Typically many small or medium sized businesses do not have a marketing department. That in itself is not necessarily a material gap in the strength of organization, or its structure. Often the Owner or President takes responsibility for creating and developing the corporate entity as a brand. Alternatively in a manufacturing environment for example, the products made by the company may be given “brand names”, and the CEO or senior managers may have some tactical responsibility for ensuring that the brands do not suffer harm. The Company or Product brand image is then formed by the collective actions and behaviors of the business, including its employees.
Generally the development of the company as a brand is often accidental and takes place over many years. Many privately owned organizations have annual plans, and a few have long range plans. But most plans often are of a financial nature, and omit any strategic consideration of what differentiates the brand, and how to develop and nurture the features of the brand. This has financial consequences in the long term, as we know that brands can realize billions in value. Apple, Google, Nike and Tim Horton’s all started as entrepreneur’s vision, but through careful stewardship are now worth billions. Why would any CEO or Owner not wish to do the same?
There are three critical points here:
Firstly it is imperative to develop a brand positioning white paper, and clearly describe its features, benefits, and unique value compared to competition. At Plutus we have previously advised that it is also necessary to be relevant and salient to your target market needs. Having a clear understanding of the brand then is very important to all businesses, large and small.
Secondly, the Brand image and reputation should be developed deliberately (for example through a communication strategy encompassing classic media advertising, social media, PR, promotion and so on). This should not be taken lightly, and it is worth seeking professional help in getting this right, and particularly to ensure that there is the right balance between funding and cost effective results.
Thirdly, the brand image may be influenced by accident or errors of omission, for example consider the damage to the Toyota brand by vehicle brake recalls, or by negligent or damaging employee actions. A customer whose complaint is ignored by an individual in customer service is potentially a lost customer, and that may disaffect that customer’s entire circle of influence to the detriment of the brand. Not wishing to make too fine a point of this, the brand’s reputation and value is continually influenced by everything that is done every day by all departments, individuals, and stakeholders, from senior executives to customer service, research and development, finance, manufacturing and includes third party agents, brokers and representatives.
And this is why everyone is a brand manager. It’s probably the most important mind set in the company.