- Brand management is the process of managing your brand so that it resonates with your audience.
- The benefits of effective brand management include increased brand awareness, pricing premiums, increased sales, greater customer affinity, and brand advocacy by customers.
- Traditionally, marketers have thought of SEO as a vehicle to improve the visibility and Google rank of a brand-owned website to generate online traffic.
- However, SEO does more than just drive traffic to your site. SEO also helps you to improve brand perception, enhance the brand experience, improve the brand’s reputation, and increase brand equity.
WHAT IS BRAND MANAGEMENT
Your brand image isn’t what you tell people it is. It’s what your audience perceives it to be. And brand management is the process of managing your company’s brand so that it resonates deeply with your audience. If you want to learn from the masters of brand strategy, there’s no better company to study than Apple.
When you think of Apple, perhaps you think of style and sleek design. Or simplicity. There’s the Apple logo. Maybe you imagine the exceptional unboxing experience or the rewarding feeling of using an Apple product. Or, possibly even their iconic advertising campaigns.
Regardless, the Apple brand is universally known, and widely thought of as magical. Now that’s exceptional brand management.
Even in the Google SERPs, Apple’s page one results include the Apple website, an Apple ad, complete coverage of the Knowledge Panel, Apple’s popular YouTube channel as well as three individual videos from the channel, “People Also Ask” questions and answers, CNET’s Apple news page and a recent story from Forbes about Apple. All positive.
It’s no wonder that Apple is now the most valuable brand on the planet, according to Forbes.“Brand management” and “Google” are typically thought of as separate entities without overlap. Yet, Google processes billions of searches each day. That translates to a staggering number of brand touchpoints that originate from organic search. As such, brand managers should actively monitor the impact of the search engine on brand perception.
WHY BRAND MANAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS
An effective branding strategy goes beyond identity. Brand managers must also strategically cultivate good relationships with their audience and maintain an emotional connection. It is something that all parts of the enterprise should be mindful of no matter if they are conducting sales, marketing, operations, manufacturing, finance, or HR.
Brand management is one of the most important aspects of your digital marketing strategy because it creates a strong brand. The benefits of effective brand management include:
- Increased brand awareness
- Brand differentiation
- Pricing premiums
- Increased sales
- Customer affinity and customer love
- Customer loyalty
- Brand advocacy by customers
- Greater organizational scalability
PRINCIPLES OF BRAND MANAGEMENT
In order to maximize the benefits of strategic brand management, you must adhere to a number of principles.
What your brand is and stands for should be very clear to your target audience. Think about these iconic companies:
- Apple develops products that you crave
- McDonald’s is all about consistency
- Amazon is about convenience
- Toyota is about reliability
- Disney is all about magic and happiness
Beyond being clear with your brand, you want a brand that’s distinctive. Nike is a good example. You see the swish or the Air Jordan logos, and you immediately know it’s Nike. Then, you start to sense the excitement the brand is known for in all of its marketing.
Burger King and McDonald’s both sell burgers. But, Burger King distinguishes itself based on flame-grilled cooking and youthful, irreverent marketing instead of appearing as a copycat brand.
Put a stake in the ground, and be distinctive.
Regardless of your brand, its positioning, differentiation, and values, your brand should be consistent. Look at all the top brands, including those mentioned above or other leaders such as Microsoft, IBM, Gucci, L’Oreal, H&M, Starbucks, and Accenture.
They are all very different from one another. You’d never confuse a Starbucks for an Accenture.
However, one thing they all have in common is consistency. When branding, consistency wins.
Providing a framework for innovation
One aspect of brand management not commonly discussed is the role of the brand in creating a framework for innovation. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he made sure that the brand they built was not a computer manufacturer per se. Instead, they challenged the status quo. This is why the “Think Different” campaign was so believable. And effective!
In other words, as long as Apple was challenging the status quo, they could create music listening devices and ecosystems, or they could take on the entire legacy cell phone industry.
If your brand stands for something, it enables your organization to innovate within that sphere.
Brands evolve over time. It’s not the products that make the brand. It’s the heart and purpose of the organization that makes the brand. This is why Wipro went from selling vegetable oil to becoming an $8 billion technology consulting company. This is why Amazon has evolved from a an online book seller to a multifaceted behemoth in ecommerce, smart speakers, and cloud computing.
In other words, brand management can be used to drive growth. Sometimes, very serious growth at that.
BRAND IDENTITY IN BRAND MANAGEMENT
A core aspect of brand management is upholding the defined brand. This includes the following types of brand elements:
What’s your mission? What are you ultimately trying to achieve? What is your North Star?
What can every customer, regardless of product or service, expect when they purchase from you or hire your organization? What’s the key promise that they should expect?
What’s your brand positioning? Do you have a geographic focus, or are you open for business globally? Are you a premium brand, or the cheapest, or the best value?
Have you clearly defined the audience segments you serve? One apparel brand may target female pre-teens, the other teens, another young working women, and another seniors. They all might sell blouses, dresses, and shoes, but the specific segment they target can be very different from one another.
Positioning makes your life as a brand easier, as it enables you to align with a specific audience more directly and effectively.
Along the lines of positioning, you want a differentiated brand, one that clearly stands apart from the competition and all the noise in the target market.
Going back to the Apple example, it’s clear that Apple’s customer experience differentiation has been invaluable to the brand in its initial battle against the PC, and later against the walkman, and after that against the cell phone.
Oscar Health Insurance has made health insurance friendly, simple, and easy to understand. They created a do-it-all website that allows customers to browse offerings, buy an insurance plan, search doctors, facilities, and drugs, and customize your insurance plan all while on the site. This testimonial on the website kind of says it all: “The difference with Oscar is just how easy everything is. Health insurance can be so confusing and stressful and Oscar just takes all that away.”
Clear differentiation makes it far easier for your audience to buy from you. With the typical consumer getting hit with more than 5,000 marketing messages daily, they are constantly battling information overload. With all the noise in the market, it can be extremely difficult for them to understand why your brand is better than any others. Make it easy for them and establish very clear differentiation.
An effective way to differentiate your brand is through a distinctive brand personality. One brand’s voice may be Emma Watson, while another is Rodney Dangerfield. One may be Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix. Yet another may be Mother Teresa in real life.
The personality of the Nike brand, for example, is a cool individual with an active lifestyle, who is inspirational through their grit and determination. You can virtually see this personality shine through in all of their marketing, whether online or on TV or in the store.
Compare this with a different shoe brand, Clarks, which is steeped in quality, tradition, and craftsmanship, having been making shoes for close to 200 years.
Two successful shoe brands. Each with a unique tone and brand message.
Although your positioning and differentiation may change over time, your core brand values typically never change. They are the enduring foundation of your brand and everything the brand stands for. Your values are the filter by which everyone in the organization makes decisions. They are the bedrock of your brand, upon which everything else is built.
For example, Virgin’s brand values are:
- Providing heartfelt service (“If it matters to you, then it really matters to us. Warm, inclusive and down to earth, we care about our customers and each other.”)
- Being delightfully surprising (“We look for unexpected ways to delight. We love connecting with people, and believe that thoughtful little touches add up to a big difference.”)
- Delivering red hot relevance (“We’re spirited, brave and progressive, standing out in a world of same-same.”)
- Being straight up (“Honest, decent and straight-talking, we stick up for what’s right – and hold our hands up if we get it wrong.”)
- Maintaining an insatiable curiosity (“Adventurous and inventive, we never stop questioning. Always asking “What if?” and “Why not?” to make sure we aren’t missing a trick.”)
- Creating smart disruption (“We’re not afraid to go our own way, to challenge the rules and swerve the norms to find new and exciting ways to punch above our weight.”)
BRAND ASSET MANAGEMENT
When dealing with brand management, there are a set of assets that play an important role in communicating the brand consistently across channels, vehicles and tactics.
Your brand name is obviously important in your branding. You’ll want something clear, but also timeless.
If you are growth oriented, then you’ll need a brand name that is flexible enough to accommodate your future growth and evolution as a business. As mentioned, when Amazon started, it was an online bookseller. Today, it’s a leader in ecommerce, smart speakers, and cloud storage. Had the brand name been Amazon Book Sellers or Amazon Bookstore, obviously future growth would have been artificially constrained and Amazon would not be anything like the global powerhouse that it is today.
Read more how to win the marketing battle of Amazon vs Google.
Your logo should match the brand name as well as be true to the brand identity. You want something that is uniquely yours, and in clear contrast to the competition. You want your brand to be immediately recognizable from the logo.
Strive to keep your logo simple. Don’t overcomplicate it, making it more difficult to use.
With that said, make sure the logo is versatile enough to work against different backgrounds, next to different elements, and in different environments (product packaging, web, in-person, in-store, signage, apparel, etc.).
Similar to a logo, your brand color palette is a distinctive visual cue. Define your main brand colors, but then also define several accent colors to provide you with greater flexibility.
Select your brand typography, and be clear as to the typefaces to be used in headers, subheaders, and body copy. Be sure the type not only represents your brand identity effectively, but also works well with the logo and brand colors.
Although the graphics you use in your marketing may vary, you’ll want to create guidelines for graphics that are “on brand” vs. those that would not be a fit. Some images may be an option for the brand overall, whereas others may be product-specific. Certain images may include people, whereas other objects. Some may include products, whereas others do not.
Provide examples so that your designers and other relevant team members (e.g., social media, live events, etc.) can easily make decisions as they build your image database.
Brand style guide
The brand style guide is where it all comes together in your visual brand management. This is where you’ll define your correct logo usage, typography, colors, and graphics all in one consolidated location. This is the guide to which all team players, and even third party partners, should adhere when creating any type of marketing asset, promotion, or campaign. Having a documented brand style guide is an important step in ensuring brand consistency throughout everything the organization does.
Following out of various elements from your brand style guide, you’ll create stationery as a foundational asset for basic communications. Your stationery set might include your business card, for example, as well as letterhead, envelopes, mailing labels, and other basics.
Any marketing department is going to have collateral such as brochures, folders, data sheets, case studies, white papers, reports, lookbooks, videos, and/or presentations. From a brand management perspective, it’s important to maintain consistency of the visual brand across all of these items.
To that end, create templates for each type of marketing collateral. Clarify to the team which elements in a piece must stay the same, whereas other elements that can be customized per piece.
Brand associations are not an “asset” per se within your brand management arsenal, yet, they are just as important. A brand association is what comes to mind when someone thinks of your brand.
For example, with GEICO insurance, the animated gecko is probably the first thing to pop into your head, along with all of its personality quirks. Or with Progressive, you think of Flo and more recently Jamie. With Liberty Mutual, it’s probably it’s LiMu Emu (and Doug). With The General, you think of Shaq.
These are all brand associations, inextricably linked in your mind with the brands they represent.
But brand associations do not need to be characters or celebrities.
Think of Patagonia, and what you probably think of first is the brand’s commitment to the environment. When you think of Nordstrom and its off-the-charts customer service, perhaps you remember the story of a customer returning a car tire (even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires), and the customer service person providing a refund to the customer.
An association to a brand can be pretty much anything. You can be flexible in identifying brand associations and then working at communicating these to your audience. A brand association can be extremely powerful in creating a memorable brand for your organization, and should be invested in with care.
USING GOOGLE FOR BETTER BRAND MANAGEMENT
Traditionally, marketers have thought of SEO as a vehicle to improve the visibility and Google rank of a brand-owned website to generate online traffic. However, SEO does more than just drive traffic to your site. So much more!
As part of your overarching brand management practices, SEO helps you to increase brand awareness, improve brand perception, enhance the brand experience, improve brand reputation, and increase brand equity.
SEO can help you to build your brand awareness. When you target top-of-the-funnel (ToFu) keywords in your keyword mix, you expand your reach exponentially. As a result, you get in front of those audience members not yet aware or thinking about your brand.
Furthermore, when you own page one of the Google SERP through your website, blog, and third-party sites (byline articles, interviews, features, etc.), you present your brand as a credible player in the industry.
The more that your audience is aware of your brand, the more that trust ensues, helping you to boost your click-throughs from the SERPs and to achieve a higher ROI on your SEO investment.
Forrester Consulting researched the SEO strategies of top companies. What they found related to brand perception and brand management may not be what you expected.
“The New SEO Paradigm Shift: How Integrated SEO Can Unlock New Areas Of Value For The Brand — Beyond Just Incremental Sales,” an April 2020 commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Terakeet, reveals that many enterprise executives don’t understand SEO and underutilize it for their brands.
Simply put, too many executives myopically see SEO as only a traffic driver. As such, they miss the other ways that SEO impacts the business more broadly. Specifically, SEO effectively influences brand perception and consequently brand equity.
The Forrester study found that:
- Nearly 70% of the business executives surveyed do acknowledge that SEO has a considerable impact on brand perception.
- Even so, many companies struggle to make SEO a proactive, holistic solution across departments for brand management.
- Companies that treat SEO as a brand marketing solution see the most success.
The study also revealed that many executives lack the know-how to capitalize on the brand-building power of SEO.
This means that the landscape is still green for companies who “get it” and are ready to overtake their competitors. Various studies have found that over 70% of the clicks in the Google SERPs are on organic listings. By proactively shaping what searchers see in the SERPs, your brand can gain a strategic advantage, producing a greater B2B lead generation, increased sales, and higher revenue.
Customer experience includes every touchpoint that a consumer has with a brand, and that includes all of their time searching in Google. Considering there are more than 7 billion searches a day, that’s a significant amount of time, and probably more than many executives realize.
We’re in the age of the customer experience, and it’s widely understood that companies that deliver a positive brand experience win in the market over those who are still internally focused. The financial repercussions of this dichotomy are massive. Customer experience leaders, for example, outperform customer experience laggards in stock returns by nearly 80%.
How can you most effectively impact the experience of searchers in Google?
Stop thinking that ranking in Google is only about a few keywords or a few web pages.
Instead, map the customer journey for each of your personas, and then define the various ways that they are searching for information and answers at each step in the journey. Identify the intent of each of these searches, and define the ideal experience the searcher would have.
Match the search intent and create and optimize content aligned to their journey. Help them at every stage of the journey, providing them with a superior experience not just in terms of matching intent, but also with the post-click experience. This may be on your website, but it may also be through microsites, landing pages, third-party websites, YouTube videos, webinars, SlideShare presentations, or online tools, etc. Be as holistic in your approach as possible.
Brand reputation is the public’s perception of a brand. How is the brand discussed in news articles, blog posts, and on social media? What do online reviews say? What appears on page one when someone Googles the brand? These factors have long-term implications for your company.
Customers are going to research your products and services, there’s no getting around it. Just about everyone uses Google to find information and answers. And what they find determines what they do next. A whopping 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to frequent a business with positive reviews. Conversely, 82% say they’re less likely to use a business with negative reviews.
Using SEO to manage your brand reputation, whether for the brand overall or key executives, is an effective way to take control of the online experience. Explore our reputation management services.
For example, Terakeet’s reputation management initiatives helped a national furniture retailer recover $32.7 million per month in lost revenue due to online reputation issues. In another case, our reputation management efforts removed 100% of negativity from the first five pages of Google results for a Fortune 500 CEO.
Managing your brand reputation through Google makes a difference.
Rounding out the ways that SEO impacts brand management is the concept of brand equity. What is it? Brand equity is the commercial value of a brand name of a particular product or service, above and beyond the product/service itself.
In other words, go to the store and you’ll find Advil on the shelf. You’ll also find ibuprofen, the generic ingredients of which Advil is made. The difference? Ibuprofen is a generic name for a product. Advil on the other hand spends millions on branding and marketing its version of the same product. It’s that delta in value perceived by consumers that makes up Advil’s brand equity and underlies Advil’s ability to charge more than the generic version of the drug.
Brand equity is the manifestation of brand building.
One way that SEO helps you to increase brand equity is by occupying real estate in the Google SERPs. Searchers tend to automatically perceive brands that are winning in organic search to be real players in the industry.
Furthermore, visitors that find your site through organic search tend to be of higher quality and a better fit with your brand. In the Forrester study commissioned by Terakeet, it was found that SEO brings high-value customers to your website. Various SEO decision makers surveyed by Forrester said that organic visitors showed more brand loyalty and spent more time on the site than those from paid search.
For a wide range of business benefits, you should proactively manage your brand. Use SEO as a key component in your brand management strategy, helping you to get in front of new audiences and to improve the perception and equity of your brand.