What is a brand?
A brand is a set of values that are associated with a company or product or service. E.g. dependable, reliable, fast, elegant, expensive, high-value, etc.
In effect, a brand is the sum total of the perceptions about your product or service or company that different people have. These perceptions are a result of the brand’s look & feel and communication, including PR, as well as the customer’s experience with the product and the service. All of these have to work in sync for a brand to establish positive equity with all stakeholders.
What is brand management?
Simply put, brand management is about managing the perceptions about the brand that different stakeholders have.
Stakeholders are not just customers/consumers but also other groups like – current & future employees, investors, vendors, suppliers, intermediaries, service providers, etc. (Even potential life-partners and in-laws !!!)
Once you use this definition, it is easier to visualize brand management as the task of doing the following:
- Understand what the current perceptions of that stakeholder group are
- Identify what you would like them to perceive about the brand i.e. identify the goal
- Identifying what you would need to do to change the current perception to what you want them to perceive about your brand i.e. define the strategy or action plan
- Implement it and measure it
In the case of startups, who are naturally starting off on a clean slate, the opportunity is to define the kind of brand you want to be seen as, and then design the brand’s personality accordingly. Designing the brand personality is NOT just about designing a good logo, website and brochures, etc., which indeed is the critical starting point, but also designing the overall product experience that the consumers will feel. (One of the startups that I was consulting had a brilliant idea. They were starting a premium fashion label selling only online. They had gorgeous packaging, but wanted to provide the consumer a wow experience. And so, before closing the box, they would spray the silk covering inside the box with a lovely, delicate perfume. As a result, when the person opened the packaging, she would get a whiff of the lovely fragrance reminding her of a high-end shopping mall. That, to my mind, is a great example of ‘designing’ the brand personality beyond the logo and look & feel of the website/store).
Why is brand management important?
Brand management is important because a good brand name allows you the following advantages:
- Good brands can usually command a premium. You may choose not to charge a premium and price it at par with other brands, in which case you significantly strengthen the value-proposition even more.
- Good brands get a price advantage from suppliers/vendors. If you are a good, known and visible brand, vendors and suppliers want to deal with you and hence are often likely to give you better terms.
- It is easier to hire employees if you are a good brand.
- Good brands get good PR.
Entrepreneurs typically tend to not pay as much attention as they should, in designing the personality of the brand. Startups, because they are starting new, have the opportunity to identify & occupy the positioning and personality that will give them the most competitive advantage in the market place.
Often I have seen startups rustle up a logo and initial communication which is ‘work-in-progress’ material, and somehow the work-in-progress logo ends up being the go-to-market logo in many cases. However, with online platforms like www.logogardencom, it is incredibly easy for startups to create good logo designs.
Of course, beyond the logo, entrepreneurs and startup teams should put enough effort in designing the overall customer experience for the brand.