A brand is more than just a logo on letterheads and business cards. It dictates how your business is perceived by the outside world. An effective brand not only tells your customers who you are and what you do, it also establishes relevance to and credibility with your prospective customers and therefore builds trust. A brand represents the relationship between the seller and buyer – and trust is an integral component of any relationship, business or personal. If your brand has high perceived value, you enjoy many advantages over your competition.
Brands are chosen not only for rational reasons but also for emotional ones. In fact, when it comes to brands, emotion usually drive a high proportion of the purchase decision. People want a piece of success. Therein lies the appeal of the Manchester United credit card or its range of bed linen.
Due to smaller companies' ability to create, nurture and sustain relationships with customers – particularly true of intermediaries – they are in a good position to build their brands based on emotion. Without nurturing the relationship between the client and the brand there is little incentive for the client to increase their loyalty other than price. So when a competitor offers a better price, a weak brand relationship provides no glue and the customer disappears.
Thanks to the internet, our competitors are no longer just the businesses down the street. They are the businesses in the next town, country or even continent. Therefore brand differentiation is key. One way to achieve this is to use your personal brand. As businesses start out, the corporate brand can be the personal brand of the leader – Richard Branson and Bill Gates are great examples.
But as with all strong brands, once you have established an authentic and differentiated brand that is relevant to your target audience, you must ensure that all aspects of your business reinforce the message. Make sure that everything that surrounds your brand, such as your office, website and service, communicates the same brand message. In other words, you must 'live the brand'.
Manchester United's brand loyalty shows that relationship branding works – and the power of emotion. According to research by Deloitte & Touch, even before Manchester United's record results announcement, it had achieved operating profits three times greater than the nextwealthiest Premier League club. Without the long-term relationships it has cultivated within its fan base it wouldn't be so financially successful.
I have heard it said that money spent on branding by business-to-business companies is wasted because business customers know a great deal about supplier products and companies. They build a matrix of product features, benefits and prices and then make a decision after a rigorous, objective view. I disagree. I have learned to believe Winston Churchill's words: “There are two reasons people behave the way they do – the reason they tell you and the real reason.”
I also believe that one of the most frequent and costly mistakes business-to-business organisations make is to assume too much knowledge and interest on the part of their target customers. It is easy to overestimate a prospect's unaided awareness of the leading suppliers and overrate their own position in the prospect's buying criteria. Your prospects might not be as interested and knowledgeable as you think they are so you'd better find a way to capture their attention before you lay your rational product matrix on them.
You might even have to educate your potential clients so that they place the greatest value on the areas where you shine. I have found that rational matrices are often used to justify a selection that has originally been made on much more human and emotional grounds.
So, can your company learn to brand it like Beckham? It is more a question of – can it afford not to?
Manchester United has achieved record pre-tax profits of some £36m, thanks in no small way to the £25m sale of David Beckham to Real Madrid and huge sales of the famous number seven replica shirt.
Real's president Florentino Perez built his entire re-election strategy around getting Beckham to Spain. Now with the best players in the world, Perez is well-placed not only to corner all the trophies next season, but also the Asian market.
Make no mistake, Beckham is more than just a sportsman and Man United is more than just a sports club. Man United is a worldwide marketing machine and the envy of cash-rich Chelsea FC in this respect, hence the appointment at the beginning of this season of the Manchester United CEO Peter Kenyon to work his magic at the London club.
The Manchester United brand is a portfolio of immense size and diversity – financial planning services, electricity, mortgages, life insurance, credit cards, bed linen, jewellery, wallpaper, cell phones, not to mention sales of the number seven shirt – much more than just a successful football club. Imagine the brand loyalty you must have from your fans in order to make them think they would like to get their car loan from you. Can you see yourself getting a mortgage from the New York Yankees?
The brand loyalty is immense. So how has it achieved this? The answer is by leveraging its brand personality and building a global brand community – a group of loyal followers.
Extract from an article, 'Brand it like Beckham', by Kristine Kirby Webster, principal, The Canterbury Group.