How much is your brand worth? Donald Trump values his personal brand at more than $3billion. While being knee-deep in international intrigue and political controversy aren’t problems most business leaders have to deal with, the fragility of brand equity is something that all entrepreneurs need to be aware of.
Shweta Jhajharia of The London Coaching Group defines a business’s brand equity as comprising all the associations, emotions, and experiences that come to mind when a consumer is exposed to the brand: basically, what kind of bond is there between you and your customers? The stronger that bond is, the higher your brand equity.
And what does strong brand equity get you? Someone camping on the tarmac overnight, sipping coffee from a thermos, although dreaming of a bacardi and coke, while using a biro to write a reminder on a post-it note that the new hoover they’re queuing for is actually a Dyson.
But remember, brands becoming an integral part of the shoppers’ lexicon is an occasional side-effect of success, not the aim; James Dyson won’t care if you call his vacuum cleaners hoovers, but he’ll be quite pleased if every time you see a dustbag-free cleaner you think Dyson.
Your communications, your product performance, your customer service, even your brand name can strengthen or degrade your brand equity.
Jhajharia suggests four ways you can ensure your business is focused on the right sort of brand equity development.
Quality Products and Services
This is the backbone of your whole brand. It is vital that you’re able to deliver a quality product to your consumers if you want repeat purchases and good word of mouth.
Unfortunately, businesses in every industry make the mistake of releasing products for the sake of appearing to be innovative. Releasing a product that hasn’t been fully tested and doesn’t match the performance expectations of consumers (yes, I’m looking at you Windows Vista), can erode brand equity.
Insist that any product or service you bring to market delivers something new for your business’ portfolio; it shouldn’t be there just to pad out your catalogue.
A strong brand is a brand that can adapt to market shifts. To be such a brand, keep an eye on industry trends and your competitors’ activities; basically, don’t be Blockbuster.
An effective way for brands to build their brand equity is to target a niche: meet a specific need that no one else is currently satisfying. This radiates both innovative thinking and great understanding of your consumers, and being admired and respected is the hallmark of strong brand equity.
Consistent Brand Image
When you understand the market and your place within it, you need to communicate that to consumers in a consistent and engaging manner.
Your products and your pricing are hugely important, but so too are other aspects of your business. From your brand name and straplines to your social media activity, every part of your business that comes into contact with customers and potential customers must be refined to ensure it is highly targeted. For some, a comparison website helped them decide between Sky and Virgin Media, but others will have had their choices influenced by Idris Elba’s manly charisma or by David Tennant’s kooky charm.
Establish your brand image from the start, and model your business accordingly. If you operate in the premium sector of your industry, be classy. If your product or service is about putting a smile of people’s faces, be fun: everyone wants their car to be well-made, but there’s a reason Vorsprung Durch Technik helped sell Audis not Minis.
Be congruent, and be consistent. Consumers know what they like, and they like what they know. Be in control of what they know.
Listen to Customers
Brand equity resides in the minds of your customers. Listen to them.
Coca-Cola: Here’s New Coke.
Coca-Cola: Sorry about that. Anyone for Classic Coke?
Well done for listening and remedying that faux pas, but that could have been avoided by asking consumers of the world’s most popular soda if they actually wanted it to taste different.
Ensure that your consumers are given channels to give their feedback. This will help you understand strengths and weaknesses of your brand as well as the opportunities for growth (and changes to avoid).
Understanding brand equity, and how to develop it, is important, whatever stage your business is at. You must be able to create a positive image in your consumers’ minds if they are to become repeat customers, or become a part of your referral strategy. Achieve this, and your brand will strengthen and you’ll see real growth.
Oh, and try not to be impeached.