If you are serious about your organisation's brand and creating a lasting and meaningful experience for your customers, good brand management is the linchpin around which you need to build this experience.
What is brand management?
Brand management is the development and execution of strategy to strengthen brand perception in the market. Your brand is only as strong as perception, and resultant sales, so it is imperative to have a brand management strategy. This strategy allows you to inform and influence your target market, building strong relationships with potential customers, customers and partners.
Brand management enables your organisation to position each interaction, each communication piece, in the right way for your audience - to build a meaningful understanding of what you do and how you make a difference to them.
Brand management traditionally encompasses:
- brand architecture or hierarchy
- visual identity
- messaging and communication
- product, positioning and price
- brand experience
- customer relationship to the brand and other users of the brand
Key brand definitions
A brand is a shortcut in a customer's mind to understanding what you do and how you do it. It is the sum of experience and knowledge of your company positioning, your reputation.
A brand is your customer's perception of your organisation.
Branding, on the other hand, is the marketing and communication techniques and tactics you use to influence this perception. The measures you use to influence will be dependent on your audience and channels and objectives.
Your visual identity is one of the tools you employ in your branding strategy to influence and shift your customer's perception. Your visual identity includes:
- Messaging hierarchy
- Illustration styles
- Design elements
Brand guidelines are the traditional way to present and manage your visual identity for use in your branding activities.
Brand architecture and brand hierarchy
Brand architecture lays out the structure of brands within an organisation. The way brands interact, or relate to one another, is mapped and accorded a hierarchy.
In some organisations products = brands, and in other organisations a brand is wrapped around a group of products.
When we look at brand architecture, there are some key terms to be comfortable with:
Master brand or a corporate brand
This brand is consumer-facing and may be used as a pure corporate brand, without sub-brands, or more commonly used across products and categories, associated with sub-brands. Virgin is an example of a corporate brand. It is instantly recognisable to customers and sits in front of sub-brands like Virgin Mobile and Virgin Australia.
This type of brand is part of a larger brand family (a master brand), but has its own identity and brand identity attached to a master brand. Polo by Ralph Lauren is in this instance a sub-brand. Polo is the product brand endorsed by the master brand of Ralph Lauren.
A product brand has a corporate brand backing it, but the corporate brand isn't the hero of the product brand. PlayStation, for example, has its own brand and visual identity, separate to the owner of the product brand, Sony. Similarly, Gillette is a product brand because while it's parent brand, Proctor & Gamble has a minimal branding presence on the packaging, it is not known as P&G Gillette.
This type of brand isn't really a brand, but more a company who owns lots of sub-brands and product brands. Their visual identity operates primarily below the line - not in public consciousness - and they don't spend money positioning their brand. COTY is one of the biggest players in the beauty space, but their brand is virtually unrecognised. Their product brands are well known in their own right, however, and include Covergirl, Max Factor, Bourjois and Rimmel.
A product doesn't automatically equal a brand
One thing to note at this juncture is that a product brand shouldn't mean treating all products or services as brands.
You may have multiple services delivering fitness training, e.g. Kids Fit Fast and New Mums Fit Fast but that doesn't mean each product needs its own visual identity - they can all operate as product or service names in your master brand identity.
In fact, having your products all look like they belong to the same family strengthens your whole brand.