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Brand Management:
The Beginners Guide 2022

Brand management is a broad and (perhaps unnecessarily) complicated topic. Ask ten different marketers what the definition of a brand is you’ll probably get ten different answers. So it’s no wonder brand management is an often misunderstood discipline.

This is our beginners guide to brand management in 2022. It outlines our take on brand management. In the guide you’ll learn:

  • What brand management is
  • The principles of brand management
  • How to manage your brand
  • Plus lots more

Before we jump straight into brand management it makes sense to start from the beginning and outline our definition of a brand. So…

What is a Brand?

Your brand is the culmination of your marketing execution where the consumer experiences what you put out into the world. This includes your product, your marketing communications, pricing and location.

You measure the strength of your brand using the concept of brand equity. There are two key areas to this:

  1. Brand Awareness – the percentage of the target market that know you exist.
  2. Brand image – what the customers think of when they think of your brand.

What is Brand Management?

Brand Management is the process of managing the marketing execution that you put out into the world. 

It’s not just about making sure people use the correct logo.

If we look a traditional marketing theory, brand management runs across research, strategy and tactical execution (the 4ps).

The aim of brand management is to build positive brand equity which you can then leverage to improve business performance.

The Origins of Brand Management

Branding originated centuries ago.

The modern word Brand is derived from the word “Brandr”, a word from Ancient Norse meaning “to burn”. 

To brand was to burn your mark on your cattle to show ownership. 

Over the years this has evolved from cattle to products and to what we know as modern-day branding.

The McElroy Memo

Brand management originated in 1931, when Neil McElroy, a P&G executive drafted a memo outlining the responsibilities of what he called a “brand man”.

mcelroy memo

The Principles of Brand Management

We’ve had a look at what branding is and the origins of brand management. 

Now lets’ run through the key principles of brand management. We’re going to give you a quick introduction to the following:

  • Brand equity
  • Brand awareness
  • Long and short term campaigns
  • Brand image
  • Distinctiveness
  • Brand perception
  • Positioning
  • Brand heritage
  • Brand architecture
  • Brand loyalty
  • Brand tracking
  • Brand guidelines

Each one could have several articles dedicated to it. So we’ve summarised each and given tips for how you can apply them to your brand.

Brand Equity

So we know the main aim of brand management is to build brand equity that we can leverage for business performance. 

But what is brand equity?

Firstly, people need to know you exist (brand awareness).

Then, Brand equity is the value of all the things that set you apart from the commodity equivalent in your sector.

what is a brand graphic

It’s useful to think of it in terms of a sliding scale and your brand is anything that moves you from the commodity side towards the meanings you want to stand for.

What Are The Benefits of Positive Brand Equity?

There are several excellent benefits to building positive brand equity. These include:

  • You can charge higher prices for your goods and services
  • Mental availability in the minds of your customers
  • It enhances the customer’s ability to interpret and process information
  • Improves customer confidence in the purchase decision
  • Improves quality of user experience

Ultimately, the aim of developing a strong brands to leverage it for positive business results.

    How do You Know You Have Positive Brand Equity?

    When reviewing your brand against the generic equivalent and your competitors, the key questions to answer are:

    • What makes my brand distinctive from the competition?
    • Do my customers associate these with my brand?
    • How many positive and negative associations are there?
    • How much of it is important to consumers?
    • What do I own vs my competitors?

    Brand Awareness

    Brand awareness is the percentage of the target market that knows you exist. Within this there are three levels:

    1. Recognition (aided awareness) – when you show them brand assets from brands in your sector they recognise yours.
    2. Recall (unaided awareness) – when you ask them to think of brands in your category they say yours.
    3. Top of mind (first mention) – when you ask them the recall question yours is the first brand they mention.

    This is the first brand management challenge you need to tackle when building your brand.

    Without people knowing about you everything else is irrelevant.

    The most important part of brand awareness is to build familiarity with your brand (and your distinctive brand assets). 

    Then you need to always be available in buying situations. 

    To achieve this you need a good understanding of when and where your customers shop.

    Brand Management: The Long and the Short of It

    So what do you do if your brand tracking research highlights you’ve got a problem with brand awareness?

    We can’t say for certain, but it probably means you’ve been focusing too much on sales activation campaigns. 

    While these are great for boosting immediate sales.

    They don’t really support market penetration, which is the key driver for sustained, long-term growth.

    Les Binet and Peter Field, have undertaken an excellent piece of research titled: The Long and the Short of It.

    In their report, they outline the perfect way to remedy this imbalance in your marketing efforts

     

    long and the short of it chart

    So How do You Build Brand Awareness?

    In a nutshell, you need to run more brand-building campaigns. The brief for these is really simple: 

    “Make our brand famous”

    Brand campaigns focus on emotional benefits and should aim to reach as much of your target market as possible.

    And as we cover a bit later in this article, they should be heavily coded with your distinctive brand assets.

    Brand Image

    Once people know about your brand, the next challenge is brand image. There are two parts of brand image: 

    1. Distinctiveness
    2. Perception

    Distinctiveness

    Distinctiveness is all about standing out and helping people notice and remember your brand. You achieve this through the use of distinctive elements, such as:

    • Brand name
    • Logos
    • Colours
    • Taglines
    • Sounds
    • Characters  
    These are often referred to as distinctive brand assets or brand codes.
    distinctive brand asset examples

    How do Distinctive Brand Assets Work?

    With consistent application over time, these assets become attached to your brand as a shortcut for recognition. 

    You might also hear these distinctive elements being referred to as brand codes. And frequently they a referred to as you brand identity.

    Ultimately they are the things that make you uniquely you.

    Why Are Distinctive Brand Assets Important?

    People are busy!

    And the reality is, your brand is extremely low down on their list of priorities and things to consider.

    So the big benefit of establishing distinctive brand assets is to combat this and make life easier for people.

    Being distinctive helps fight information overload for consumers by making you easier to find in buying situations.

    busy store shelf with lots of brands

    Having several distinctive assets associated with your brand reduces the effort needed on their part to find, evaluate and select your products when they are shopping.

    How do You Measure The Strength of Your Brand Codes?

    You measure the strength of your brand codes by:

    • How unique they are so that customers always associate them with your brand and not your competition. Sameness is your enemy here. You need to stand out, be bold, and be creative.
    • And how prevalent they are, so that the association between your assets and your brand is built in the mind of the consumer. In practice, this means you should “codify” your ads and other promotional material as much as possible. To the point where you think you’ve overdone it.

    How Brands Grow

    To learn more about the benefits of distinctiveness -and everything else related to growing your brand – we highly recommend you pick up a copy of How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp.

    Perception

    Alongside your distinctive assets, it’s also useful to think about certain associations you want people to have about your brand.

    These are the things that people first think of when you ask them what they associate with your brand.

    Unlike brand assets, associations are a lot more difficult to make unique to you.

    Consumers will generally apply similar associations to all brands in the category. 

    However, it’s not impossible for you to focus your efforts on certain associations and strengthen how your market perceives you against these.

    The great thing about having a tightly defined set of associations you want customers to associate with your brand is that they give you an anchor and focus for all your activities.

    This is especially useful when it comes to messaging and advertising.

    Brand Management: Positioning

    Positioning is the starting point for brand image. 

    It is the process of developing your concept or the (max five) attributes you want your target market to associate with your brand.

    When you assess your brand equity and see how much you own in comparison to the commodity equivalent in your category, in an ideal situation what you have is everything you set in your positioning.

    Complexity is the enemy of good positioning.

    Positioning needs to work through all levels of staff in your organisation.

    Every time you add more to your position it becomes less and less likely to work. People delivering the service need to buy into your positioning.

    They are key. Make it easy for them.

    The Three C's of Positioning

    A useful tool for helping you set your positioning is the three C’s model. Going through this process you look at:

    1. Customer – use your market research to look at their attitudes and behaviours. Find out what they’re looking for within your category.
    2. Competition – look at your competitors and how they operate. It’s great to use them to position against. What do you do differently and better than them? You can then highlight this by positioning against them.
    3. Company – what are your strengths? What can you actually deliver against? If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to back it up across everything you do.

    The Benefits Ladder

    Alongside the three C’s model, another useful way of setting your positioning is the benefits ladder.

    benefit ladder

    It’s a great way of making sure you’re considering your customers when setting your position. 

    Depending on the category, your brand, and your products, different levels might be more suitable for your situation.

    How do you use your positioning?

    Once you’ve set your position you need to turn the philosophy into behaviour. 

    Use it as a compass to guide all your actions. From product development to marketing communication.

    An excellent example of this is Hublot watches.

    Their positioning is perfectly simple.

    One word: Fusion.

    jean claude biver fusion

    Brand Heritage

    tiffany brand heritage

    When it comes to having a strong brand, older brands definitely have an advantage.

    Firstly, by being in business longer HOPEFULLY you’ll have a bigger market share. This is the single biggest factor in supporting profitability for your brand.

    You’re also more likely to have established stronger distinctive brand assets. And you’ll have a history of activity to pull stories from to help you build a positive perception.

    If you have brand heritage – use it.

    If you’re a younger company – archive your story and associated content.

    Tiffany’s has a brilliant brand heritage and they make excellent use of it. Take a look at their work to learn more about successfully harnessing brand heritage.

    Brand Architecture

    brand architecture model

    Another key area of brand management is brand architecture. Essentially how you structure your brand and present it to consumers.

    There are multiple ways you can manage your brand portfolio. 

    • Master brand – A top-level corporate brand that encapsulates other branded products and services.
    • House of brands – This insulates and protects the master brand from brand extensions and in turn protects brands from each other. A house of brands also allows for a Master Brand to have competing brands in the same segments.  A good example is Proctor and Gamble. If Crest, for instance, had some kind of brand crisis, none of the other brands would be affected.
    • Endorsers brand – This is a more flexible way to package brands under a master brand. Brand extensions are given separate identities and are associated with the master brand, or not, depending on the context. This gives you the freedom to have independent strategies for the brand extensions but to also use the equity of the master brand when it’s convenient. A good example is Toyota with the Lexus and Scion brands.
    • Branded house – This offers a very logical path to brand extensions and new brands.  In a branded house, the master brand is always present and is easily linked to and leveraged by extensions. A good example is FedEx. FedEx Kinko’s provides very different (but complementary) services than the master FedEx brand, but is easily linked back to FedEx, and therefore shares its credibility.

    Read more about David Aaker’s Brand Relationship Spectrum.

    As with everything brand-related, simplicity is key. 

    Typically fewer brands equal more success. Especially if you’re a small business.

    A Quick Word on Brand Loyalty

    While brand loyalty is valuable to your business it is not the best strategy for brand growth.

    Strong customer service will take care of brand loyalty.

    Most buyers, in most industries, are “light buyers”.

    To grow a strong brand you need to be targeting these people. A bigger customer base is better than a loyal one.

    Again, How Brands Grow, by Professor Byron Sharp, has some excellent research and guidance on this topic. Go check it out.

    Brand Tracking

    Brand tracking is the task of monitoring the health of your brand. It is the measure of your brand equity for the last 12 months. 

    When undertaking your brand tracking research, you are looking to understand the two key components of brand equity:

    1. Brand awareness
    2. Brand image 

    Firstly, what percentage of your target market are aware of your brand. Within that is it unaided or aided awareness.

    Then you measure all the associations with your brand. This includes the distinctive assets you own and the associations you set out in your positioning.

    Ideally, you should repeat your brand tracking annually. 

    The great thing about doing this is that it can act as an early warning system for business performance. 

    If you see your brand equity shrink or grow you can expect some changes to business performance. Subsequently, you can plan your marketing efforts accordingly.

    To be able to track your brand you need the following elements in place:

    • Target customer
    • A tight positioning (one you can measure)
    • A strategy
    • Knowledge of brand equity
    • Long-term effort

    Brand Guidelines

    Creating brand guidelines is a great to get everyone in your business on the same page.

    Many people make the mistake of creating overly long and complicated guidelines. On your quest for better brand management, you want to avoid doing this.

    The longer your brand guidance is less likely to be used.

    Keep your guidelines short and simple. Outline your:

    • Target marketing
    • Positioning
    • Brand codes (and how to use them)
    • Guidance on how to execute against your positioning – creative style of photography and video, colour scheme etc.

    Brand Management Benefits

    Brand building is key for sustained, positive customer relationships that lead to increased recognition and sales.

    Being deliberate with how you build your brand and present your business to the market gives you myriad advantages over letting things happen by chance.

    Brand architecture

    Firstly, through proper management of your brand portfolio, you will structure your brand in the most optimal way. 

    Making it easier for customers to understand your offering. 

    But also giving you a much more efficient and effective business operating model. 

    Saving on resources, time and costs.

    Brand awareness

    Having an understanding of the levels of awareness of your brand in the market will help you make strategic marketing decisions.

    For example, if you know your overall awareness level is low, you can focus advertising spend on awareness campaigns rather than conversion activity. 

    Building a strong brands starts with people knowing you exist.

    Distinctive assets

    Then, by correctly developing and managing your distinctive assets you will build mental availability in the minds of your target customer. 

    As we mentioned previously, this mental availability comes with many benefits in buying situations. 

    The stronger your brand recognition the better.

    Positioning

    Developing a concise positioning will align your brand and everyone who works for it around a singular concept. 

    Committed delivery against this positioning will strengthen the associations you want in the minds of your target market. 

    These associations will move you away from the commodity offering in your category and work alongside your distinctive assets to make buying your offering easier and more desirable for your customers.

    Brand tracking

    Finally, through brand tracking, you will have a clear understanding of the health of your brand. 

    This in turn will allow you to make better decisions on where to focus your resources for the year ahead.

    The Perfectly Managed Brand

    Creating a brand is hard. Ensuring it is properly managed over the long-term is even harder!

    Follow these top tips and you’ll be on your way to creating a strong brand:

    • Play your origins – if you have a long heritage, use it to your advantage
    • Kill you brands – less is more
    • Understand how brands are built (and broken) – don’t overuse sales promotion
    • Tight positioning in less than five words – no book needed to explain it
    • Disruptively consistent to that position – don’t copy your competition
    • Codify everything, all the time, to exhaustion
    • Track, learn, adjust, execute, repeat

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