12 April 2017

Four steps to build a strong brand

By Dr. Weng Marc Lim

One of the biggest mistakes that brand owners—individuals, organizations, and governments—make when it comes to branding is to take a superficial approach to develop their brands. Most often, branding is simply an activity that brand owners undertake to find an attractive and aesthetically pleasing name, design, symbol, or other feature that provides them visibility. Although branding does include these important elements, a lot more needs to be considered to build a strong, sustainable brand.

The iceberg metaphor can serve as a powerful way to understand the intangible peculiarities of strong brands with significant equity, which lies beyond tangible, visual identities. Specifically, every brand has a story that feeds into the identity and position that brand owners intend to develop. A strong and defendable brand is often one with an authentic story that resonates with its target market. Any brand that tries too hard or seems to be a stretch can stand out—in a bad way.

To connect authentically with the target market, brand owners should first acquire in-depth insights into their target market, specifically what is important to them, what they value, and what they are looking for, all of which can be acquired through brand research. Subsequently, brand owners can leverage on these insights to develop and deliver brands which satisfy existing customers and create new needs, wants, and demands in their target market.

Next, brand owners should build a personality-driven story inspired by the presence of people who participate in, create, connect with, and develop the saga of growth and success relevant to the target market to authentically and emotionally connect and resonate with them. Stories that are shaped around local communities and environments are especially excellent to accentuate authenticity. Similarly, the content to build these stories can be acquired through brand research.

Following that, brand owners should communicate the brand story using a three-part model that begins with a problem, followed by a solution, and ends with the start and continuance of success outcomes—that is, brand stories should be used to shape the reasons for brand existence and to create trust in the brand promise.

Finally, brand owners should develop a consistent marketing mix that supports the brand story to attract, inform, and persuade the target market to form desired relationships with the brand, such as active and intense attitudinal brand attachment, brand loyalty, brand engagement, and sense of brand community.

In short, brand building is highly complex and rigorous. There is no shortcut to building a strong, sustainable brand overnight. Leading brands like Coke, Nike, and more have invested billions of dollars, decades of time, and more to attain and maintain market leadership.

If done right, brand owners can expect to develop and reap the competitive advantages and rewards of high brand equity, such as superior brand awareness, image, and loyalty, among others. So, do not leave your branding up to personal taste but get strategic about it!

Dr. Weng Marc Lim is an Associate Director, a Program Leader, and a Senior Lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus teaching branding, innovation, and design at the university’s Faculty of Business and Design. His research focuses on branding, consumer behavior, and marketing. He is contactable at wlim@swinburne.edu.my.