“Brand” is a popular topic–certainly one of perspective, disagreement and often confusion. From marketers, academics, dealers/retailers and others, we have many definitions of “brand.” But let’s simplify the definition.
Your brand is what first comes to mind….good, bad, or other, when someone thinks of your company.
Many companies don’t know what first comes to mind when customers and non-customers think of their company.
- They have some idea, or think they have an idea, but it is not totally accurate or even quite inaccurate
- Their perceived brand image tends to be anecdotal or group think in its origin and not validated
- Often the perceived brand image is more of what companies hope it is, or what it was, rather than what it really is
A Superior Brand
- Is built on understanding customers wants and needs and how they are changing
- Connects with customers on their shopping experiences and satisfaction priorities
- Shapes how they select where they choose to shop
Our research continually reveals companies are lacking in market insights and customer knowledge. Often, disconnects exist between what a company internally thinks is important to their target customers (and are reflected in their brand strategies) and what these target customers really want and need….as well as what they think of the company and competition.
Image Benchmarking for Brand Enhancement
Brand enhancement should begin with benchmarking your brand image. The benchmarking process involves undertaking two activities. Both require obtaining market information and customer feedback.
Activity 1 – Establish customer priorities:
- Selection drivers: what key factors influence supplier and store selection?
- Customer satisfaction priorities: what are customers’ true wants, needs and expectations?
Activity 2 – Assess your current brand image:
- Brand strengths: What are your core competencies?
- Brand weaknesses: What are your customer avoidance issues?
- Competitive position: How do you compare to major competition?
Establishing Customer Priorities
Your customers are continuing to evolve in how they select where they shop and buy. Many of today’s brand strategies are formulated on outdated market and competitive position assumptions. Some have not been updated nor enhanced for years. Today, customers are armed with technology and information resulting in more demanding satisfaction priorities. It is critical to be aware of these priorities, how they are changing, and the implications to your brand strategy.
This first activity establishes customer priorities. Knowing which brand attributes are most important allows you to focus your brand building on those attributes that resonate most–those that most effectively drive traffic and customer loyalty.
Establishing customer priorities will also reveal the brand characteristics that are less important and not important at all. Often, companies are wasting valuable resources focusing on these “less” and “not” important attributes and gaining no equity with customers.
Using stated vs. derived importance analyses, customer priorities are classified in four groups in how they contribute to overall image. These include:
- High Impact
- Value Added
- Minimum Requirements
Central to enhancing your individual brand is finding out in your market what characteristics fall into which group. Our research shows they vary considerably across markets.
The following exhibit shows priorities in a sample market. The data is “contractor” based but the same analysis is used with consumers. With consumers, the priorities characteristic would be different.
The most successful brands enjoy positive brand associations with High Impact and Value Added characteristics while also meeting minimum expectations.
Characteristics that have perceived brand performance to the left of the Market Match Line are ones in which customers see the brand not performing as well as its importance to them. For any characteristic to the right of the Market Match Line, customers see the brand as over performing on that attribute in comparison to how important it is to them.
The “performance gaps” profile your brand image. They identify positive brand associations that can be leveraged and brand image weaknesses that require corrective/enhancement attention.
Building and enhancing your brand entails refocusing on those things you have identified as being most important in your market…and not focusing on things that aren’t important.
This realignment with customers’ needs will ensure your brand is “market driven” and positions your company for higher performance.