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As the internet empowers millions of users to connect to online reviews, news articles, and social media pages in a matter of seconds, your company’s image can change in an instant. Having a successful brand management strategy in place can help ensure that these changes work in your favor.
Brand management is one of the most important aspects of your overall corporate reputation management. If you want to stay competitive and create a loyal customer base, you’ll need to make sure your brand identity is consistent and aligned with your target audience’s values. Keep reading to learn why this matters and how to do it.
What is brand management?
Brand management is the collection of strategies that your team uses to define your brand’s personality. These strategies may look different for every company, but the end goals of brand management are the same: differentiate your brand, prove its worth and credibility, and improve customer loyalty.
This can be distinguished from corporate reputation management because it takes into account a specific aspect of the customer experience. Whereas general reputation management accounts for how consumers perceive you across the board, including your customer service quality, brand management specifically looks at who consumers think you are. For example, a brand manager may compare your company values and actions to perceived values.
With effective brand management, public perceptions match the brand image you want to create. As a result, the perceived value of your product or service increases, ultimately improving your bottom line.
Why brand management matters
When consumers are choosing who to shop with on an ongoing basis, they’re not just buying from the first brand they see on Google. They’re seeking sellers that align with their values and needs. In fact, 64% of consumers say shared values are the basis of their trusted relationships with companies.
A solid brand image will also tell potential buyers that there’s a special quality your business provides that no others can. This is sometimes known as your brand promise. As you continue to effectively manage your brand, more and more buyers will recognize your brand promise and be willing to pay more to get it. This leads to increases in both your profits and market share over time.
While a strong brand isn’t developed in one day, it’s well worth the effort. You may soon become the go-to brand for consumers in your target market, even those who haven’t had a direct experience with your company in the past.
4-step strategic brand management process
While it may be tempting to simply decide on your brand and let your audience discover it on their own, effective brand management is an ongoing process. Public perceptions can quickly take a turn for the worse if you’re not on top of guiding them in the right direction.
Here are the four steps of the strategic brand management process that you can follow to grow your business.
1. Cultivate brand awareness
The first step to creating an effective brand is building brand recognition in the first place. For consumers to even consider buying from you, they need to know who you are and what you sell. As brand awareness develops, they’ll be able to recall this basic information when presented with the visual elements of your brand, such as your logo and brand colors.
In this step, consumers don’t know the entire story of your brand, but they do know that you exist so your business makes their shortlist when they’re weighing options of where to spend money.
When you want to increase recognition for your company’s brand, the key is to present it consistently in all of your marketing materials. With only a quarter of organizations having formal brand guidelines, creating a style guide that defines your brand personality and image can boost consistency and increase your revenue by 23%.
2. Build your brand reputation
Once brand awareness has been developed, it’s time for brand association. Building a great brand reputation is all about linking those visual elements of your brand to the positive values and feelings you want to express. In this step, you’re introducing your target audience to the brand beneath the surface—the part of your business that creates and enforces emotional connections.
To distinguish yourself from other brands, you need to demonstrate the values you uphold. For example, if you want your brand name to be known for sustainability, you’ll have to focus your marketing on your environmentally friendly practices. A part of building your brand reputation may also involve some public relations work, as you’ll benefit from news stories about how your brand is contributing to the greater community.
During this step, it’s also important to monitor how your audience is reacting to your brand. You can use a tool like Podium Feedback to collect insight from customers at any checkpoint, which can help you figure out if your brand message is well-received or if adjustments need to be made.
3. Increase brand equity
When consumers begin to form an opinion on your brand, this directly affects your brand equity. This is essentially your brand value or how much your branding alone is worth. With successful brand management, your target audience will be willing to pay more for your product compared with the generic version that competes on price alone.
Your perceived brand equity starts with what consumers know about your brand, including what they associate with it, what your marketing says, and what their peers tell them. However, it’s a brand experience that increases (or decreases) your value. If you show that you can back up your brand promise — for example, BMW’s old tagline that promised “the ultimate driving machine” — your value goes up.
While you certainly can let your marketing do the work, many companies may offer free samples or free trials of their products as part of their community outreach to encourage consumers to experience the brand for the first time. Other times, they may aim to increase their equity by encouraging already loyal customers to provide testimonials or reviews that affect perceptions. If you choose to take the latter route, be sure to accelerate your efforts by sending automatic review invites to every customer.
4. Develop brand loyalty
The final step of the brand management process requires you to reinforce your brand with your internal team. While your marketing team can push your brand to your target audience to complete the other steps of this process, brand loyalty can only be accomplished when you can be trusted to deliver the same customer experience each time.
Your team members should be trained to embody your values and strive to accomplish your mission and vision. When a customer comes back for their second brand experience and their third, your team should be able to fulfill the same brand promise again and again—and perhaps do so even better each time.
Over time, increasing brand loyalty will turn your customers into brand ambassadors who not only return but also talk about the value and excellence of your company with their peers or on social media.
Inspire customer loyalty with your brand
With a strong brand strategy in place, your target consumers won’t just recognize you. They’ll be returning customers willing to pay more for what you offer, simply because you embrace the same values that they do. With the brand management process outlined above, you can reap the benefits of having a well-developed brand image and personality—and experience the value of customer loyalty for yourself.
Podium is an interaction management platform that enables companies with a local presence to conveniently connect with their customers at critical touchpoints to help them strengthen their business. By conveniently facilitating millions of customer interactions, such as driving customer-generated online reviews and providing improved customer messaging tools, Podium serves more than 40,000 local businesses to create over 16 million interactions with their customers a month. Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, and founded in 2014, Podium is currently backed by IVP, Accel, Summit Partners, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and Y Combinator.