By Mark Helfen
“A brand is a promise. An emotional conclusion to a logical process.”
So says Kevin Heney, speaking at last Monday’s (March 8,2010) SDForum MarktingSIG meeting.
Heney runs Kevin Heney Design (www.heneybrand.com), a consulting firm that helps businesses with their branding. He is also the founder of the Silicon Valley Brand Forum (svbrandforum.com), a professional association where branding professionals can discuss the challenges of branding. (Check the forums website for their next meeting, coming up on May 4.)
Marketers frequently discuss the idea of a brand, but people using the same words sometimes mean different things. Heney’s definition is more precise, developed after a long focus helping companies with their brand identity.
“Brands are an emotional relationship to a company,” said Heney. “Companies produce products, but customers buy brands.”
Positioning is another term frequently discussed in marketing circles. The two are distinguished by logic versus emotion. Positioning is a logical result, branding an emotional one.
Brands can carry a large part of the value of a business. By Heney’s calculation, the value of the Coca-Cola brand (sometimes referred to as brand equity) accounts for 91 percent of the market valuation of the Coca Cola Company.
In fact, a brand can exist without a company behind it. Pan Am is a widely recognized brand and logo, even though the airline of that name has not been in operation since 1991.
The critical information for businesses is that they must manage their brand.
‘You can’t decide to not have a brand,” said Heney. Your audience, or customers, creates the perception of your brand. You need to assess their perception, and adjust both your brand and your company’s behavior to support the brand you want to have. In both your marketing materials, and in the on-line/web 2.0 world, be aware of your brand image, what other people are saying, and manage your brand.
Heney presented a number of ways to assess the value and perception of your brand, in the process of developing a formal brand strategy.
But the list was pretty long for a new company just getting its brand act together. So if you are a start-up, how do you start creating and managing your brand?
The key is consistency. Brand building starts within your company, and is both “top down, and bottom up.” Meaning that everyone in your company needs to give the same answer when asked what you do, and what your best at. Everyone needs to use the same logos, wording, and images to identify your brand. You should establish a central repository of branding materials that everyone draws on when presenting your company to the world.
You can see Heney’s complete presentation on the SDForum web site, here.
Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:
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