When it comes to business success, it’s fairly simple: put the brand first, then build the business around the brand.
This is what BMW do and how they describe it:
“A Strategic Brand is what drives the company, rather than anything else.”
There are many excellent cars in the world but BMW is distinctive, not only because of its models but because it has got a brand.
The truly challenging part is how? How do we enduringly place the brand first?
If you want to build a strategic brand, you need to consider the full picture. As such, we have identified 14 Strategic Brand Imperatives that each brand needs to develop in order to be successful. If just one of them is weaker and your brand couldn’t be centre of the enterprise.
Embrace the strategic brand system
None of these aspects are fundamentally new, though some are more intriguing than others. Of importance is the combination of the 14 imperatives into a strategic brand system, how they interact, oppose and complement each other in each specific brand case.
Below is an example of how the 14 imperatives apply to a brand – in this case the Apple brand.
© THE Enduring Strategic Brand
Each of these brand imperatives plays a part in the way in which you approach and execute your strategic brand. For example:
Clarity of Purpose
This regards the ability of people within the organisation to respond to the question ‘why am I here’?
Without this view, it is pretty clear that you do not have a Strategic Brand.
IBMers breathe ‘Using technology to make the world work better’; The Olympic movement is inspired to ‘Build a better world through sport’; Walmart rallies behind ‘We save people money, so they can live better’; Tata is ‘Committed to improving the quality of life of the community we serve’; Unilever leads ‘To make sustainable living commonplace’; Johnson & Johnson is ‘Caring for the world, one person at a time’.
Functional & Emotional
If you are entirely functional, you are likely delivering a great product. However, the next company will deliver something great as well, because they will invent it or even copy you.
What changes the game is if you input something more important to your customer – the emotional connection: “I understand who you are; I am proposing you a life-system; I am contributing to a better life.”
For example, Nike excels with its pervasive emotional theme of ‘success in sport’. They aim to ‘bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’ and hardly ever actually mention their products. Rather, they invite consumers into an inspiring world with no borders, not confined to sports, clothing or equipment.
There are two steps to embracing connectedness. Firstly: are we able to reach out to the people in a way that is meaningful to them? Are we really connected enough to deeply understand what they want, so we can design who we are, what we do and what we provide accordingly?
Secondly, how do we do this, acknowledging the myriad of daily solicitations everybody is facing and the increasingly individualized world in which we live – including the fast growing personalized marketing that invades our screens? The Airbnb brand is exemplary on both accounts as it “aspires to be the world’s first community-driven super brand, disrupting the traditional ways in which people come together.”
Think about where your organisation sits with each brand imperative. Explore the interactions between the 14 imperatives, because you may be excellent in one and under performing in another, just because there is polarity between them in the particular case of your brand and some of your audiences – and the brand system will surface these tensions.
To start and help your journey, go online and self-assess your brand for a free report – http://thestrategicbrand.net/brand-system/assess-your-brand/.
About the author:
Luc Bardin is the author of The Enduring Strategic Brand– How brand-led organisations over-perform sustainably. He advises blue chip companies, governments and academic institutions on their brand, marketing and partnership strategies. Prior to this, he was group vice president for 12 years in BP and notably group chief sales and marketing officer, CEO of multiple global branded businesses and a member of the BP Downstream ExCo. Luc is an adjunct professor at Imperial College Business School. His previous book Strategic Partnering – remove chance and deliver consistent success was published in 2013.