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What does it mean to be brand-centric?

Too often when reviewing clients' marketing plans, I notice incongruence between their brand strategy and their marketing plans. Not only that, I see so many businesses marketing their brands without a real understanding of just what their brand stands for and what it promises to consumers.
What does it mean to be brand-centric?
A simple shift to a brand-centric mindset will go a long way in assisting marketers to not only gain a clear understanding of their brand and how to increase its value, but also assist with meeting their business objectives.

What exactly does the “brand-centricTM” mindset entail?

“Brand-centricTM” is a term used to describe a shift in mental focus to understanding your brand and its values and applying these values to everything you do. Gullan&Gullan Advertising employs a propriety brand-centricTM methodology that forms the basis of every communication service that we offer our clients, including above, below and online communications. Our brand-centricTM approach is a philosophy and roll-out methodology that assists our clients in becoming clear about their brand's core values and expressing these values in a congruent, consistent manner at every touch point. These include internal employees, suppliers and service providers and importantly target audiences - whether business to business or consumer.

Here's a simple analogy. The brand-centricTM approach is much like developing a good sense of self. Once you know exactly who you are as a person you will be consistent and authentic in any situation. Brands function - and flourish - in the same way. Brand-centricTM marketing and communications is much like psychology 101 for your brand. And it's vital for your brand to survive, let alone thrive in a highly competitive and recessionary environment.

Here are some guidelines to taking a brand-centricTM approach to your marketing and communications:

1. Developing a clear business vision
These are the basics of any business. Do you have a clear vision for your business and your brands? Are you sure of what your business and brand objectives are? Are these objectives realistically achievable? Remember. Don't set unattainable goals as this will lead to disappointment. Once you have a clear vision and mission for your business - in writing - then ensure that your vision is understood by your partners and team. Engage them by demonstrating the important role they play in bringing the vision to life. This is vital to making your employees accountable for the overall direction of the business.

2. Congruent marketing plan
Once you are clear about your goals, have you developed your marketing plan? And does the plan assist in achieving the goals set out in your vision. With an inspiring vision that is clear and compelling and a congruent marketing plan for your brand, you will have a road map against which you can chart your progress. Evaluate your marketing plan against your vision - does your marketing plan support the delivery of your brand vision? What changes do you need to make to ensure that you are on-track in bringing your vision to life?

3. Brand introspection
The next step is getting to know your brand. Being brand-centricTM requires that you take a long, honest look at your brand. Understand its strengths and weaknesses. Brand-centricism is fundamentally based on knowing what your brand does well, and where it can be improved. It's about knowing exactly what your brand can and can't achieve to the benefit (or disappointment) of your target audiences. Be truthful about these attributes. If you avoid acknowledging your brand's weaknesses, you will not have the insight or ability to make improvements?

4. Honest competitor evaluation
Once you've taken a good long look at your brand - warts and all - you're ready to evaluate the competition. Again this takes honesty. Conveniently believing your brand is better than others and denying your competitor's superior offerings will lead to your brand's demise. Remember the moment you believe your brand to be better is the moment it stops being better. It also becomes vulnerable, as you can be sure that your competitors are working hard to improve their brands - and steal market share - all the time. If you take a brand-centricTM approach, you will honestly understand where your brand needs to improve and you will constantly be looking to make refinements based on the knowledge that your competitors are doing the same thing.

5. Now look outside
Your brand is not just a logo, payoff line, colour, font or your marketing plan and collateral. Yes, these are important ways to express your brand, but you also need to consider how your customers and potential customers think and feel about your brand. Take a good honest look to see if your marketing plan, your staff attitudes, your service levels and all touch points your brand makes with the outside world support your core brand values. Does your marketing plan help you build your brand in the hearts and minds of your target market?

6. Chart your success
Too often we can get consumed with day-to-day activities and before you know it another year has passed. This is why its important to determine key metrics to chart your business. We suggest you keep it to one page making it easy to recall and review each month. When defining the key measures, make sure that they support your brand strategy. Then review your goals every month using a simple traffic light system - green for what is on track and red where priority action is required. Evaluate your marketing plan against the above measures to ensure it supports your brand and business strategy. Then ask yourself. What one action could you take in the next month to significantly enhance your success?

7. Be sure every employee is focussed on your brand
Brand-centricTM organisations ensure their employees think and act in accordance with the essence of your brand. This requires you to be fully conscious of every thought and action and how these enhance or diminish your brand. How do you do this? Invest in training employees to completely understand your brand values. Training has to include how to think, speak and behave in manners that are congruent and that affirm your brand values. When everyone in your organisation can instantly articulate what your brand stands for, then you are on your way to being brand-centricTM.

The journey to becoming brand-centricTM goes in two directions. Firstly, it's internal - as you embark on understanding your business goals and your brand values and adjust your attitudes and actions accordingly. Secondly, it's an external journey of understanding your target market, competition and economic environment. The results will be worth the effort. After all, your brand is your most important business asset. The greater the value of your brand the greater the value of your business. Every communication relating to your brand is an opportunity to increase its value.

17 Mar 2009 11:45

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About the author

Desiree Gullan is the Creative Director of Gullan&Gullan Advertising (Pty) Ltd. Desirée has an Honours degree in the Psychology of Communications, AAA Diploma and was selected to attend an Advanced Advertising Programme in the USA. All this has resulted in two distinct passions. The first is a deep respect for the power of brands. The second is passion for quality communications. Gullan&Gullan makes use of their propriety brand-centricTM methodology that ensures all outputs communicate brand values with the end result of enhancing brand value. www.gullanandgullan.com




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