10-steps to Building Better Brands

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. For purposes of branding, a symbol or name, also known as a 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 people, cattle, goods, and documents to signify ownership, membership, or origination.

Step 1Define your marketplace. After doing a SWOT analysis that match up your strengths with opportunities, define the marketplace — the one that incorporates the most promising opportunities that your strengths allow you to pursue.

Step 2Identify company-wide locks. At the company level, identify the market segments that have needs your organization can fill better than your competitors.

Step 3Create corporate-level key. If you need to create a corporate image either because you are new or your existing image is not working, you first need to establish your mission statement. Your mission statement should do the following:

(1) Identify the most promising target market segments your strengths enable you to pursue.

(2) Make it clear to those segments what your company does in as few words as possible.

(3) Communicate clearly what is unique about your company and why they should do business with you.

Step 4 Create corporate identity tools. The tools typically used to implement corporate identity strategies include: Name, logo, slogan, colors, type fonts, mascots, and jingles. These tools are then used on letterhead, business cards, Web sites, and all other communications vehicles.

Step 5Identify the product locks. For each of your goods and services, identify the target market segments with unfilled needs that each product can fill.

Step 6AInclude your company image in your product image? 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 it is clear that product sales will benefit from the image of the company and the corporate image will benefit from the product, you should put the two images together. Some examples include: Diet Coke, Microsoft Word, and Sony Walkman.
  • 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 the corporate brand only on movies that are deemed wholesome for kids, and other corporate brands, such as Touchstone, Hollywoood, or Miramax, on movies that have sexual, violent, or other potentially objectionable content).
  2. Very strong identification with one type of product. The company is too-closely identified with one type of product (Example: IBM is known as a computer company, and in the 1970’s they 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 1980’s 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).
  3. Lock and Key Mismatch. If the company wants to get into new product areas that are in conflict with established market segments, they need to create a new brand identities for these products (Example: The Japanese automobiles, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, had images as being small, ugly, affordable and fuel efficient and that worked well for college students in the 1970’s, but as those students aged and became more affluent, many wanted luxury cars. The Japanese automakers knew they had to create new product images so they created Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti for these evolved segments).

Step 6BCreate product keys. Once the decision is made whether or not to use the company image in the image of the product, unique keys should be established for each product. Why do they need to be unique? Uniqueness minimizes competition and enables the company to charge whatever is necessary to satisfy the expectation created by the image and make money to stay in business.

Step 7Avoid cannibalization. In establishing unique keys, care must be taken to avoid having the image of one product overlap with the others in the product line. Overlap causes confusion, and takes business away from oneself rather than other competitors because confused buyers usually don’t buy. Alka Seltzer confused its audience by introducing a new cold medicine they called Alka Seltzer Plus. Alka Seltzer is a stomach medicine, but most thought Alka Seltzer Plus was just a better-working version of the original causing Alka Seltzer sales to drop and the new product to have disappointing sales.

Step 8Create positioning tools. The tools typically used to implement positioning strategies include: Name, Logo, and Corporate Slogan. Examples: Coca Cola ClassicIt’s the real thing. Diet CokeJust for the taste of it. When introduced, these slogans were used on all product labels and in all other communications.

Step 9Communicate. Once keys are created for the locks, it is time to execute the strategies in all marketing communications. The company has to have someone (inside or outside the company) that understands the branding process well enough to direct those who will be implementing communications strategies.

Step 10Measure and analyze results and take corrective action. Once implemented, results should be measured and analyzed to determine what is and is not working and why. Strategies should be modified and refined.

By following these steps and executing them properly, marketers can build better brands that have a greater chance for success in the marketplace.

Do you have a process that works reliable to create your brands? Is it similar to the steps delineated above?

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of flickr user, Svadilfari

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Explore posts in the same categories: Branding, Corporate Image, Marketing, Positioning, Promotion, Uncategorized

3 Comments on “10-steps to Building Better Brands”


  1. […] do branding properly, it is critical to understand corporate image and positioning and how these two building […]


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