Brand building and brand management is only for big businesses with millions to invest – this has been the view among leaders of small to-medium sized enterprises for a long time. However, in the last few years, these businesses have been beginning to rethink their opinion in response to ever challenging market conditions. An increase in domestic and international competition, consumer purchasing restraint and waning consumer trust are just a few factors making the lives and survival of smaller businesses difficult. In such an environment it is now even more important to sharpen the brand profile:
If one succeeds in elevating the brand’s transparency, that is to say communicating the brand’s uniqueness and added value consistently both internally and externally, then an important building block for sustainable business success is laid.
A brand creates distinction
Having a strong brand gives small and mid-sized businesses the best opportunity to distinguish themselves in the marketplace, both from same-size and global competitors – because in a brand, a company can unite all its ideals, product and business-specific values. If this succeeds, it allows the brand to precisely express the claims, goals, and strengths of the company, thus giving it a distinctive identity. It confirms to existing customers that they have made the right choice, and convinces new customers about the brand’s advantages. Furthermore, a harmonious and likeable brand image plays an important role in attracting qualified staff and building their loyalty.
For a brand to have the effects described above, it must be unique and authentic, and this has to be reflected across all communication channels of the business: from PR work to advertisements, from web presence and information brochures to personal customer contact, e.g. through administrative services or sales processes. This is how the brand achieves a clear, recognizable image that sticks in the minds of the target group. A good brand creates more value than it costs.
What does a good brand cost?
Many small and mid-sized companies are of the opinion that their budget would not stretch to professional brand management. This is mostly a mistaken belief, as successful branding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Of course, smaller companies generally have smaller marketing budgets at their disposal than the big global players. However, they do tend to have a clear idea of their own strengths, which they can then use in their brand communication, such as, for example, a stronger local presence, personal service and a high level of competence in their specific industry sector. Building on such elements allows companies to establish a brand profile with smaller budgets, which can then be turned into real brand value – because a good brand always creates more value for the company than it costs in terms of communication. And this is due to the fact that it communicates consistent and concentrated messages, which spread with incomparable efficiency.
Strategic brand building
How does a small or medium-sized business manage to find its very own brand? To achieve optimal results within the available means, it is best to work together with a professional communications agency that can point to comprehensive experience in the field of brand management. As a first step, the marketing department of the company needs to develop a unique brand profile in close cooperation with the communications professionals. In this, it is important proceed in a strategic way and to concentrate on the essentials: this focusing will result in a sharp, assertive company profile and simultaneously save resources. The following three-step analysis, conception and implementation process has proven itself to be very successful.
Step 1: Analysis
The process always begins with thorough research and analysis, an examination of the market, the competition and, of course, the business itself, including its own performance, strengths and weaknesses, values, philosophy, goals and target groups.
Step 2: Conception
Step two is the conceptual development of a positioning and builds on the foundation laid in step one. A distinctive profile forms the basis of all communications. At this point it is about translating the particular performance of the company into meaningful messages, and developing a creative platform and an expressive tonality.
Step 3: Implementation
The third step moves on to implementation, during which the formulated messages will be communicated in an effective way. If it does not already exist, brand language and imagery that will shape all communication material is now defined to give the business an unmistakable face. This is what makes a good brand quickly recognizable: at a trade fair stand as well as online, in adverts, brochures, mailings, press articles, and even in business correspondence.
The communications agency strategists oversee the whole brand building process and ensure consistent implementation across all communication activities. It is also important that the management of the business is open and supportive of the process. In small and mid-sized companies, marketing decisions – contrary to big companies – are usually made directly by the management who also mostly engages with the press. Dedicated time must be factored in for all of this in case it isn’t already. If not, the processes can easily flounder and lead to a missed opportunity for the business to profit from the myriad advantages and added value of having a strong brand. This chance is too little used, especially among small to-mid-sized companies – and yet it is one of the most efficient and simplest ways to distinguish themselves from the competition.
By Guest, Kai Dannenberg, rheinfaktor, member of The EVOKE Network