Brand strategy always guarantees success

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It seems like every company is touting its branding strategy these days, but many of these ideas never make it outside the marketing department. The 2002 Best Practices Study conducted by Prophet, a branding and business consulting firm, found that the concept of brand strategy often receives little more than lip service in many firms. Only a small majority (53%) of the 90 global corporations surveyed had a long-term brand strategy in place. And only 40% of respondents were very satisfied with their company’s strategy. Of those surveyed, 62% cited lack of senior management support as the most pressing threat to a brand’s long-term success. (Marketing Management, 2002) Analysts point out that brands need the full backing of senior management to be an organisation wide driver of business decisions. Merely having a brand strategy is no guarantee of anything; rather the firm must create, support and, most importantly, commit to, a feasible, long term brand strategy.

Equally important is the integration of brand strategy in the overall business strategy of an organisation. Redefining the role of the traditional marketing function means expanding beyond marketing communications activities, and looking at all of the different ways that an organisation’s brand interacts with and makes an impression on customers, employees, and other stakeholders. A brand 'touchpoint' (Dunn and Davis, 2003) is represented by every action, tactic, or strategy taken to reach a customer or stakeholder. Achieving brand-driven success requires a decided mind shift across the organisation, and to truly transform the company, all employees must understand the brand’s promises and their role in bringing the brand to life within their functional areas. Additionally, the organisation needs to be structured to support, sustain, and develop a brand-based culture. The first step toward this transformation involves educating the employees about the brand and inspiring them to behave in a way that’s consistent with its promise. As such, only when employees understand the brand’s rationale and its emotional components and have the tools and processes to facilitate day-to-day decision making, they will start to develop a lasting connection to the brand, and generate success for the firm.

Gombeski Jr. et al (2002) take the example of branding and positioning strategies for physicians and healthcare organisations in the U.S. As healthcare becomes more market- and consumer-driven, many physicians and physician groups have become affiliated with healthcare systems, and as a result, there is a growing interest in creating a brand around physician groups integrated into healthcare systems. Consumers still indicate they are influenced most by choice of physician when selecting a healthcare facility, so branding physician groups can be an effective way to substantively differentiate one system from another. Physicians can be branded in a variety of ways, with some hospitals and systems only permitting their owned practices to carry the organisations brand name. For some, only the core group of doctors uses the brand name, whilst others allow any physician associated with the system to use the brand name.

This is a prime example of how branding encompasses several factors including competencies, standards, aspiration and style. A strong brand is built on a promise you can legitimately deliver on, is distinctive to cut through the clutter and delivers a message that is relevant to key target audiences, and as a result very few organisations have just one brand. Most organisations have a family of brands that must work together for the good of the whole organisation. How these brands coordinate efforts is called the brand architecture, an organizing process that specifies the roles of and relationships among the family of brands. Managing a brand family is a key factor in the success of an organisation, and as such, it can be even more vital to success than the strength of any one brand.

Many other authors have added to the branding concept, developing and refining the idea. For example, Wheatley (2004) focuses on the concept of the globalization of brands, and the misconception of the idea that consumers and customers are the same all over the world. Given the large amount of speculation concerning the factors contributing to the global success of a particular brand, it is clear that one brand strategy will not ensure success for a global firm. Equally, co-marketing of brands is often used as a strategy to encourage brand name product marketers to think creatively and use co-marketing opportunities. (Mitchell, 2003) Mitchell explains how the mechanics of co-marketing help ensure the success of other marketing and branding activities that a firm undertakes. Finally, Haig (2002) explores the brand-building potential of e-mail marketing for companies, and the success rate of e-mail newsletters among industries. Haig also cites ways in which companies can benefit from the e-mail medium, and methods for avoiding e-mail overload. Whilst there are still major challenges involved in asking consumer permission to use e-mail messages for marketing purposes, the rewards are potentially great for any firm.

However, for all the discussion that revolves around the importance of the brand as a driver of business value and success, surprisingly few businesses have instituted a systematic programme of analytics that allows them to gauge their brands’ performance, adjust brand strategies and, more importantly, link them to business performance measures. (Munoz, 2004) As such, I would conclude that a brand strategy does not always guarantee success, but a well though out brand strategy that is continuously assessed and adjusted, and has the backing of all company employees, from senior management to the shop floor, will substantially increase the likelihood of a company succeeding in its chosen market.