Why are some brands more successful than others? Product quality and consumer acceptance are fundamental. But why, in a competitive global marketplace does one brand succeed where an otherwise comparable brand falters?
Marketing professionals often speak about brand alignment. The phrase can mean many things. Externally, it refers to customer expectations and experience with your brand. Internally, it signifies your own and your employees’ perceptions about, and actions around, your brand. Together these internal and external factors contribute to your overall brand authenticity. We think of brand alignment in terms of the “Four C’s” – clarity, consistency, commitment, and cohesion.
Brand clarity is essential to brand authenticity. Authentic brands understand themselves and act accordingly. The promise offered by the brand is delivered in the clarity of vision and the attendant actions that deliver upon that promise. So, for example, despite a well-orchestrated social media boycott over its Colin Kaepernick ad, NIKE® sales and stock value increased. Your brand should clearly identify you and your products or services. This doesn’t mean that it is descriptive. On the contrary, clarity comes from the uniqueness of your brand that distinguishes you from your competitors. When choosing a new logo or product name, consult with trademark counsel to conduct a thorough review of the market, competitors, other similar marks, or similar looking images. Search all potential markets. An early spend on a thorough brand analysis will save considerable expense in rebranding, avoid costly claims of infringement, and help ensure consumer confidence.
Consistency (Brand Guidelines).
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” When it comes to your brand, however, a lack of consistency is the forerunner of failure. The more different ways in which you present your brand doesn’t help saturate the market, it drowns it in confusion. Keep your brand image (logo, typeface, tag-lines, colors, etc.) consistent. This doesn’t mean that every communication is identical. There is room for variation and creativity. But it is variation on a consistent theme, not discordant notes. A well-crafted, single-document, specific and easily understood brand guideline, available to employees, advertising professionals, authorized resellers, and other partners is fundamental to maintaining brand consistency. The Guideline should specify acceptable use of registered and unregistered trademarks. It should explain when and how to use the (R) registered symbol, and when to use TM or SM indicators.
It should also specify who may use your mark, how to report unauthorized uses, and serve as its own marketing tool for your brand’s authenticity. It also can serve as valuable proof of your efforts to maintain your brand as required by trademark case law.
Commitment means that everyone in your organization and supply and delivery channels is aligned with the purpose, promise, and delivery of your brand. Foremost are your employees. If they don’t understand the brand, the important role they play in its delivery, or how it ties with your company’s vision, they cannot be the ambassadors of goodwill they need to be. One way to demonstrate that commitment is in your physical office space which should embody your brand commitment not only for visitors but for your employees every day.
Design and marketing professionals should be brought together to ensure a workplace that demonstrates a commitment to the brand. Working with human resource and legal professionals, establish a brand culture that aligns with your company’s purpose through employment policies, practices, and procedures that value the employee contribution and encourage individual commitment to brand excellence.
Every communication about your brand should be part of a larger narrative conversation with your customer. This conversation fosters the connection between the customer and your company. The more consumers can verbalize the principal characteristics of a brand’s promise, the more likely they will remain loyal to the brand. Brand cohesion requires critical analysis of platform delivery mechanisms, content and behaviors. Misunderstanding media channels can result in a loss of brand cohesion or worse. Compare the long-term success of Coca-Cola’s “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” with Pepsi’s misguided Kendall Jenner ad and you’ll begin to understand the importance of brand cohesion.
Maintenance of the brand through periodic metrics analysis, intellectual property protection and defense, updated guidelines, in-house training, and employment practices is key to maintaining the necessary connections.
KJK’s Brand Protection Practice Group can provide sophisticated assistance in brand choice, maintenance, and protection for your brand’s four C’s thorough brand search, guideline development and implementation, personnel policies, and defensive and offensive litigation strategies.
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