A weak brand is a strong brand's foundation
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A weak brand is not the end of the world. Consider a lack of recognition as the starting point on your journey. It’s the yardstick by which you’ll measure your growth. Our six-step plan will help you turn a weak brand into a strong one.
Step One: weak brands are common
The first step is not to panic. A weak brand is not only common, it’s almost inevitable. Just take a look at the UK economy alone. At the end of March 2019 there were 4,202,044 registered companies in the UK. If you could name 0.01% of the ‘brands’ those companies own, you’d be doing better than me.
Assess your brand with the perspective it deserves. Think about what really constitutes a strong brand. You might initially think that strong brands are the household names that everybody can remember. Names like Apple and HP.
That’s a poor definition.
We only consider a household name to be a strong brand because every household can purchase their products. You only need brand strength in the markets that can purchase your product or areas (such as local communities) affected by your business. If you serve a niche market, why worry about being a household name?
Step Two: how weak is your brand?
Step Two is to decide if your brand really is weak. When people describe their brand as “weak”, they normally mean it’s unknown. This means you need a brand awareness survey to quantify the problem. This will tell you if you’re known by companies in your target market sectors and by key purchasers and influencers in those companies.
A good survey serves two purposes. It establishes whether you really have a problem and it directs you towards the areas where you need to make improvements.
If you need a third advantage, it also gives you data to present to the Board or your Managing Director. Their opinions are usually anecdotal and arbitrary; they’re embarrassed because nobody at last weekend’s dinner party recognised the name of their company. It’s not a problem the marketing director of an enterprise has to face. Enterprises are both better known and run by more rational managers.
Step Three: address the core weakness
Step Three is to improve the things that have the strongest effect on your brand. No, that’s not your logo, your corporate colours or the size of your advertising budget. It’s your business and the products/services it offers. No amount of advertising, marketing or promotion will generate a positive brand image if the company behind that brand fails to satisfy its customers. Not in the SME sector anyway, where budgets are too small to smother bad news.
This is probably the hardest part of brand marketing because people don’t think it has anything to do with marketing, let alone brand. In one sense, they’re right. It’s just good business. But that’s a definition that can apply to most marketing.
The goal in this step has to be to deliver exceptional products/services and exceptional customer care. “Good” isn’t good enough. People don’t talk about “good”. People don’t remember it. They don’t recommend it. The way Net Promoter Score judges satisfaction is right on the money: in its scores from 1 to 10, only 9 and 10 are considered to be Promoters. Everything else is blah (at best).
Step Three is a huge step for a lot of organisations. It can cover every aspect of everything the business does. Yes, the marketing department will be involved in making sure that visual branding is consistent on everything from advertising to product labelling to warranty documentation. The rest of the company has to make sure the products/services and customer care are as good as the marketing makes them appear.
This is a very contentious policy to propose. An Operations Director doesn’t like being told by some arty-farty marketing type that poor manufacturing is responsible for the company’s weak brand. Brand is purely the responsibility of the marketing department to people outside marketing.
Step Four: new brand attributes
Once your business has completed the Herculean Step Three, you might think you’re ready to promote the brand. There are two other steps you may need to take before you start any promotional activity.
Firstly, you may need to do a brand attributes survey. Before you promote your brand you need to understand what it stands for. Once you’ve improved your business’ products/services and customer care, do customers now see you as ‘good value’? Or is ‘expert’ the most common thing they say about you? Maybe it’s ‘fast to respond’? You need to understand what your new brand attributes are before you start trying to promote them.
This is an optional step because you might already know what your attributes are thanks to the work you did in improving your products/services and customer care. Part of that process will have included speaking to customers, identifying your weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
Step Five: brand goals
Step Five is also optional. You need to be clear about what your brand promotion goals are. The most obvious goal is related to sales. You want your customers and potential customers to know who you are and you want them to have a positive impression of your business.
But brand isn’t always about sales. A strong brand helps a business in other ways such as recruitment. Having a strong local brand will help a business get the staff it needs. Be clear about what you want to achieve.
Step Six: brand promotion
The final step is promotion of your brand. It would be an unusual SME that had the budget to do pure brand advertising – the type of advertising we see on TV from banks and healthcare conglomerates that promote their general goodness or community roots.
Most SMEs will promote brand as a part of product advertising: solicitors who help their clients understand legal proceedings, technology suppliers who provide quick and effective support or tradesmen who deliver exceptional workmanship.
Fixing a weak brand
If you want help putting the six steps into action, well, that’s what FBA is here for. Give us a call.
We’re surprisingly friendly.