THE BLOG
01/28/2017 06:06 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2018

Branding: The Secret Sauce for Driving Demand and Controlling Price

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In my last post, I talked about Corporate Image and how it forms the foundation of your brand. In this one, I add Positioning, which drives demand for each of your products and gives you control over the price you can charge. Because it gives you control over Price, it also gives you greater control over Distribution. Together, Positioning and Corporate Image form your branding platform.

Brief History

The concept of branding goes back to ancient times when people in positions of power, ownership and commerce labeled their possessions, products and documents to identify them and let others know that they owned or created them.

To show ownership and origination, a symbol, or logo, was created. This was fashioned into a design on a stamp, seal, branding iron, or ring that was used to make an impression on cattle, goods, and documents to signify ownership, membership, or origination.

Fast-forward to the present day, organizations use Positioning and Corporate Image to fashion powerful brands that increase demand for your company and products and give you more control over Price - the building block that governs revenue and profits.

Works in the brain

Good marketers are non-invasive brain surgeons. They know that the human brain is busy and wired to forget and protect us from harm. Creating a more effective brand can help buyers...
  • Find their way through the busy clutter and noise;
  • Remember your products;
  • Give them good, uniquely beneficial (not harmful) reasons to buy yours over others.

First step in the branding process

After doing a SWOT analysis that matches your company's strengths with opportunities in the marketplace, you define the market for your company and each of your products. If you are operating at the company level, you are employing Corporate Image strategies. At the product level, you are using Positioning.

Identifying your company's Target Audience

Next, you identify the market segment with needs your organization can fill better than your competitors. I call this segment your target audience, or lock - using a lock and key metaphor.

Creating a corporate level key

Once you identify and understand the companywide lock, you can fashion a company-level key that fits your lock better than your competitors. The key at the corporate level is the image you create for your company. A good first-step in creating this key, is to develop a mission statement for your organization that does the following:
  • Identifies the most promising target audience your strengths enable you to pursue.
  • Makes it clear to that audience what your company does as concisely as possible (so others can remember and repeat.)
  • Communicates clearly what is unique about your company and why your target audience should do business with you and only you (if possible).

Creating corporate identity tools

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The tools typically used to implement corporate identity strategies include: name, logo, slogan, colors, type fonts, mascots or spokespeople, and jingles. You then employ these tools on your letterhead, business cards, websites and all other communications vehicles. Once you have the Corporate Image platform, you are ready to create a Positioning platform for each of your products.

Identifying the product locks

Similar to the building of your Corporate Image platform, you start by identifying the target market segments with unfilled needs (locks) that each of your products can satisfy better than competitors.

Include or exclude Corporate Image in the key component of Positioning

A critical decision marketers need to make is whether or not to combine the image of the company with the image of each product.

Case for inclusion. If the company has a good reputation for the type of product being introduced, it should probably include a company reference in the product brand since that will help to sell the product. Some examples include Diet Coke, Microsoft Office and Apple iPhone.

Case for exclusion, or separation. You should separate the image of each product under the following conditions:

  1. One image might hurt the sales of the other. The product is risky, the company image is fragile, or either one has a bad image (Example: Disney uses its corporate brand only on content that is deems wholesome for kids. It uses other corporate brands, such as Touchstone, Hollywood, or Miramax, on content that has sexual, violent, or other potentially objectionable material).
  2. Very strong identification with one type of product. IBM is known as the computer company, and in the 1970s it made an excellent copy machine that many thought was better than competitors, but it did not sell because people associate IBM with computers and not copiers. Xerox developed a good computer in the 1980s, but it did not sell because Xerox is known as a copier company. Both might have been successful, if they launched these products under a separate brand identity. Clorox is closely identified with bleach. The company owns Hidden Valley salad dressings. Would anyone buy the salad dressing if it contained the Clorox name?
  3. Lock and key mismatch. Target audiences change as their needs change over time. If the company wants to get into new product areas that are in conflict with established market segments, they need to create new brand identities for these products. For example, in the 1970's, Japanese automakers - Toyota, Honda and Nissan - had images of being small, ugly, affordable and fuel efficient. That worked well for college students of that era, but as those students aged and became more affluent, many wanted luxury cars. The Japanese automakers knew they had to create new product images (keys) so they created Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti for these evolved segments (locks).

Creating product keys

Once you decide to include or exclude Corporate Image, you can create the key component to properly Position each of your products. The greater uniqueness you build into each key, the stronger and more effective your Positioning is likely to be. Why? Uniqueness minimizes competition and gives buyers important reasons to buy your products over other alternatives. This gives you greater control over the price you can charge - enabling your company to set the price at the level you need to achieve a healthy profit and market plan goals.

Avoiding cannibalization

By establishing unique keys for each of your products, you also avoid product image overlaps, which marketers call cannibalization. Cannibalization causes confusion. Either (1) confused buyers don't buy your products, or (2) they buy the wrong product and are unhappy with the result. In either case, you lose business and drive your customers into the arms of competitors that confuse them less.

Alka Seltzer confused its audience by introducing a new cold medicine they called Alka Seltzer Plus. Alka Seltzer was known as a stomach medicine, but most thought Alka Seltzer Plus was just a better-working version of the original. This caused sales of Alka Seltzer to drop at the same time the new product, Alka Seltzer Plus, was unable to achieve its sales potential because it was for colds - not upset stomachs.

Creating positioning tools

The tools typically used to implement Positioning strategies include: names, logos, slogans, mascots, jingles, colors, and type fonts. Slogan examples formerly used by Coca-Cola include: It's the real thing, which reminded cola drinkers that Coca-Cola Classic is the original; and Just for the taste of it was created to counteract the notion that the artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke compromises the taste of the beverage (a problem that its predecessor Tab had). When introduced, these slogans were used on all product labels and in all other communications. Coca cola red is also a trademarked color that has been ubiquitous since the 1890s.

Promoting the brand

Once keys are created for the locks, it is time to execute the Positioning strategies in all marketing communications. The company should employ someone (inside or outside the company) that understands the branding process well enough to direct those who will be implementing communications strategies.

Measuring and analyzing results and taking corrective action

Once implemented, marketers should employ a Marketing Information System to analyze results, determine what's working and what's not, and take corrective action.

By properly executing the above steps of your Positioning and Corporate Image strategies, marketers can build better brands and improve their success in the marketplace. I hope you find that these ideas work for you.