What is Strategic Brand Management?
The other day I over-heard a conversation generally referred as cooler moment. John was in conversation with Terry around lunch time. John said he was hungry but had to take a quick meal as he was expecting to run a business call. Terry gave alternative of burger as quick and easy meal, to which John said “McDonalds”. Above conversation could be part of anyone’s life and but very important to understand Strategic Brand Management. Here in the conversation need or want is for a “quick meal”, available generic product “Burger” and brand choice “McDonalds”. What made “McDonalds” pop up in John’s mind as a choice for quick meal burger? Answer to this question lies within framework of strategic brand management. We will explore each word “Strategic”, “Brand” and “Management” and come up to conclusion where in John’s answer is understood.
Brand does not carry a definite and absolute definition but it is relative. Some observers would term products or services characteristics, which differentiate it from competitors as brand, where as some would consider standing of one’s product or services in market as brand. In all these, value of product or service for what it stands and attributes which identifies them can be considered as brand.
How Strategic Brand Management is important?
Branding or Brand is considered important not only for companies but they carry equal importance for customers or consumers also. From consumer or customer point of view, brand becomes important for various reason let us explore some of them. Brand for a customer will indicate commitment towards quality from sellers there by reducing time spent in coming to a purchase decision. Brand for companies will indicate a sort of benchmark in quality as well as customer expectation, a point of differentiation from competitors and a steady stream of profit.
Normally we associate branding from point of view common mass; and products or service displayed in malls and supermarket. However there exists another market where branding is equally important and that is business to business market. This is referred as corporate branding, which is again a challenge as decision making process for purchase order is way different compare to individual. Here survival of organization as well as individual will be at stake. The key lies in developing a brand for corporation where in which other business can be confident of.
Modern globalized, technology driven world has thrown new challenges to branding. Customers/consumers have more access to information than ever before. Internet has become a strong tool through which product information proliferate raising expectation bar for companies. Companies have responded to this challenge by improvising in the way they run their marketing campaigns, by exploring new avenues to showcase their products. Like for example; sponsorship of events and teams or association with social cause.
In a given market innumerable products and services are offered by different companies. The identity developed for this product and services over a period of time, through marketing strategies, sturdy performance etc is referred to as brand. A stage is reached where brand become synonymous with product e.g. – coffee-Starbucks, donut-Dunkin Donuts, online retail-Ebay etc. This process is called strategic brand management.
Designing Marketing Programs to Build Brand Equity
At core of building brand equity is marketing programs or strategies. Marketing activities can facilitate in increasing brand awareness as well as in creating the right brand image. Marketing activities can be weaved around product, pricing and distribution channel. But the way these marketing activities are carried out has gone under revolutionary change owing to the modern technological driven world.
Traditional marketing activities revolve around product, pricing and channel distribution. However, efforts are always on to make sure marketing activities truly reflect brand image and develop strong brand equity. One the marketing concept developed is called experiential marketing. This unique concept is associated with brands and experience consumer has with it. For example American Express, has been sponsor of US open for years, they have created marketing plan especially for their card holders. The card holders are part of daily draws, where winner are eligible to court side seats among many other freebies. Another marketing technique popular among markets is a form of direct marketing. Brands like Amway and Avon have followed this technique for some time now. In this form of marketing focus is on individual consumer and not a large group, their habits are recorded and on that basis other products are suggested. Flora 2000 is online florist who deliver flowers all around the globe, time to time they send reminders of important events like mother’s day or valentine day with special deals to consumer, knowing consumer had previously made purchase around that period. Online retailer Amazon uses another marketing technique where they suggest a product to consumer after getting nod from them. Amazon takes permission from consumer before sending recommendation. This permission marketing enables companies to build unique brand image leading to strong brand equity.
Product remains first frontier for consumer to create opinion for brand. Marketing strategy around product is to highlight not only core benefits but also process or easy by which purchase is done there by creating a long term relationship with consumer where periodical information exchange can occur.
Pricing is crucial for brand image. To establish price, product cost should not be the only consideration. But consumer perception for potential product value and sensitivity to price is also of equal importance. Competitor’s price also cannot be ignored because price war will not benefit anyone in the market. An effort has to be made to educate the consumer about cost of serving them, for them to understand price of product.
Products are sold either through direct marketing channels or indirect marketing channels. These channels also play an important role in building brand equity. Again channel choice is dependent on product. Industrial product preferred way would be direct channel. But there are various factors like product category, customization, price, complexity which play a role in deciding marketing channel.
Marketers have to develop marketing programs keeping in mind above discuss points to build a strong consumer based brand equity.
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