I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
You already know brand loyalty affects the bottom line, but did you know a stale brand can also influence it? Markets change. Priorities change. Fads come and go. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Periodically re-evaluating your brand's relevance and perception in the marketplace gives you the opportunity to recommit to its core values, thus ensuring the it's delivering on its promise. Effectively managing your brand is an ongoing process, but the following seven steps will simplify it tremendously.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>1. Verify whether you're living up to your brand promise.</b> A strong brand conveys what your customers will gain from it. It's more than simply what you offer in terms of products or services, but what sets you apart from the competition. In short, it's how you do business. Your brand should communicate your values as well as how you want prospects, customers, stakeholders, and the public to perceive you. Does your brand resonate with your target audience? Does your organization deliver—through every touchpoint with customers—on its brand promise?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>2. Ensure our brand image matches your message.</b> Everyone wants a cool logo. But does your brand image visually and accurately reflect the brand promise? Is your message in sync with how you deliver on that promise? Consistency must extend beyond your message, reaching across both your visual communications and your personal interactions. If the two don't add up, you create confusion in the market, subsequently diluting your brand. Conduct a quick assessment to see how well your brand image (and actions) match your message. Is there opportunity to improve?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>3. Review copy for accuracy and relevance.</b> Too often, organizations launch new initiatives to build their brand without cleaning up the old. Review your marketing collateral, Website, policies and procedures, and other communications. All should be consistent in style, tone, and message, and should accurately reflect your organization's current direction. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Make sure you eliminate expired offers, remove former affiliates or partners from your communications, and check for obsolete information. Outdated information reflects poorly on your brand and implies your organization is out-of-touch, disorganized, and/or lacking attention to detail. Do a quick sweep across all your communications (internal and external) to be sure you've eliminated any dated information.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>4. Re-align your front- and back-end operations.</b> Communicating your brand message through the most professional tools will be ineffective if your sales force and operations teams don't mirror the message. The disconnect could turn away your target audience. Organizations with strong brands understand training and brand alignment among front- and back-end operations are critical components of success. Develop policies and procedures supporting your brand and message. Implement training sessions for employees to ensure they truly understand the brand and their roles in promoting and delivering on it. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Similarly, make sure you communicate regularly and clearly with employees and clients. If there are operational changes in your organization's future, be proactive and communicate them early. Explain how they will affect employees and/or clients long before the rumor mill has an opportunity to gain momentum.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>5. Revisit your brand's media channels.</b> Are your current mediums still working? Past success with a certain channel doesn't necessarily mean that it is still effective today. Likewise, just because Twitter is one of the new media crazes doesn't mean it's necessarily appropriate for your business. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Focus on knowing your target audience, their preferences, how they communicate, and the channels they frequent for information. Today's digital media may offer new opportunities to reach your target audience…or it may not. Remember, marketing fundamentals still apply: Know thy customer, then select the best channels to reach them. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>6. Check out the competition.</b> Examining your competitors' brands can be a good barometer in determining how you stack up. What messages are they communicating? How are consumers responding to those messages? What do customers see as your competitors' advantages? Competitors can also provide insight into trends or opportunities you may have overlooked. Are they tapping into a segment of the market you never considered?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>7.</b> Elicit feedback from prospects and clients. You may think you know how clients and prospects perceive your organization, but the only way to get an accurate assessment is by asking. Third-party market research can offer insights into how customers perceive your brand compared to the competition, what they see as your brand's strengths, and where you can improve. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> You can also learn more about what motivates them to buy, and specifically why they buy your brand. Don't assume just because a customer has had certain preferences in the past they still feel the same way today. Consumers can be a fickle bunch. Check in regularly to get a pulse on current perceptions of your brand. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> As noted at the beginning of this article, effectively managing your brand requires ongoing assessment and realignment. Those who adapt thrive, and the seven steps detailed above will create a well-defined brand resonating with clients, prospects, the public, and key stakeholders.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Laura Pasternak is president of the brand management firm <a href="http://www.yourmarketpoint.com" target="blank">MarketPoint</a>.</i>