Business 2 Business Marketing

Branding – Discovery, Development, Management

Branding is among our favourite projects! Please mouse over the elements in the info-graphic on this page for insight into the critical elements of a branding program – and how you’ll benefit!

Brands can play an important role in generating and sustaining a business’s financial performance. With typically large numbers of competitors and excess capacity in many industries, strong brands help companies differentiate themselves and communicate why their products and services are uniquely able to satisfy customers’ needs. Brands help illuminate meaningful differences between offers that otherwise appear indistinguishable. Competitive advantage can include being able to satisfy not just your customers’ functional requirements, but also their intangible needs. A well-conceived and constructed brand, communicated through well-chosen channels, can remind customers of the way your business satisfies their range of needs. The right physical brand can crystallize everything about you into one image, word/phrase, or idea.

Branding is the process of transforming essentially functional assets into relationship assets by providing the basis for a psychological connection from the asset, via its symbolic representation in the brand, to the customer. Endowing a product, service or company with emotional significance beyond its functional value creates value for the brand holder.

That is our goal whenever we are called upon to assist a customer with their branding needs.

A brand encompasses all the associations, perceptions and experiences a customer has with a company at every touch point – from its business development organization to its billing department.A brand has physical aspects – the company’s logo and the other outward displays. These form the historical definition of brand (and are where the word is drawn from – branding livestock). The physical brand plus the intangibles described above form a collection or synthesis of perceptions in the minds of people, including customers.

Brand discovery is the process of learning and revealing all of those elements. At Merlin Edge, we are masters at this. We have guided multiple mid- to large-sized companies through brand discovery. The process includes:

  • Facilitation meetings with senior management;
  • Detailed research into your competitors’ marketing materials, market positioning, brand values and physical brands;
  • Research with your employees; and
  • Research with your customers.

We conduct the entire process, including coming up with all the questions. We then provide a written report and in-person presentation. These are far more than just a collection of findings. They are critical documents providing the road-map for transforming your brand values into concrete deliverables, from your logo to your website and onward.

They are both strategic and eminently practical. They are packed with readable, user-friendly material, including a SWOT analysis of your company’s brand and market position, and a SWOT analysis of your key competitors’ brand and market position. The report and presentation encompass everything from the most visionary high-level concepts to a granular items such as a list of dominant colours used by your competitors – which is very handy when planning your own corporate colours or the look of your new website.

A good portion of this phase involves developing your corporate identity, described on the linked page. That covers most of your physical brand elements.Equally important, the brand values that we discover will permeate the messaging and wording, and influence the design choices, of all your subsequent marketing materials.

We’re not going to give away exactly how we do this here on this website. If you are seriously interested in what we offer, we can show you how the items we have discovered in past branding studies have been transferred directly to the look and messaging of that company’s marketing materials.

Brand management is the critical follow-on to having strong brand elements and values. It is a continuing strategic process. The very best brands have such power that customers come to you.Your synthesized brand can be a core asset. To continue creating value for the company, it needs to be treated as an asset – receiving investment, management and maintenance. For a brand, this process demands the intellectual engagement and ongoing support of the company’s senior management. Without this, brand creation and management is fundamentally unserious. It often consists of a low-level staffer assigned to order letterhead, hastily book a poorly thought-out trade magazine ad or arrange a trade show banner.

Every touch point your customers and the general public have with your company influences their perception of your brand. You mustn’t leave anything to chance. Properly managed brands are valuable strategic assets that will help get your name on the short-list, get your people in the door and make your business look like the obvious choice from among your peers.

Merlin Edge will evaluate all of your touch points with stakeholders and develop a practical plan to manage your brand, company-wide. This will include a written style and usage guide governing how your brand elements are to be used in all applications. In companies where multiple people or offices are pursuing marketing, advertising and/or sales work, the style/usage guide can include specific messaging and critical words and ideas, as well as words and ideas that are not to be used.

The key to effective brand management is consistency in look and messaging, while taking account of the subtle variations in the needs and desires of different market segments, demographics or geographical areas. Over time, consistency and clarity will create a clear sense of your brand in the minds of stakeholders, along with the trust and respect that accompany it.

Of course, Merlin does much more than manage brands. We develop them from scratch, beginning with detailed research, as the accompanying pages describe.