The 7 Pillars of Branding

Although the question of branding has always been essential part of marketing and has been approached with multi-dimension models, sometimes these studies have been made without systematic approach or with full of redundancy or ad-hoc views. Unlike marketing which has the widely-known and usable, practical 7P-model, branding still misses such a sort of basic structure which makes the skeleton of all branding story.Here I am making an outline of such a simplified model to help people in successfully designing brands and also to better understanding the already existing ones. I collected 7 layers of the branding with 7 different tasks to be completed in everyday actions. I hope this can be useful for the readers, too.Right before entering this syllabus, we need to define what brand and branding is: in our view brand is a vision that is related to a specific company, product or any specific entity which lives in people and materializes to them. Branding is the art of deliberate control over the whole process.First pillar: Publicly knownA brand always defines a smaller or bigger group of people who are somehow aware of the product or the service in question. This is the prerequisite or trivial condition of all brands: if you are the only one who knows a specific service or uses a specific product and no information is publicized, the service or product is unable to evolve into a brand. This is the primary task of all marketing efforts, making our specific product or service (along with its whole branding costume) widely known on the addressed market: the majority of the marketing budget is used for this purpose. At this point we normally pay attention to the details of the publicity of all brands: target segment(s), its content, geographic, demography, media, communication methods, timing etc.Task 1: design and make your publicityHowever, the fame of a product or service is not exclusively based on the publicity gained (mostly depending on the money available for promoting the brand) via frontal, push-type of promotion. Money spent on communications is a very important factor to reach the second stage of publicity: the people involved in the communications flow will probably share the information with each other and start a – sometimes very simple and few words – discussion about the product or service heard. The act of sharing the information with each other happens or has happened with all known brands. Suggestions, opinions made in public are very important in articulating brand and thus creating or strengthening/weakening brands. This is why the importance of Facebook in contemporary marketing cannot be overestimated enough, or, with similar effect, the customer service/problem handling has always been focal point of customer satisfaction and branding, too.The publicity of branding therefore incorporates all means of sharing the information related to a specific brand or service. There are two basic type of publicities: there is of course the strictly controlled information sharing method (typically: marketing communications) and we also have to face a second publicity, the huge uncontrolled means of communication. When we are thinking on designing a new brand or just examining an existing one, we have to enlist all the ways how the specific brand gains publicity and sort them by relevance with regards to the public coverage and effect, making special attention to the uncontrolled ways of publicity.The success of controlling publicity is a key to profit from branding, however, public control will never mean information monopoly over the media and over the outcome: even situations when a company has theoretically 100% control over the situation (e.g. customer care desk at the office or shop), it is always a challenge to control what is exactly happening there, what is going to be told or heard. Thus, from micro to macro level the publicity always carries a huge uncertainty factor with regards to reach, direct effect and future implications.Second pillar: Associative and narrative – stories aroundThe discussions initiated and information shared publicly about a brand (or a branded product or service) would show up the next major characteristic of brands, that is, the power of the coupling or association related to the branded products or services. In other words, branding means that we create stories around a brand. Brand identity or personality, brand vision, brand promise are the official stories reflecting the narrative of a generic brand on different levels. Marketing creative planning is exactly doing the same around a specific product of a brand (e.g. ‘The environment friendly Toyota Prius’ as a story), while general brand stories (I mean the Toyota brand in the example) or associations are on higher level only. We therefore have to consider several layers of brand stories or narratives when examining them. It is very useful when these stories are consistent and formed professionally and are not contradicting to each other.

Brands are incorporating many stories and ideas not just from individual products and services determined by the company but stories and ideas also coming from the public. Unfortunately – as we mentioned above – we cannot control the majority of the perceptions of our brand. Individual opinions, perceived qualities, good or bad experiences are building the narrative universe, or more simply, the stories of a brand.Task 2: define and drive brand storiesNotwithstanding the above, we can drive these brand stories and narrow them to the desired ones on at least two-three different areas. The mission statement of a company/organization is the very source of official brand stories and determines the branding direction via its written values and operational reasons. Secondly, the slogan or the tagline of a brand (like LG’s Life’s Good) is meant to embody the driving narrative story and works like a magnet: collects all the associations around a brand. The third layer of story comes along with specific products or services: repeating the slogans, taglines while inserting the logo of the brand on individual products/services makes the specific product or service painted with the general brand’s associations and qualities. The individual story of a product or service is like a topping on the branding cake. Pure brand campaigns on the other hand are always aiming outlining and fixing the desired main stories and narratives of qualities in the customers.Controlling publicity cannot be done without controlling the stories attached to a specific brand and seems the major task of all branding and communications managers. Here, we have to highlight a related issue which behaves like the blind spot of the branding: rebranding. Rebranding campaigns are to change the very basic story of a brand. This is the reason why these campaigns fail many times and real rebranding is a very seldom event.Third pillar: Concrete and multiplicative formIn real life we always give tangible forms to brands because we want to make profit from our money spent. Brand without concrete product/service to buy (or without a related person when we talk about personal brands) is useless or just a promise (like the newly planned Jolla mobile OS with only a demo video). The embodiment of a Brand is an essential part of its very nature.Normally we use the power of a general Brand Name for many individual products. An already existing brand hands over its potentials (its stories of qualities, usage, value etc.) to specific, individual products and even when we see a new product of an already known brand we are already having a presupposition or sense of certain expectations towards the brand new product. A VW car is perceived for many as a reliable one; however, it may happen that a much lower quality is introduced in a new model than what the brand had fulfilled at its predecessors.Task 3: make several appearances to utilize brand powerMost times we may say that a brand is transferred into several products and therefore it is multiplicative. It is very seldom that an earned reputation of a brand represented in only one product or service. For example the perfume 4711 seems to be transferred only into one product for a long time, but the brand’s product portfolio today consists of more than one item: after shave or even shower gel is also produced. Start-ups typically own only one product and normally the first product is the one that determines and forms the brand later on. Initially, the brand is typically built upon on only one product or service and this is why it is very sensitive when entering a market with a new company and a new product: it also determines the future brand and products the company assessed with.Personal brands, seen superficially, are not multiplicative: a person who has double face (see politicians) and therefore not able to form a consistent and concrete personal brand, are subject to lose their reputation and their face rapidly. This is because brands can have only one concrete (credible) story, without major contradictions. The multiplicative nature of personal brands should be investigated from another perspective. In case we regard a person’s appearances in public as concretizations and multiplications of his/her brand, we are closer to the truth and we understand better why celebrities and politicians are so keen on public appearances.Fourth pillar: Unique propositionThe history of branding is stemming from the wish of making a producer’s goods identifiable. This is not just to ensure the identity of goods but also to prevent from copying and forgery. The brands around us are still carrying these old attributes: the logo of the company/brand is expressing the uniqueness of a brand (supported by law as trade marks) and helps us to identify a specific brand in the universe of brands and signs.Sometimes it is very hard to make distinction based on the products/services alone: Pepsi and its rivals put in a neutral glass next to each other are unidentifiable, so the use of branding techniques is crucial for gaining profit for both companies. Just like in the cola case, the technological industry also heavily relies on the branding when selling its products or services: PCs, laptops, smart phones or internet accesses are very similar to each other. Or, a tax advisory service consultant firm is facing real challenges to provide specific brand vision.Task 4: find and use the means of brand differentiationsThe unique proposition of the brands has to be built up and shown for the public: the individual logos of brands on devices for example help the company to make distinction from their competitors and help the customers to identify different market players in order to make a personal choice of preference. Most times companies heavily rely on the unique brand distinguishers, like stories about their unique market segment, tailor-made products, additional services they provide etc. Sometimes, when stories among a group of competitors are very similar or compatible (like the Big Four Auditors) and even their service is similar, a common story may evolve around them focusing on more the similarity and indirectly expressing the exclusivity of the group members.Fifth pillar: ValueWhen we identify a brand on its telltale signs (e.g. design) or logo we do not think on what we see first (the product itself) but rather we focus on the brand value represented by the specific product or service. We may say (even without seeing the product) that if you are having Martin Logan stereo speakers that is very cool, but if you are having Philips that is not so awesome. Different brands represent different values: there are low-end and high-end brands with many in between. Start-up companies have to position their brand value on the axis predetermined by the existing market players. Making decision on positioning the companies’ services or products on the lower or higher end of this axis has nothing to do with ethical values: a low-end, cheap car helps many disabled or poor people without doubt. Rather, making the choice of brand values determine the market we are about to target. And this target market decision affects our business outlooks directly. When Toyota launched it Lexus series and decided to focus on the higher end cars they probably considered the higher profit option.The value of a brand is also expressed in a more measurable way. In general ledgers brands are valued as a part of the company’s goodwill and are very sensitive for new product introductions and for amortization, too. From financial point of view brands regarded as assets that have been created due to investment and are also subject to lose or increase their values.Task 5: define and carry brand valuesThe value of a brand emanates into individual products of a company and the value of the sold products affects the value of the brands. More surprisingly, the value of a brand may transfer over the buyer persona influencing the perceived value of a person in a certain group of people (see Apple fan-effect) while the network-effect of the public also modifies the brand value (exclusivity, limited models are also able to increase brand value).The relative price of a product or the whole branded portfolio both has very special connection with the brand value: the higher the price positioned the harder to imagine low brand value. This is because the narrative of the price (see Second pillar) influences the brand value. Other narratives of a brand (how durable it is, for instance, or which celebrities are using this brand) heavily effect the brand value, too. Similarly, the extent of public spread (see First pillar – how much the brand is known, how much spent on advertising) also effects the brand value.Brand value is determined by several other factors even not listed here. It is partly the result of deliberate actions of the company (market positioning of the brand and its products) but also exposed to external factors (like time) and public opinion.( LG’s rebranding from the low-end Goldstar brand to the higher positioned LG showed that value propositions of a brand require efforts in both areas. Grundig made the opposite U-turn when sold to Chinese company.)

Sixth pillar: personal relationAll the pillars encountered previously are summoning on personal level because the nature and the definition of branding 100% relates to human feelings and perceptions. Most cases we can translate this personal effect and feelings to perceived brand values and the position of a brand in the customers’ head. People know or do not know, like or dislike brands, become haters or fans of brands, recommend or just accept certain brands.Task 6: turn personal relation to actionAs a result, this personal disposition of a brand clearly ends up in the relation to the act of buying. We, marketing professionals should not deny the aboriginal intention of our branding efforts to influence buying decisions on personal level. We are not just simply influencing people in business for the sake of general human aims: we do not want world peace; we do want to have our specific products and services sold. We want to convince John or Clair Smith as individual customers to select our service or product. This is the action we – or more generally: the investors – expect from any investments (including brand campaigns) made.Fortunately we not all live in the business sector, not all follow business aims (i.e. sales) in our lives. Surprisingly, non-profit organizations are not so much different from business ventures from this point of view. Non-profits also want to have a specific action to be reached: an action that is maybe appearing directly (like giving donation for starving people) but can be mental action or change to be targeted (for instance diversity campaigns).The personal relation to a branded entity can be outlined in a matrix where on the first axis we can define the readiness or probability of buying action (or in a non-profit: readiness for action) and on the second axis we may highlight the level of brand’s emotional acceptance.The personal relation to a specific brand with regards to the ultimate sales reason can be mapped as shown, but we should not forget that personal emotions and relations to brands are much wider than presented above: some people feel that their beloved brand is expressing also their way of life, involving several other actions well beyond a simple shopping; or just feeling neutral about a brand while the person is not going to be represented in any commercial situation (like myself with any hunting brands, although I know some of them).We should therefore identify very precisely the personal relations to our brand of our existing and potential customers and we should make focused actions to harvest the branding efforts we have previously made.Seventh pillar: Exposure to timeWe have already mentioned before the amortization as an important factor in brand values. The simple reason of amortization is that the brands (via materialized products/services) and the customers live in time.The general life exposure to time factor represented in concrete shapes with regards to brand itself and to its specific products/services. (Amortization is only the result of that process.) Brand perception very much effected by the products/services in timeline (e.g. how much up-to-date the product is reflects the brand’s state-of-the-art nature) and on the other hand the brand itself (without looking at individual products) also has an individual character which has its own life-cycle (how old a brand is, what type of products they represent).Task 7: Consider time: plan and replan over timeBrands do not last for ever and are changing over time, even without deliberate actions. Amortization expresses the time-factor in economic terms but all the pillars mentioned before has a time layer. The repeated actions of marketing campaigns, the product developments or changes in market environments change the face of the brand even if it is not perceived by the company. The sad story of Nokia is a perfect example of how this specific brand was effected by the time factor in all possible way, from the publicity of its phones (a complete new generation has skipped Nokia phones), through the changes in the narratives attached to the brand, with the refreshed need to be unique again to the sharp decline of the brand value.

What Makes Horse Riding Different From Any Other Sport?

So, what’s the big deal with horse riding? Why do so many claim that it is so much different from any other sport? If you’ve never ridden or been around horses, questions like these are probably running through your mind. Don’t worry, you are not alone.Read on to find out what you have been missing… There’s Just Something About Working With a Horse:
Perhaps the best part of horse riding is the interaction that the rider has with his or her horse. Unlike spending time with a cat or a dog, interacting with a horse tends to feel very different; when people are riding they get the distinct feeling that this is not their pet, but instead their partner.

Also, the fact that we build these partnerships with an animal that is undoubtedly much bigger and stronger than we are can be intimidating at first, but then becomes just another wonderful aspect of the sport.In fact, the teamwork aspect of riding a horse plays a significant role in making this sport so different. In addition to having to work with their horse, riders have to have a positive relationship with a variety of individuals that help both them and their horses moving forward, an aspect of the sport that brings us to the next unique characteristic about horse riding. Teamwork Is The Name of The Game:
While mainstream sports also require teamwork, horse riding could be considered to require the most teamwork of any sport out there. Although riding per se is not usually a team sport, as most riders compete individually, the amount of people it takes to keep a horse healthy and ready for competition is astounding. Most riders will have a farrier, vet, barn owner, and trainer to work with in order to keep their horse in the best shape possible and riders are also especially concerned about pampering and keeping their horses happy, too. For this reason, horse riding creates a unique team atmosphere. Not Just a Sport:
For most riders, the experience isn’t just about participating in the sport, winning competitions or getting the job done. The majority of horse riders end up spending numerous hours at the barn or stables; a rider’s relationship with his or her horse is often significant.

When it comes to trying to demystify the lure of horse riding, a rider’s relationship with their horse is the biggest difference between horse riding and other sports.Last, but not least, the sport of horse riding is surrounded by a strong community of individuals that share the same passion. For this reason, the sport of horse riding has a supportive and unique atmosphere that welcomes anyone, young or old, looking to get started in the sport.

Healthy Competition In Team Sports Teaches Life Skills

The word “competition” brings to mind images of athletes or sports teams striving to do their best and working hard to accomplish significant goals. For most of us, achieving goals and enjoying life is at least partially dependent on working together and getting along with others. Many of these essential relational skills are learned in the developing years as children move from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Given the importance of these key life skills, our society would benefit greatly by ensuring that kids are provided with ample opportunities for working together and getting along with people. Such relational skills can be effectively taught (and caught) in the context of an organized sports program.It seems that kids are born with an innate sense of competition and a desire to win. Our society, schools, and sports programs all cater to this inclination to compete with various games and challenges. Such challenges have been a part of human society from the beginning, and this competition develops a number of important skills for use throughout life.As an example, the desire to be the champion and top dog often pushes people further than they would choose to go on their own. This dogged determination to win is what drives Olympic athletes, CEOs, and many leaders to attain to lofty positions. However, the downside of unchecked competition is that negative traits including roughness, a domineering attitude, and unsportsmanlike conduct can develop and can take over a person. Such negative traits can be very harmful, and if not kept in check, can lead to damaged and broken relationships.

This danger for unguided winners to develop poor attitudes is precisely the reason we should encourage children to get involved in team sports programs and other organizations where healthy competition is encouraged and promoted. It is often within these organizations that essential life skills are taught and where the development of proper attitudes can be nurtured.By participating in organized team sports, kids can begin to truly experience the thrill of winning and the pain and discouragement of defeat. By experiencing these emotions in the context of their sports community, children can begin to understand the roots of their emotions and how their emotions can affect others. In addition, parents and coaches can observe how kids react and can provide encouragement and guidance as needed when and if inappropriate behavior and reactions are observed.Within the context of an organized sports program, a skilled coach can help and encourage the winners to revel in the victory, and yet do so in a way that does not put down the losers. In fact, if the kids on the winning team can learn how to reach out and encourage kids on the losing team, they have learned an extremely valuable lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives. In the same way, the losers must learn the essential skill of losing well and not withdrawing in self-pity or lashing out at the winners, their teammates, or their coach. Winning and losing are a continual part of life, and developing key skills to cope with victory and loss will go a long way in helping young people cope effectively with the ups and downs of life.In developing life skills, there is a significant difference between team sports such as basketball, baseball, and soccer and individual sports such as tennis and racquetball. Individual sports typically focus on developing the competitive side of an individual, but organized sports programs can teach so much more. On a team, the children learn to work together to accomplish things that they could never do on their own. In addition, the coach can provide encouragement and direction, and the kids themselves can encourage each other when they are down. On a team, kids can also develop the confidence to try new things that they might otherwise not try. Such an encouraging and supportive environment is rarely found in an individual sport, but can be commonly found on sports teams. Out of necessity, teams learn to work together to accomplish mutual goals and such skills will help carry them through life and work.

In summary, the competition and cooperation that occurs in organized sports programs can be very healthy and helpful for developing essential life skills. In a well-run program, team sports encourage children to work together, encourage one another, and get along with others. A quality and gifted coach can develop these skills in children, and our children would be well-served into adulthood and our society would benefit by having these skills engrained into our children’s character.

Effective Business Management Unites Education and Training with Corporate Coaching

Business management spends billions of dollars in corporate training and education. According to a report released in early 2006, the U.S. corporate education and training market exceeded $46 billion. Additionally, business management and leadership training captured the largest percentage of program dollars with developing new and existing management along with succession planning. (Source: Bersin & Associates)With training budgets increasing and the additional focus on leadership and management development because people do not leave organizations they leave managers, achieving higher levels of positive return on investment (ROI) makes sense. Research supports that to increase training ROI begins by including coaching as an effective tactic.In a 2001 study completed by Dr. Merrill Anderson, of MetrixGlobal, for a Fortune 500 company coaching can produce a 529 per cent ROI. Additional studies since that time confirm the positive affect of coaching. Business management executives are now employing a new learning strategy that combines education and training with coaching. This is initiative is corporate coaching. So what is corporate coaching?

Simply speaking, corporate coaching extends existing learning or what some call training by infusing one on one executive coaching within the education, training and development sessions to achieve performance improvement that generates a positive ROI. Corporate coaching is always aligned with the strategic plan and the organization’s current goals and provides a vehicle to reinforce current learning as well as a way to make necessary course corrections through both individual and team perspectives. Corporate objectives are achieved much quicker allowing for a better competitive advantage.NOTE:What corporate coaching is not – any program that cannot be aligned to the strategic plan and lacks a structured process that does not focus on pre-determined measurable results.How does corporate coaching work? The answer to that question is “that depends.” Corporate coaching is flexible and may be included within the training schedules or upon completion of the training. The real issue is to find a corporate coaching process that is results focused and uses proven tools that build the What’s in it for me (WIIFM) leading to the What’s in it for us (WIIFU). Effective corporate coaching works to further internalize the identified learning objectives and quantifies those efforts on a regular basis through consistent goal achievement.

How do I find a corporate coach? That is a very good question since many coaches whether a certified coach or not are now offering corporate coaching services. Possibly, the best way is to find a coach who:
Is results focused
Has a demonstrated record of success that is quantifiably measurable
Has both proven developmental processes and tools that work with the strengths of your organization.
Remember, companies win because of their strengths not their weaknesses. Corporate coaching allows you to further capitalize on those very strengths that made your company what it is.