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Branding your way to success

As a project manager in a branding company, I often encounter senior position holders in companies and corporations, who boldly announce that they do not need branding. “Everyone already knows our company”, “we have plenty of regular clients as it is” and “we prefer to invest in other channels” are only a few of the answers I have heard from those who underestimate, or are simply unaware of, the importance, complexity and far reaching implications of the branding process.

But before I delve into all that, allow me to tell you a short but expensive story about business: last October, Walt Disney acquired George Lucas’ production company, Lucasfilm – the company behind the legendary Star Wars saga (among other works) – for the staggering amount of over 4 billion dollars. The truth is one can understand Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, who, after witnessing several Disney films struggle in the box office, was looking for something to hold on to; a solid rock, guaranteed to bring in the profits. In other words, he needed a blockbuster factory that would always draw a crowd, regardless of the actual quality of its products. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a new Star Wars film?

The Disney-Lucas transaction has more than a few business lessons to teach, but one of the most obvious insights it offers is that a strong brand is worth a whole lot of money, and has the ability to generate astronomical profits for the company or corporation that owns it, both in the short and long term. In addition, it shows just how fundamental and vital branding is when it comes to the success of companies and corporations – all companies and corporations. Whether you own a film and television production company, a pharmaceuticals corporation or an innovative startup, you need to think about your branding, and the sooner, the better.

In fact, good branding bears more significance now than ever before. There are a number of reasons for this, the first one being the Internet. Today’s market has migrated almost entirely to the Internet, a situation which creates a row of new business challenges. One of these challenges is information overload. The average client, be he a private individual or a business in search of a supplier, is bombarded by a horde of online service providers. If you search the Web for film production companies, for example, you will get over one million results (!). This is exactly where branding enters the picture. Time and again, clients have been shown to prefer solid, well-known brands over obscure ones. Moreover, well-branded companies and services successfully differentiate themselves from the herd, and are therefore able to maintain a distinct identity in the endless, homogenous sea of Google search results. A strong brand will make your business stand out from the crowd and inscribe itself in the memories of potential clients, allowing you to save money by limiting online and traditional advertizing (in professional magazines or mass media) expenses to the bare minimum.

If managed correctly, a good brand can become a dynamic asset that continuously increases its own value. Just like a piggy bank that slowly gets heavier as it fills up with your weekly allowance, a good brand will fill up with new ideas, marketing activities and products, all of which will come under the brand umbrella. The value of a new product launched by a company that holds a well-established brand is much higher than that of a new product launched by a company with no such advantage. The same principle is true for any marketing activity or advertizing campaign. In time, a differentiated brand based on a well-formulated strategy and a unique conceptual vocabulary will establish itself as a launching platform for a myriad of marketing activities. An infrastructure like that can save a company a lot of money and effort. With a solid foundation already in place, all that is left to do is fit the new activity or product onto the existing branding model and make a few minor adjustments before the launch.

Strong brands can also be used to foster powerful emotional ties with the consumer. The ways of achieving this are many and varied: from social responsibility to added value, a solid brand can be the key that opens the door to the hearts of its target audience. A good example of this is the case of US automobile manufacturer, Ford, which portrays itself as a company that not only makes cars, but cares about its friends, family and community, as well. As part of its effort to achieve this image, Ford equipped its vehicles with SYNC (http://www.ford.com/technology/sync/), a technology that transforms driving into a social, connected experience.

Whichever strategy you choose to employ in order to open the emotional channel between your brand and the consumer, once the connection is established, you will see a marked increase in customer loyalty. This, in turn, will save you the considerable expenses of expanding and maintaining your client base in the future.

A brand is a vast, complex entity composed of many different, interconnected elements. It speaks in a language of (both visual and textual) messages, ideas and worldviews which, when put together, form an image that is bigger than the sum of its parts. Companies and corporations in the 21st century must view the creation of a successful brand as their top priority, closely followed by the correct management of that brand. Only then will they be able to stand out from the crowd, give value to their products and services, and connect with their clients on every possible level. Together and separately, all these will help you achieve long-term profits and short-term savings.