Apple include the Apple website, an Apple ad, full coverage of the Knowledge Panel, Apple’s popular YouTube channel as well as three individual videos from the channel, “People Also Ask” questions and answers, CNET’s Apple news page, and a recent Forbes article about Apple. All positive.
Forbes says that Apple is now the most valuable brand in the world, which makes sense.
People usually think of “brand management” and “Google” as two separate things that don’t mix. But every day, Google handles billions of searches. That means that organic search is the source of a huge number of brand touchpoints. So, brand managers should keep an eye on how the search engine affects how people think of the brand.
Why managing your brand is important
A good branding strategy is about more than just identity. Brand managers must also keep an emotional connection with their audience and work strategically to build good relationships with them. All parts of the business should be aware of it, whether they work in sales, marketing, operations, manufacturing, finance, or human resources.
Brand management is an important part of your digital marketing plan because it helps you build a strong brand. Some of the benefits of good brand management are:
- More people know about the brand
- Differences between brands
- Pricing premiums
- sales went up
- Customer love and loyalty Customer love and loyalty
- Customers who are loyal to a brand
- More room for growth in the organization
The basics of managing a brand
To get the most out of strategic brand management, you need to follow a number of rules.
The people you want to reach should know very well what your brand is and what it stands for. Think about these well-known businesses:
- Apple makes things that you want.
- McDonald’s is about being the same every time.
- Amazon is about making things easy.
- Toyota is all about being reliable.
- Magic and happiness are what Disney is all about.
You want your brand to be clear, but you also want it to stand out. One good example is Nike. You know it’s Nike as soon as you see the swoosh or the Air Jordan logos. Then you start to feel the excitement that the brand’s marketing is known for.
Burgers can be bought at both Burger King and McDonald’s. But Burger King doesn’t look like a copycat brand because of its flame-grilled cooking and its young, irreverent marketing.
Put your mark on the ground and stand out.
Your brand should be the same no matter how you position it, how it stands out, or what its values are. Look at all the best brands, like the ones above or Microsoft, IBM, Gucci, L’Oreal, H&M, Starbucks, and Accenture, among others.
All of these things are very different from each other. You could never get a Starbucks and an Accenture mixed up.
But they all do the same thing over and over again. Consistency wins when it comes to branding.
Setting up a structure for innovation
One thing that isn’t often talked about in brand management is the role of the brand in setting up a framework for innovation. When Steve Jobs went back to work at Apple, he made sure that the company’s brand was not just a computer maker. Instead, they questioned the way things were. Because of this, the “Think Different” campaign made sense. And it works!
In other words, as long as Apple challenged the status quo, they could make music-listening devices and ecosystems, or they could take on the entire cell phone industry.
If your brand stands for something, it makes it easier for your company to come up with new ideas in that area.
Brands evolve over time. The brand is not made by the products. The organization’s brand is based on what it stands for and how it works. This is why Wipro went from selling vegetable oil to becoming an $8 billion technology consulting company. Because of this, Amazon has grown from being an online bookstore to a huge company that does a lot of different things, like eCommerce, smart speakers, and cloud computing.
In other words, strong organic growth can be driven by brand management.
Brand identity in brand management
Maintaining the brand is a key part of managing a brand. The following types of brand elements are part of this:
What are you trying to do? What do you want to accomplish in the end? What is your point of reference?
What can every customer expect from you or your business, no matter what product or service they buy or hire? What’s the most important promise they should count on?
How do you place your brand? Do you focus on one area or are you open for business all over the world? Are you the best value, the most expensive, or the best brand?
Have you made it clear which groups of people you serve? One brand of clothes for women might be aimed at pre-teens, another at teens, a third at young working women, and a fourth at seniors. They may all sell blouses, dresses, and shoes, but the people they are trying to reach may be very different.
Positioning makes it easier for a brand to connect with a certain group of people in a direct and effective way.
In the same way that positioning is important, you want a brand that stands out from the competition and all the other noise in your target market.
Going back to the Apple example, it’s clear that Apple’s ability to offer a different customer experience has helped the brand win its battles against the PC, the Walkman, and the cell phone.
Oscar Health Insurance has made health insurance easy to understand, simple, and friendly. They made an all-in-one website where you can look at what’s available, buy an insurance plan, search for doctors, facilities, and drugs, and make changes to your insurance plan. This review on the website pretty much says it all: “What makes Oscar different is how easy everything is. Health insurance can be hard to understand and stressful to deal with, but Oscar takes care of all that.
Customers are much more likely to buy from you if they can see what makes you different. Since the average consumer sees more than 5,000 marketing messages every day, they are always trying to keep up with all the information. With all the noise in the market, it can be hard for them to understand why your brand is better than others. Make it easy for them and make the difference very clear.
Having a unique brand personality is a good way to make your brand stand out. Emma Watson may be the voice of one brand, while Rodney Dangerfield may be the voice of another. One could be Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix as Morpheus. Another person might really be Mother Teresa.
For example, the persona of the Nike brand is a cool person who lives an active life and is inspiring because of how hard they work. All of their marketing, whether it’s online, on TV, or in the store, shows off this personality.
Compare this to another shoe brand, Clarks, which has been making shoes for almost 200 years and is known for its quality, tradition, and craftsmanship.
Two shoe brands that do well. Each has its own style and message.
Even if your positioning and points of difference change over time, your brand’s core values usually don’t. They are what your brand and everything it stands for is built on. Everyone in the organization makes decisions based on how well they fit with your values. They are the foundation of your brand and everything else is built on top of them.
For example, these are the brand values of Virgin:
- Providing service from the heart (“If it’s important to you, it’s important to us. We care about our customers and each other. We are friendly, open, and down-to-earth.
- Being pleasantly surprising (“We look for surprising ways to make people happy. We love getting to know people, and we think that little things done with care can make a big difference.
- Bringing red-hot relevance (“We’re bold, brave, and forward-thinking, which makes us stand out in a world of sameness.”)
- Being honest (“We are honest, decent, and tell it like it is. We stand up for what’s right and hold up our hands if we make a mistake.”)
- Having a never-ending desire to know more (“Adventurous and creative, we never stop asking questions. Always asking “What if?” and “Why not?” to make sure we aren’t missing something.”)
- Creating smart disruption: “We’re not afraid to go our own way, to challenge the rules and break the norms in order to find new and exciting ways to punch above our weight.”
Brand asset management
When it comes to managing a brand, there are a number of assets that are important for getting the brand’s message across all channels, vehicles, and strategies in the same way.
Obviously, your brand name is an important part of your branding. You’ll want something that is not only clear but also lasts.
If you want your business to grow, you’ll need a brand name that can change as your business grows and changes in the future. As was already said, Amazon began as an online bookstore. It is now a leader in e-commerce, smart speakers, and cloud storage. If the brand name had been Amazon Book Sellers or Amazon Bookstore, the company’s growth would have been artificially limited, and Amazon would not be the global powerhouse it is today.
Read more about how to beat Amazon and Google at marketing.
Your logo should match both the brand name and the brand’s personality. You want something that no one else has and that stands out from the rest. You want people to know your brand as soon as they see the logo.
Try to make your logo easy to understand. Don’t make it too hard to use by making it too complicated.
So, make sure the logo can work on different backgrounds, next to different things, and in different places (product packaging, web, in-person, in-store, signage, apparel, etc.).
Similar to a logo, your brand color palette is a distinctive visual cue. Define your brand’s main colors, but also choose a few accent colors to give yourself more options.
Choose your brand’s typography and make sure you know which fonts will be used in headers, subheaders, and body copy. Make sure that the type not only does a good job of representing your brand but that it also goes well with your logo and brand colors.
Even though the graphics you use in your digital marketing may be different, you should make rules about which graphics are “on brand” and which are not. Some images may work for the brand as a whole, while others may only work for one product. Some pictures may have people in them, while others may only have objects. Some of them may have products, while others don’t.
Give examples so that your designers and other team members who need to make decisions (for example, for social media, live events, etc.) can make decisions easily as they build your image database.
Brand style guide
Your visual brand management comes together in the brand style guide. This is where you can set the rules for how to use your logo, fonts, colors, and graphics, all in one place. This is the guide that everyone on the team, and even partners from outside the team, should follow when making any kind of marketing asset, promotion, or campaign. Having a written style guide for the brand is an important step in making sure that the brand is used consistently in everything the organization does.
Your brand style guide should help you decide how to design basic stationery. Your stationery set might include a physical or digital business card, letterhead, envelopes, mailing labels, and other basics.
Any marketing department will have things like brochures, folders, data sheets, case studies, white papers, reports, lookbooks, videos, and/or presentations. From a brand management point of view, it’s important to make sure that all of these things look the same.
To do this, you should make templates for each kind of marketing material. Make it clear to the team which parts of a piece must stay the same and which parts can be changed for each piece.
Associations with brands
Associations with your brand are not an “asset” in the traditional sense, but they are just as important. When someone thinks of your brand, they think of what comes to mind.
For example, when you think of GEICO insurance, you probably think of the animated gecko and all of its funny habits. Or you think of Flo and, more recently, Jamie when you hear Progressive. When it comes to Liberty Mutual, it’s likely LiMu Emu (and Doug). You think of Shaq when you hear The General.
All of these are brand associations that you can’t separate from the brands they stand for.
But characters or famous people don’t have to be used to connect a brand to something.
When you think of Patagonia, you probably first think of how much the company cares about the environment. When you think of Nordstrom’s amazing customer service, you might remember the time a customer brought back a car tire, even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires, and the customer service person gave the customer a refund.
Pretty much anything can be linked to a brand. You can be flexible about how you find brand associations and how you tell your audience about them. A brand association can be a very powerful way to create a memorable brand for your business, so it’s important to spend time and money on it.
Using Google for better brand management
Marketers have always thought of SEO as a way to get people to visit your website. SEO does more than just bring more people to a site, though.
As part of your overall brand management practices, SEO helps you increase brand awareness, improve brand perception and reputation, improve the brand experience, and increase brand equity.
Know-how of a brand
SEO is a great way to get people to know about your brand. When you include keywords at the top of the funnel in your keyword mix, you reach a lot more people. So, you get in front of people who haven’t heard of your brand or thought about it yet.
Also, when your website, blog, and third-party sites (byline articles, interviews, features, etc.) are on page one of the Google SERP, you show that your brand is a credible player in the industry.
The more your audience knows about your brand, the more trust they will have in it. This will help you get more clicks from the SERPs and get a better return on your SEO investment.
How a brand is seen
Forrester Consulting looked into how the best companies do SEO. You might not have expected what they found about how people see a brand and how it is managed.
The study showed that many business leaders don’t understand SEO and don’t use it enough to help their brands.
Simply put, too many executives have a narrow view of SEO and only see it as a way to drive traffic. So, they don’t see how SEO affects the business in other, more general ways. In particular, SEO affects how people think about a brand and, as a result, how valuable that brand is.
The Forrester study found that:
- Nearly 70% of the business leaders surveyed agree that SEO has a big effect on how people see a brand.
- Still, many companies find it hard to make SEO a proactive, all-around solution for brand management that works across departments.
- SEO works best for companies that use it as a way to market their brand.
The study also showed that many executives don’t know how to use the power of SEO to build a brand.
This means that companies that “get it” and are ready to pass their competitors still have a chance. Several studies have found that organic listings get more than 70% of the clicks in Google SERPs. By changing what searchers see in the SERPs, you can give your brand a strategic advantage that can lead to more leads, more sales, and more money.
Experience of a brand
Customer experience includes all of a customer’s interactions with a brand, including all of the time they spend searching on Google. Since more than 7 billion searches are done every day, that’s a lot of time, probably more than most executives realize.
We live in the age of digital customer experience, and most people know that companies that offer a good brand experience do better in the market than those that still focus on themselves. The financial effects of this difference are huge. For example, the stock returns of companies with the best customer experiences are nearly 80% better than those with the worst customer experiences.
How can you most effectively change the way people use Google to search?
Stop thinking that ranking in Google is just about a few keywords or a few web pages.
Instead, make a map of the customer journey for each of your personas and then list the different ways they look for information and answers at each step. Find out what each of these searches is trying to do and what the best experience for the searcher would be.
Match the searcher’s goal with the content you make and how you optimize it. Help them at every step of their journey, not just by matching their intent but also by giving them a better experience after they click. This can happen on your website, but it can also happen on microsites, landing pages, third-party websites, YouTube videos, webinars, SlideShare presentations, online tools, etc. Try to look at things as a whole as much as possible.
The reputation of a brand
Brand reputation is how people think about a brand. How does the brand get talked about in the news, on blogs, and on social media? What do reviews on the web say? When someone Googles the brand, what comes up on page one? These things will affect your business in the long run.
Customers will look into your products and services, there’s no way around that. Google is used by just about everyone to find information and answers. What happens next depends on what they find. 91% of people say that they are more likely to go to a business that has good reviews. On the other hand, 82% say they are less likely to do business with a company that has bad reviews.
SEO is a good way to take charge of your brand’s online reputation, whether it’s for the brand as a whole or for key executives. Explore our reputation management services.
For instance, MTB Strategy’s reputation management helped a national furniture store get back $32.7 million per month in sales that it had lost because of problems with its online reputation. In another case, we helped a CEO of a Fortune 500 company get rid of all negative information on the first five pages of Google results.
Taking care of your brand’s reputation on Google is important.
The idea of brand equity is the last way that SEO affects brand management. What’s that? Brand equity is the value of a product or service’s brand name in the business world, above and beyond the value of the product or service itself.
In other words, if you go to the store, you can buy Advil. You’ll also find ibuprofen, which is one of the ingredients used to make Advil. What’s different? Ibuprofen is a product’s generic name. On the other hand, Advil spends millions on branding and marketing its version of the same product. Advil can charge more than the generic version of the drug because people think it’s worth more than the generic version. This difference in value is what makes up Advil’s brand equity.
Brand equity is what comes out of building a brand.
You can increase the value of your brand with SEO by taking up space in Google SERPs. People who use search engines tend to think that brands that do well in organic search are real players in the industry.
Also, people who find your website through organic search tend to be of higher quality and fit your brand better. MTB Strategy hired Forrester to do a study, which found that SEO brings high-value customers to your website. Forrester polled SEO decision-makers who said that organic visitors were more loyal to the brand and spent more time on the site than those who came from paid search. This meant that the customer lifetime value was higher (CLV).
You should take charge of your brand for a wide range of business benefits. Use SEO as a key part of your brand management strategy. This will help you reach new audiences and improve how your brand is seen and how valuable it is.