The most experienced brand builders and the least experienced agree on the importance of consistency. After all it is conventional wisdom among marketers that consistency is the hallmark of every strong brand. The difference between the two groups isn’t their professionalism, intention to building a stronger brand or a commitment to excellence in their work. Operating from a solid brand management infrastructure can make all the difference in brand building.
Experienced brand builders operate with the support of a sound brand management infrastructure comprised of a well-articulated brand platform and clearly defined system of brand identities. This strong foundation enables the experienced brand builder to be more consistent with less effort. In the end every brand impression is more effective and the execution of brand building programs is more efficient. Less experienced marketers can move up the brand building learning curve much faster with the support of a brand management infrastructure. Developing one will increase the ROI of all marketing expenditures and develop brand strength much more effectively and quickly.
Developing a corporate brand platform and brand identity system is not complex and doesn’t have to be arduous. We have been working with clients for over 25 years to develop brand management infrastructures. Making the process practical and relevant to an organization’s business model is two of the most important drivers of success. We have built these brand building decision support systems for virtually every type and size of organization.
Here are a few lessons we have learned over the years.
Developing a corporate brand platform.
- Authenticity is the most important guideline in defining an organization’s brand platform. A strong brand platform is centered on an organization’s proven cultural ethos.
- The most distinctive, differentiating quality of the organization must be clearly defined and be at the heart of the brand platform.
- The brand platform must contain a set of practical descriptors that provide employees with guidelines for how to focus their behaviors to support the intention of the corporate brand.
Developing a brand identity system.
- Product names are not brands. Primary brands represent key strategic relationships with customers. A brand is a marketing asset and should be extended as often as possible to expand the customer relationship. Most product identities are names only, few become sustainable brands.
- Fewer brands the better. Monolithic or endorsement identity systems that leverage existing brands have the most power. Build an identity system that leverages the growth of the corporate brand identity. Build systems that discourage development of new identities.
- Perfection is impossible, simplicity is power. Every brand identity system will have exceptions, just don’t let them become rules. Elegance in the system will come from simplicity.
Brand Platform – The Core of Every Brand’s Integrity
What is a Brand Platform?
A corporate brand platform defines how an organization applies the combination of its values and competencies, or “corporate character,” to consistently create distinctive value for its customers. A strong branding strategy makes a clear connection between an organization’s character and the difference it makes for its customers.
A corporate brand platform is a coordinated framework of practical, precise definitions that define an organization’s authentic, distinctive qualities that make a difference for its customers. A brand platform provides uniformity in the way an organization behaves and communicates with the marketplace. The most effective corporate branding strategies start with a powerful brand platform.
Why does a Brand Platform matter?
A corporate brand platform adds credibility to an organization’s traditional “mission, vision, values” brand positioning by transforming high-level branding strategies into activities that matter to customers.
A brand platform helps build customer relationships by:
- Aligning management on key strategies to deliver differentiated value to customers.
- Creating clear, compelling marketing messages and efficient brand communications.
- Connecting employees’ behaviors to consistently deliver differentiated value to customers.
A corporate brand platform is an important strategic framework for guiding non-profit organizations as well as for-profit organizations. We have worked with numerous non-profit organizations to coach them in clarifying their differentiated value and sharpening their external messaging.
How do we develop a Brand Platform?
Developing a strong brand platform comes from the objectivity that is guided by a solid base of facts and the wisdom to see the nuance that uncovers the edge that is often overlooked. Developing a strong brand platform is part science and part art. The proportion of each is dictated by each client situation. In any case, experience makes you better at the science and more artful in discovering the truest, most distinctive brand platform.
The science of developing a strong brand platform starts with executing a fact-based, objective, strategy-development process implemented by experienced consultants. We use a four-phase process that has been continually refined for over 25 years. Our process starts with conducting a thorough competitive brand analysis ensuring the brand platform will be distinctive. At the core of our process is conducting robust brand assessment research, validating the brand platform will be relevant to the target market. We use quantitative research methods to fully understand the brand capabilities and commitments inside the organization, providing the confidence the proposed brand platform can be consistently delivered.
Brand Platform Credibility
Creating a credible, inspiring corporate brand platform is at the core of every effective corporate branding strategy. A snappy tagline or repositioning statement is fine for marketing communications copy, but it limits brand-building power and can’t tap into the power of internal branding. A corporate brand platform must be comprehensive, yet pragmatic enough to be embraced throughout an organization.
Credibility is the most important criteria of a corporate brand platform. Without credibility, a corporate brand platform is just another slogan that will quickly become irrelevant. In its best form, a corporate brand platform is an articulation of an organization’s distinctiveness, contribution, and possibilities for providing value for its customers.
Building credibility starts with identifying an organization’s brand ethos—the single enduring value at the core of an organization’s character that has proven itself as the differentiating factor for the organization. Discerning a credible brand ethos is the first and fundamental step in developing a corporate brand platform.
Identifying an organization’s ethos is where the art comes into play. A brand ethos is another way of defining the core of its “organizational character.” An organization’s true character is the context for defining its distinctive way of consistently delivering distinctive value for its customers.
If defining an organization’s brand ethos is the art, then translating it into a brand platform is the science. Each dimension of a brand platform has a purpose in supporting an organization’s ability to deliver and get credit for the value it delivers to its customers.
From Brand Ethos to Brand Platform
As a strategic tool, a corporate brand platform has a wide range of applications and must be articulated in different forms that span time horizons and levels of brevity to appeal to a broad constituency within an organization.
A brand platform that focuses primarily on a positioning statement may help marketers communicate better, but it does little to engage the rest of the organization in delivering on the intent of the desired brand position. A thorough brand platform needs dimensions that help leaders make decisions, guide employees’ actions, and helps supervisors keep employees focused on what it takes to make a difference for employees.
A brand platform is composed of the following:
- Brand Vision: A forward-looking statement that describes a brand in terms of its relationship with its long-term contribution to its targeted customers.
- Core Values: An expression of an organization’s principles and culture that provides the foundation for internal brand building.
- Brand Position: A brand’s desired position among competitors in its category, pragmatically defined, with a time horizon of no more than 24 months.
- Brand Dimensions: The impressions of what an organization does, the distinctive qualities it delivers in every relationship, and the consistent qualities its customers can expect in every interaction. Brand dimensions become the measurement standards for how well an organization delivers on its brand.
- Brand Promise: A brief, pithy, and energizing statement that is used by employees to guide their everyday activities.
To build sustainable customer loyalty and differentiation, an organization must define and embrace a credible corporate brand platform. A brand’s external strength comes from the brand’s strength inside the organization. Building a strong brand on the inside starts with an articulate, credible brand platform.
Brand confidence starts with brand credence.
Bottom line: Developing distinctive brand platforms that are true to an organization’s character is one of our outstanding capabilities and has been for more than 25 years. We get a kick out of developing brand platforms. (Does that make us brand platform nerds? If so, we’re cool with that.)
Brand Identity System – A Blueprint for Brand Building Effectiveness
What is a Brand Identity System?
A brand identity system is a set of guidelines that clearly defines the hierarchical relationship of an organization’s product, corporate and personal brands. The brand identity system guides consumers’ impressions to the brands that offer the most opportunity for the organization and provides guidelines for marketing professionals in making future brand identity decisions. The identity system contains a set of guidelines for using existing identities and creating new ones. A general framework for a brand identity system consists of:
- An overall brand identity system framework (monolithic, product branding, endorsement or alliance) that leverages the organization’s brand-building competency.
- A nomenclature system that coordinates all brand identities making the brand-building hierarchy more efficient.
- A set of decision support guidelines for effectively using and creating new brand identities.
Why does a Brand Identity System matter?
The fundamental purpose of a brand identity system is to add discipline and effectiveness to brand identity decisions and brand building activities. A well developed and respected brand identity system will:
- Establish criteria and framework for naming products and services.
- Coordinate brand identities that leverage brand impressions of the organization.
- Develop a decision support framework to determine new brand identities.
Bottom line, solid brand identity systems empower more people to be a proactive and productive brand building resource inside and outside the organization.
How do we develop a Brand Identity System?
Brand Tool Box has developed a set of practical brand identity models based upon our 25 years of developing brand identity systems. The models provide a strong starting platform, but frankly developing a robust brand identity system is uncovering and managing the devil that resides in the details. Some of the key success factors in developing a sound brand identity system are:
- Documenting a full inventory of all of the identities used across the organization.
- Clearly understanding the key business strategies of the business units using the identities.
- Creating a logical identity framework that is pragmatic and easy to understand.
- Expecting exceptions, but not letting them become new rules.
- Realizing that if the new identity system does not cause some internal tension, it’s probably not tight enough.
- Creating a set of decision support criteria and identity use guidelines must be easy to understand and implement.
- Providing a system of support for other marketers in making identity decisions and convincing their boss and other team members. Act like a mentor, not like an identity cop!
We’ve been down this road many times and would be happy to provide you some specific case study examples or a little advice if that’s all you need.