Business truism: The role of marketers is to help define, build, and protect their brands.
Marketers – and others – should always be examining the various elements of their brand strategy for external or internal changes that could require action on the part of the brand. Consumer Insights professionals have a unique role to play in this process, as well as the “big picture” perspective to monitor the competitive set, understand the customer, and identify other emerging factors that could impact the brand.
There are six key components of brand strategy. Strong brand strategies include all six elements – no shortcuts! Each element can be defined by the questions they answer. They are:
- Market Structure – How is the market (or category) defined? Is it growing (and how)? Is it changing (and how)? Who are the players?
- Source of Business – If your brand is to be successful, what other brands (or current behaviors) will you be taking business from?
- Target Market – Who are the customers of the Source of Business brand(s)? And which segment will your brand be attractive to. For example, will it be the heaviest users or perhaps a segment of users that are seeking a benefit not provided by the Source of Business brand?
- User Benefits – What benefits are currently being provided by Source of Business brands to the Target Market? What benefits will your brand deliver to the Target Market?
- Point of Difference – What is the single most important (valuable) benefit that your brand offers that other brands in the Source of Business don’t?
- Reasons to Believe – What factual support can you offer as to why the Point of Difference is important to the Target Market and why your brand is the only place to get it?
The brand strategy is a working roadmap for current marketing decision making. It should be written for today about the market structure in which your brand competes. That said, smart marketers will be thinking about changes in the market structure and how that will necessitate changes in the brand strategy rather than waiting for the future to arrive.
And change they will – that’s a guarantee. The overall velocity of change depends on your specific industry, but you can assume your competition, your customers, and the market structure do not stand still. And that means your brand strategy must be dynamic as well. Because when one element of your brand strategy changes, it likely impacts the other elements and ultimately, the overall strategy.
Because of the individual and unique nature of brands, custom research will usually be needed to evaluate changes and new features/benefits, to test the feasibility of a brand extension, or to evaluate a hypothetical new strategy. And because of the interrelationships between the elements of the Brand Strategy, the research design will include testing all the elements of a brand strategy.
Lots of companies have great brand strategies, but the most interesting ones are where the brand strategy has evolved away from the obvious basic benefits of the product or service. For example, Oreos is a great tasting cookie, but their brand strategy is all about fun. And that position of “fun” has led them to many, many new product extensions. Apple is another example of that: great technology, but their brand strategy is about design. It will be interesting to see whether the changing market structure (their competitors have caught up on design and some would say surpassed them on technology) may force them to change their strategy to stay competitive.
Formal monitoring of the elements of brand strategy and tracking brand health is crucial to brand viability. Consumer Insights professionals especially should use their unique market perspective to stay abreast of underlying changes in relevant attitudes or behaviors that would otherwise go unnoticed. The health – as well as growth – of your brand is at stake!
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