Six steps to building a brand

Iain McInnes, managing director of McInnes Communications, outlines six steps to building a brand for the long-term.

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing a brand is “the set of physical attributes of a product or service, together with the beliefs and expectations surrounding it – a unique combination which the name or logo of the product or service should evoke in the mind of the audience”.

In a nutshell, it’s how we perceive a company, product or service whether you are an employee, customer, supplier or a business associate. A brand is ultimately what sets you apart from your peers and it needs to be managed with the upmost care.

If you are looking to build your brand then you’ll need some sort of marketing plan, not necessarily dozens of pages long but a summary on paper is often enough to work with depending upon the size and scale of your business.

You’ll then need to research your business environment, identify your target market and effectively communicate with it. Like any plan you’ll need to review it along the way and make the necessary changes. But think about how you want your company to be perceived in the long-term as it will help shape short term goals.

Before you can think about building your brand you need to look around you. By that I mean you need to consider your employees who deliver your brand values, and your customers that buy into them. You can also evaluate what exactly does your brand represent now and how you can enhance it. Also, what of market conditions, trends and your competitors?

You should know your target market well, but are there any other segments you can identify or even target? Are you able to differentiate your offering against those of your competitors through on and offline marketing channels?

You may want to target competitors or even a certain segment of the overall market. Yet you may also want to consider benchmarking your closest competitors in terms of their product specification, service, levels of customer support etc.

From a business growth, and profitability perspective, you need to position your brand and attach values that encompass it. To do so, along with all of these six steps, will also require expert marketing input from a professional who has proven experience in building a brand.

Some marketing activities can be carried out in house, but specialist expertise from an external resource will really help build your brand for the long-term. It’s not a cost but a fundamental business investment.

Once you have a plan in place then it needs to be implemented, subject to resources, time and financial practicalities. Not all companies have the marketing resources of the likes of Apple, John Lewis, Mercedes etc, but the challenge is to outpunch your weight and deliver the best ROI.

A strong brand cannot be built on short-term marketing tools such as sales promotion and offers, but requires a campaign that includes PR, which is most influential when the content is well researched with detailed and accurate content, and delivered with a compelling writing style. Build your brand carefully and the world will see you as an expert and influential voice in your market.

When a plan is put into place then it needs to be reviewed and refined as market conditions change, your business evolves and as you reap the rewards of your brand building campaign. It’s a constant challenge and very much part of the planning cycle where you can learn from historic campaigns and use that information to help shape the future direction of your brand.

These are not definitive steps to building your brand, but are just some of the things to consider when looking to build the reputation of your business, product or service. Do it well and you’ll reap the rewards, do it half measured and you’re likely to be outshone by others. But do consider who is going to champion and drive your brand for commercial success in the long-term.