What is brand management?
The definition of brand management is quite nebulous, but in essence, it refers to any strategies designed to build or improve awareness of a brand. These can include:
- Marketing strategies such as external communications, content production, social media outreach, events, and more.
- Strategies for customer experience creation and management, including customer service, user experience, feedback gathering, and more.
How brand management works is more than just creating a name and logo or marketing your products. It’s establishing or strengthening your brand identity in the minds of your audiences, both existing and potential. It’s about developing brand equity – or perception in consumers’ minds that your product is better than a similar generic product.
The world’s leading brands are at the top of their game because they are dedicated to mastering their brand image at all times. They evolve with customer and market needs and ensure that their brand stamp is evident in everything that they do. As a result, they become easily recognisable. Loyal customers know what to expect from their brand experiences, with effective brand management raising the business’ value by establishing strong relationships with their audience.
Effective brand management is a continuous effort because markets are constantly changing. The key is to stay ahead of the curve by measuring how your brand compares to competitor brands. You’ll need to know:
- Who knows about the brand, and where did they hear about it
- What do they think and feel about the brand, including perceptions and judgments
- What is their relationship with the brand, from a frequent loyal customer to totally unaware or somewhere in between
Read on to find out more – not only about managing your brand, but developing deep brand loyalty and brand recognition to be proud of.
Why is brand management important?
There are several key reasons why brand management is a vital part of creating and maintaining strong brand equity.
Building brand loyalty
By building a consistent identity, continually monitoring and taking action on how your brand appears to the wider world, you’re able to offer a globally appealing business to customers. This develops into brand loyalty over time and allows you to build brand equity.
Brand loyalty doesn’t have to be built with everyone – even a small percentage of customers coming back can help your business to thrive. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of your customers will bring 80% of your sales, so invest in loyalty to keep your company profits on the up. You can’t always appeal to everyone, so focus on those that you can build a strong connection with and watch it thrive.
Increasing brand recognition
Without effort being put into how your brand appears and how it carries out its business, it’s hard for consumers to be able to recognise your brand as a cohesive entity. It takes around 5 to 7 impressions for a customer to start becoming aware of your brand, meaning that a strategy that builds loyal customers will need to have multiple touchpoints. It’s much more than just recognising the visual element of your specific brand – it’s about the qualities you’re recognisable for.
Brand management improves your brand recognition, and at the same time builds customer loyalty, retention, and trust, because consumers will recognise and seek out your brand and the experiences it offers.
Strengthening brand value
With brand management, you’re able to spot what consumers will value about your brand, and increase the reputation and value of your product or service as a result. Without intervention, your brand becomes what consumers perceive – rather than how you’d like to be known.
Brand value is also tied to brand trust. 81 percent of customers need to be able to trust brands to make a purchase – and if the perceived value of your products is high, this helps to build that trust.
What makes you different from your competitors? By using brand management strategies to emphasise your brand’s values against others, you’re able to attract your audience with your unique selling proposition.
Make sure this differentiation is front and centre of all your customer touch points. Remember, you’ve only got 50 milliseconds for customers to form an opinion about your website – ensure you’re making your difference clear from the get-go, no matter where consumers find you.
Making marketing more effective
Brand management isn’t just about pouring time and resources into your marketing. Your efforts need to be aimed in the right direction, otherwise, you’ll see little return on investment for your work. Brand management can help to pinpoint where you need to focus, develop your brand voice, and construct a loyal customer base that engages with your marketing.
Engaging your workforce
Your employees can better engage with your brand when it’s clear what you stand for and how you operate. With brand management, you’re able to better align your workforce to your goals. It’s important because, alongside your customers, they’re some of the best brand advocates for your business.
Shaping the perception of your brand
Unfortunately, perception of your brand is largely shaped by external influences. However, with brand management strategies in place, you’re able to weather any reputational issues. Becoming aware of them faster and being able to respond in an agile way becomes easier – and you’re able to bolster your brand against future perception problems.
Effective brand management strategy allows you to create not only a brand identity that permeates everything you do, but to grow stronger relationships with your customer base and the wider market. You’re able to develop brand loyalty and translate it into better financial outcomes. Your reputation will be lifted, helping you to attract new audiences and raise your revenue.
How do businesses typically manage their brand?
So how does brand management work typically? Often, businesses look to hire brand managers who can coordinate and execute their brand management. However, this might form a few issues:
- Your brand management remains siloed: Brand management touches on myriad aspects of your business. By appointing one person to manage this, you could be losing out on valuable insights and action across your company.
- Your brand manager can’t cover everything: Your brand manager is only human – and they can’t be across everything in real-time.
- The ROI can be hard to pinpoint: How do you know which brand management efforts are the most rewarding financially? And how will you determine if your brand manager is bringing in the results?
- Hiring an agency can be challenging. While leveraging expertise can be helpful, it usually comes at a steep cost. Furthermore, relying on an external agency may not provide the speed or granularity you might need in a fast-moving market. Waiting weeks for reports may end up costing your brand the edge against a competitor.
The alternative is to invest in brand management software that can gather data from multiple sources, analyse and generate insights and actions for all the areas of the business that can benefit. It can save you time, money and lower the burden on your team, all while making it easier for you to see the ROI of the actions you take.
How to implement strategic brand management
Brand management strategy is about creating and perpetuating an identity, repeating successes, and learning from insights. Taking action is key – monitoring is important, but consumers are looking for brands that can react and respond.
Establish what you stand for
What does your brand stand for? Being genuine is important – 86 percent of consumers state that authenticity is a deciding factor when choosing brands to support. That authenticity will need to be shaped and promoted through brand management, so establishing your values and public-facing goals will be important for direction.
To start, ensure there’s a solid and agreed understanding of:
- Your brand image and voice: What does your logo, branded collateral, etc. look like? How do your visual elements reflect your brand values and purpose? What is your tone of voice?
- Your brand values: What values will dictate your actions? What values will be attractive to your target market?
- Your brand purpose: What is your brand purpose? How will you promote this to the public?
- Your brand position: What niche position will you occupy in the market?
- Your brand differentiation: What makes you stand out?
It’s likely you’ll need to do significant research on market segmentation to really nail what you want to offer with your brand experience.
Understand where your own brand is now
Until you know where you currently stand in terms of brand perception, position, and more, you won’t know where best to target your brand management efforts. Taking the pulse on your brand’s reputation is the first step to knowing what to do next.
You can go about this in a number of ways:
- Your brand equity: What’s the perceived value of your business, products, and services?
- Social listening: Using social listening tools can help you to understand what your audience and the wider target market is saying about you.
- Brand perception surveys: Surveying current customers can help you to see what they love about you now – and what you can do to improve.
- Competitor analysis: What do your competitors offer that you don’t in terms of brand?
- O-data: Operational data that you’ve gathered from your customers’ interactions, such as sales data, finance data, marketing spend, and more
- X-data: Experience data, meaning customer feedback, brand sentiment data, and more
Essentially, you are carrying out an assessment on the health of your brand. Honesty on where you stand now will help you target the areas in which you’re weakest, and build out your strengths.
Research your audiences
Consumer research is the backbone of any successful brand. Who is your target audience? What do they want, and how can you give it to them?
Adding to the data you’ve gleaned from your evaluation of where your brand is now, you can invest in consumer research to build out a comprehensive understanding of what to offer consumers – whether that’s what they want from your product or service, even down to what colour scheme they might prefer.
You might try using:
- Omni-channel listening (including social media, review sites, chat and more)
- Focus groups
Once you’ve established why your particular brand would appeal to your audience, you can begin to plan your strategy to fulfil what consumers are looking for.
Devise a brand management strategy
Your strategy should take into account all the touch points on the customer journey that need to feel authentic to your brand. By taking a starting benchmark, you’ll be able to see where you need to focus.
To help develop a plan that your business can implement and maintain, you’ll need to establish:
- Your benchmarks: What will be your KPIs? What is your key measure of success?
- Your responsibilities: Who is responsible for taking action? Does the responsible party know and understand what they need to do and why?
- Your brand asset portfolio: What brand assets should be used, and are they centralised for access by everyone? Is everyone clear on when, where, and why a branded asset should be used?
Ideally, your strategy should target areas of weakness and replicate strengths. Figure out what your issues are, and systematically resolve them with your actions. For example:
- Struggling to access a wider audience? Try testing different adverts with various messages, propositions so you can start to understand what resonates and what doesn’t. And execute your marketing strategy across the channels your potential customers prefer, such as social media – you might just be focusing on the wrong channels.
- Want to develop stronger reviews? Improving customer service and better meeting consumers’ experience expectations should help to positively impact reviews.
- Trying to build create repeat customers? Try creating a loyalty program to build brand loyalty and offer incentives to come back.
Implement your brand strategy
Your plan needs to be understood and implemented not just across your marketing department, but across the whole business. The values of your brand need to be felt in every interaction a customer, stakeholder, or casual browser might have with your business, meaning it’s everyone’s responsibility to uphold.
Your implementation should:
- Be aimed at specific audiences: One-size-fits-all won’t work. Segment your audiences, and if possible, use dynamic journey orchestration to give consumers a personalised experience.
- Not put extra burden on your team: Using software to do the legwork means you free your team members to take action for improvement, rather than gathering information.
- Ensure your internal communications are as strong as the ones you send out to consumers. The brand management process should be clear to everyone in your business. A successful brand is the sum of its parts, after all.
Measuring performance should ideally be happening all the time, in real-time if possible. The faster you’re able to get brand-based insights, the more quickly you can take action. Measuring performance across a number of metrics will help you build a full picture of how your brand appears to the outside world.
You should include:
- Brand metrics: Using brand metrics such as brand equity, brand awareness, brand consideration, brand associations, perceived quality, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and more can help you to see where you stand on brand equity.
- Financial metrics: How do your marketing outreach, customer journey, and more impact your financial outcomes? Tracking your sales alongside your brand metrics can help you keep your brand tactics in sync with market outcomes
- Brand attribute trending: As you launch activations to strengthen your brand image, you’ll want to track how perceptions are changing in comparison to your competitors
Measurement is just the first step in brand management – the true value of monitoring your data is the resulting insights you can generate.
To make the process easier, you should:
- Automate as much as possible: Your team likely doesn’t have time or the breadth of scope to gather insights from all your data – automate as much analysis as you can to help them be more effective.
- Deliver insights as fast as possible: It’s no good creating insights that are based on old data, or that are delivered to your team late. Make sure your insights get to the right people as quickly as possible to take action on pressing brand issues.
Spread the word
Strong brands take into account the experiences they create for their customers, and transform casual buyers into brand ambassadors by constantly improving the process for consumers. It’s an investment into not just their experiences, but the potential for them to recommend you.
Word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective brand advocacy techniques, as all it takes is a good relationship with consumers. Potential customers are more likely to trust the word of others like them or people they know. Take advantage of the emotional connection your customers make with your brand to reach new audiences and convert them more quickly. You should:
- Make it simple for customers to talk about your product or service to others, sharing what appeals to them and raising brand awareness. Creating content that resonates with them is a great way of reminding your audience who you are and how you can help, keeping you top of mind.
- Reward customers for making positive associations with your brand publicly. Use referral codes and other incentives shared through your marketing to develop brand loyalty.
- Focusing your marketing on sentiment. Your marketing strategy should pinpoint how you make your customers feel – often, brand loyalty is about emotion, rather than utility.
Maintain and grow your brand equity
Data collected, insights gathered – your next step is to take targeted action to maintain and grow your brand equity. Your strategy implementation is continual – it should never stop adapting to new insights.
Your team should be empowered to take actions they know will make an impact. Enable them to:
- Focus on the greatest areas of opportunity. In a crowded market, not all brands can stand for the same thing. A good brand tracker will help you understand d what are the drivers of the metrics that are most important to you and where there is space for your brand to stand out. For example, in the automobile category, Tesla may have honed in on “innovation” as a driver for consumer consideration that is not a strength of other brands.
- Create advertising, marketing, and social media assets that specifically target those areas of focus for your audience. Doing so will remind them again and again that you should be their number one choice.
- Continuously measure your progress. As you invest more resources into your brand you’ll want to know that those activations are paying off. Having a continuous pulse will help you stay on top of changes in competition and focus on the activations that are most effective for your brand.
Taking your brand management to the next level
Building a holistic view of your brand within one platform, Qualtrics BrandXM allows you to act on real-time feedback from every single brand touchpoint.
Integrate all your data and use Qualtrics’ advanced analytics-powered platform to generate actionable insights for better, faster decision-making. Understand what actions have an impact and see the true business value of your brand equity.
Don’t just hire an outside agency– incorporate brand awareness and management efforts across your entire business to implement an ROI-led brand strategy that delivers results.