It was not so long ago that corporate promotion was seen as something unnecessary and frivolous—a waste of money. But, as established markets mature, new markets grow and competition within industries grows fiercer by the day, corporations around the world are increasingly becoming aware of the enhanced value that corporate branding strategies can provide.
In today’s global business environment, achieving a unique position and securing competitive advantage is not easy—which is why the corporate brand must be cultivated, communicated and strategically managed. While it’s also important to establish a brand identity for products and services, few global businesses can rise to the top purely on the virtues of the products and services they offer. Today, there are other requirements for increased sales, profits, and status with consumers—and, with the strongest brands always upping the ante, there are new expectations.
What makes a corporate brand stand out?
If you ask fervent brand loyalists why they love a product so much, they may talk about flavor, features and specs, but what they really love is the brand. Take Apple, for instance. In any given cycle, competing products on the market prove to be comparable or even superior in function, but not all of them have been widely adopted. Why? It’s the power of the corporate brand and everything it exudes and represents.
A strong brand is about building and maintaining positive perceptions in the minds of customers. This takes time to establish and resources to maintain, but an effective corporate branding strategy can help a company implement a long-term vision, create unique positions in the market place, unlock leadership potential within the organization, and make the most of both tangible and non-tangible assets. The bottom line is: Products come and go; trends change, but a corporate brand, if properly built and managed well, will last a long, long time.
Building a strong corporate brand
Trying to adapt to different cultures, languages and the demands of different consumer segments feels, at times, like an impossible task, especially when competition is already high. That’s why it’s preferable to strengthen your corporate brand and let the people who resonate with what you stand for come to you, which will allow you to expand your product footprint. An established, well-known brand doesn’t have to work as hard to sell to a new market. If a corporate brand is strong, the desire for that company’s products and services will have already been seeded.
As the global market consolidates, trademark and patent issues become more crucial, and it becomes easier to market internationally, the influence of the corporate brand will grow. Certainly, marketing a master brand worldwide is ultimately more cost effective than putting constant effort (and immense resources) into supporting myriad brands.
The only way to get people to make that all-important emotional attachment to your company is to give it a personality, values and qualities that people can’t help but admire. This personality will attract talent to your organization, build a dynamic culture, and influence the look and feel of products, packaging and store environments. It will guide and eventually permeate everything your company says or does. Defining your corporate brand in a compelling way—and living the essence of that brand—will touch people and build strong connections which lead to loyalty, word-of-mouth, and increased profits.
Innovative companies with strong brands like Google and Amazon have their sights set on the long-term, not the next quarter. Establishing a corporate brand requires a commitment to product consistency, a clear set of values and a long-term plan for marketing. Focusing on the future, while managing day-to-day operations, encourages an emphasis on quality and sustainability and drives the entire company toward a shared vision. Deep, thorough thinking about where you want your corporate brand to be 5, 10 or 20 years in the future will influence how the brand is managed. In order to make the best moves in the present to help your brand grow, evolve and succeed over time, you have to be strategic.
Consistent imagery and color schemes allow customers, partners and employees to immediately recognize products or a company’s presence as a sponsor at every touchpoint. An ever-present, well-coordinated visual identity maintains consistency between product lines, version changes and different markets. In a crowded marketplace, if consumers can recognize your brand’s unique look and characteristics and easily distinguish your company’s products from competing products, it’s a huge competitive advantage. Further, messaging that consistently conveys your company’s vision, values and personality is equally important and helps to build the emotional bond between consumers and the brand. When well-aligned and kept consistent over time, effective messaging and a strong visual identity leaves a lasting, positive impression on consumers, strengthens and enhances a company’s culture and builds a strong corporate brand.
Corporate branding allows marketing efforts to easily target the most appropriate segments for product offers. Distinguishing a company by lifestyle, geography and socio-economic factors, branding helps consumers select products that are most appropriate for their needs and fulfill their wants and desires. Corporate branding also supports pricing strategies for specific target markets. A value brand, for instance, may present a friendly, accessible image that appeals to everyday people who are more concerned with price and function than aspiration. A luxury brand, on the other hand, can justify a higher price point by presenting a refined, high-class image and aligning its products with a glamorous and desirable lifestyle. Know whom you’re targeting and shape your image and messaging accordingly.
A recognizable, conventionally conceived logo and the classic array of marketing tools utilized in past decades are no longer enough to secure a competitive edge in today’s global marketplace. A compelling brand that projects an inspiring or relatable personality, interacts with consumers, maintains consistency and relevance over time and is strategically managed will rise above competitors—as the brands on our Best Global Brands report clearly demonstrate.
Jeremy Sampson is Executive Chairman of Interbrand Sampson Group.