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Four Ways to Strategically Build Your Firm’s Brand

     -     Aug 26th, 2014   -     Branding, Creative Design   -     0 Comments

In today’s world, it’s challenging to build a firm brand that breaks through the barrier of messages and imagery saturating the marketplace. On average, the number of traditional and digital ads professionals are exposed to in one day is in the thousands. That’s an astounding number and certainly can leave a marketing director wondering, “how can my firm’s brand get noticed amongst my competitors, let alone all the other non-firm marketing they’re exposed to?” This is a question that many struggle with but there is actually an answer.

First, think of brand strategy like creating mythology — stories readers care about and remember — stories with personality. Clients are no different than readers in that they don’t buy services; they buy personalities and meanings associated with the story of those services. What does this mean for a firm? It means that a firm’s brand strategy or personality, if you will, should not only differentiate it’s proposition from competitors, but more importantly, this differentiation must also be highly valued.

A great brand strategy has to tap into the emotions and feelings of a target segment in ways that transcend the functional and rational benefits associated with a firm and its services. Depending on the nature and culture of a particular firm’s organization, and the reason the brand exists in the first place, below are four different methods for creating brand strategy as you navigate your firm through the brand building process:

  1. Branding by thinking
    In this method, brand strategy is approached in a rigorous, centralized and formal business planning process. Typically this approach is used by large companies with diverse product and service portfolios that are defined as a “house of brands”. Each brand within the portfolio has its own management team, customer segment, product life cycle, supply chain, performance metrics, market share, and profit contribution mandated by centralized planning and a wealth of data. Good examples of companies that strategize branding by thinking are: Proctor & Gamble, Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Gillette and GM.
  2. Branding by imagery
    This method is usually driven by creative agencies that specialize in brand development. Marketers and their agencies closely link the brand to imagery that is driven by the latest trends and fads within their own culture. It is expressed through art directors, photographers and TV commercial directors. Brand strategy is approached in a more functional manner that is driven by the cultural associations consumers have that are surrounding the brand image. Brilliant examples of image conscious brands are: Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, BMW, Absolut, Tag Heuer.
  3. Branding by user experience
    In this method, the target consumer segment perceives product/service quality, functional benefits and overall brand image as a given. These consumers seek an experience that dazzles their senses, touches hearts and stimulates their minds. In this method the end recipient is the most important component of the brand. Brand managers focus on service design and usability, which are at the very core of these experiences, which in turn drives their brand strategy. Brands built on user experience include: Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Disney, IKEA, Costco, Tiffany.
  4. Branding by self expression
    In this method, marketers treat the role of brand building as a collaboration with their clients and consumers. Marketers innovate new meanings rather than products and services. Consumers actively participate in creating the meanings associated with the brand which are a direct reflection or symbolic representation of their own personal identity or inner self. In this case, the strategy is centered on “brand as a badge”. Brand examples that are built on self-expression include: Swatch, Apple, VW Beetle, Mini, Louis Vuitton and Herman Miller.

While it may seem some strategies may lend themselves better to consumer products vs. a firm’s service such as an audit, the important take away message is that a firm’s services should still be associated with a story that has personality. The story is the foundation to painting the rest of the picture of your brand.

A great exercise is to take an inventory of your firm’s marketing efforts and see how it stacks up to the story you’re telling and ask yourself if the two match up? If they don’t match, which is not aligned – the story or the marketing?

At the end of the day, regardless of the strategic method used to drive your firm’s brand, the question remains, “what does your firm stand for that matters to clients and makes a difference to them?”.  Firms that lead the market know the answer and build strategy accordingly.

Remember that developing a successful firm brand is not a one-size fits all activity. It is both art and science, and the method of creating the strategy is not the same for every firm.

If you are struggling with strategy and brand building for your firm, talk to us. We can help.


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