Iconic brand designer Walter Landor once said, "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." This memorable phrase perfectly encapsulates the core value behind brand management and the impact it can have on your business.
Rooted in emotion and experience, branding goes way beyond the tangible products you’re selling. Each touchstone, from the way your logo design and your website to your interactions with customers, shapes the perception of your brand.
As you’ll see in this article, outlining a strategic plan that not only distinguishes your brand, but raises its brand equity, is the key to successful brand management. In a market flooded with choices, effective brand management will ensure that consumers will not only think of your product first, but prefer it to competitors, ultimately becoming your loyal customers. Making it as relevant today as it was in 1896 when the J Walter Thompson advertising company first began to develop it as a concept.
What is brand management?
Creating a brand takes time, energy and a deep understanding of your target market. Brand management refers to the relationship with that target audience, and the efforts to nurture and maintain it.
Brand management involves an ongoing process of evaluating brand perception and understanding how to influence it. By increasing the perceived value of your product or service, this enables you to foster brand trust, gain loyal customers and enhance brand awareness.
While you can’t control the way people will react to your brand, you can anticipate it. Successful brand management requires strategy, research and analysis to not only cultivate positive brand equity, but sustain it. You can learn from the responses of audiences to improve your offering, stay ahead of potential issues, and improve your brand reputation in an honest and authentic way.
With this in mind, it is important to recognize the full scope of brand management and the role it plays in all of your marketing strategies - from your marketing management, to your marketing communication, to knowledge management and your overall macromarketing efforts. Anyone who comes into contact with your brand, be it customers, stakeholders, employees, social media followers and even competitors, will create their own associations based on how you manage it.
One of the leading philosophies on brand management comes from the renowned marketing professor and consultant, Philip Kotler. He asserts that brand management should be centered around the idea that a brand is essentially a promise to a customer and the company behind a brand, has a responsibility to fulfill that promise.
According to Kotler, a strong brand should clearly differentiate itself from its competitors by offering unique value to their customers. He also believes that understanding customer needs is an essential part of creating a strong brand image and reputation.
Brand management should be a long term process, with a clear target audience, a unique brand positioning and a consistent brand message. Kotler encourages companies to regularly and consistently review and change their brand strategy, based on what market and consumer behavior is telling us.
Kotler also stresses the importance of a strong brand strategy in order to effectively manage a brand over the long term. This includes defining the brand's target audience, creating a unique brand positioning, and developing a consistent brand message. He also encourages companies to regularly review and adjust their brand strategy in response to changes in the market and consumer behavior. This helps companies deliver on their brand promise consistently and over the long term.
Brand management vs marketing
Brand management and marketing are related but distinct disciplines within the field of marketing. Marketing focuses on promoting and selling products or services to target audiences. Brand management on the other hand is specifically concerned with building and maintaining a strong brand identity and reputation.
Within these distinct spheres, marketing includes a range of activities aimed at attracting customers and increasing sales. These might include advertising, promotions, sales, pricing, and product development. It also involves researching target audiences as well as competitive analysis and market segmentation.
Brand management includes defining the brand's target audience, creating a unique brand positioning, developing a consistent brand message, and managing the various touch points through which customers interact with the brand.
Both are important for the success of a company, but they serve different purposes and require unique skills and expertise.
Why brand management matters
Think of your brand as a garden. You dig the earth, plant the seeds, water it and watch it grow. However, in order for your plants to flourish, you must give them adequate sunlight, constant care and attention. With nurturing and support, your garden will thrive and blossom. Just as you wouldn’t leave a seedling unattended and expect it to grow, you can’t expect a new brand to have instant followers and loyal customers without time and effort.
This is exactly what brand management represents and why it is so important. By putting in the work and managing your brand, there are endless opportunities and benefits such as:
Developing brand awareness which also leads eventually to improve brand valuation.
Building brand trust and a larger, more reliable customer base.
Cultivating a loyal customer base and at the same time increasing both customer engagement and satisfaction for and with better customer relationship management.
Positively impacting consumers purchasing decisions and increasing market share for a competitive advantage.
Driving prices and boosting sales which leads to increased revenue and profit
Increasing brand equity and a stronger corporate identity both amongst customers and employees. This in turn leads to increased employee retention and stronger internal collaboration.
Great brands take years to not only grow but to become established in their industry. Take a look at some leading brands like Apple, Coca-Cola and Nike that have secured their brand identity through purposeful and authoritative efforts, and continuous brand management. It is because of this ingenuity, creativity and relevance that these brands have earned their place within their respective markets, but also in the hearts and minds of consumers.
Brand management basics
In order to successfully manage a brand, there are a few rudimentary principles that you must understand. Regardless of your industry, the marketing landscape is always changing and evolving. By mastering these core ideas and elements of brand management, your brand can withstand the changes and grow in stride.
Brand equity represents the value of a product in the minds of customers. It can be measured through awareness, and the way consumers perceive your brand. An increase in the perceived value of a product is a gain in brand equity. On the other hand, negative perception can have an adverse influence.
It all boils down to understanding the way in which the public sees your brand. And the way you want them to perceive your brand may not always be aligned with what they actually think. By receiving feedback, listening to opinions and collecting data, you will gain meaningful insights into how your brand is perceived, and discover if and how it can improve.
If two companies are both selling vegan sneakers, but one charges more for a similar product, we can assume that the more expensive brand has better brand equity than their competitor, which justifies the higher price. That’s because with positive sentiment, your brand becomes more valuable. This will drive the prices of your products and services, ultimately impacting the overall valuation of your brand within the market, and in the eyes of potential investors and stakeholders.
You know how when you see certain logos, you instantly recognize the brands they represent? Even without seeing the name or brand colors—a logo on its own can trigger your memory and associations with a brand. That is an encounter known as brand recognition, and it’s a highly coveted aspect of brand management.
Brand recognition is what makes consumers choose one product over another, regardless of price or availability. One key to developing powerful and lucrative brand recognition is consistency. Having distinct visual and non-visual brand guidelines will create cohesiveness and ensure that your brand can be recognized from any platform or channel.
Loyalty in any scenario is all about fostering trust, and when it comes to branding, nothing could be truer. Customers who trust your brand and have positive experiences with it will develop powerful associations, which ultimately will make them loyal to your brand.
Brand loyalty is build upon many of the same building blocks of attachment theory. We know that consumers can form emotional bonds with brands similar to the attachment bonds formed during childhood. In other words, consumers can become attached to a brand and view it as a source of comfort, security, and trust.
You can foster brand attachment through consistent and positive interactions between your brand and customer. A brand that consistently meets the needs and expectations of its target audience can create a sense of reliability. When a brand is associated with positive emotions and experiences, consumers are more likely to form a strong attachment to it, and then to buy from it.
Similarly, brands can also evoke feelings of anxiety or discomfort if they do not meet the expectations of their audience. Negative experiences or inconsistent messaging can erode consumer trust and attachment to a brand. By understanding attachment theory, you can create strategies to foster brand attachment and loyalty instead.
With loyalty comes an emotional connection that drives consumers decision-making and leads them to repeat their purchases, regardless of competitors, even ones that offer similar products at lower prices. Brand loyalty is incredibly influential, and is supported by word-of-mouth marketing (WOM), where customers genuinely share their experiences and refer prospective consumers to your brand.
Furthermore, brand loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing can lead to social media attention, trends, user-generated content and online reviews, all of which support your branding efforts without spending extra money. This builds a sense of community and inclusivity, leading you and consumers to commit to a long-term relationship together.
“You can’t buy a good reputation: you must earn it,” says author and businessman Harvey Mackay. In fact, some argue that your reputation is everything—even more important and valuable than the brand itself. Oftentimes, your reputation precedes your products, where potential customers hear about your brand before using it. Again, word-of-mouth marketing plays a huge role here.
Whether it’s a personal brand or service brand, your reputation is important regardless of which type of branding you are working with. Brand reputation comes from each and every aspect of your business, from the products themselves to the packaging, the price, and the customer’s experience of using them.
To uphold a good brand reputation, it’s important to look at the big picture, and the impact of each of your branding decisions. This is particularly relevant for any contributor—whether it is your brand manager, graphic designer or sales representative—they all must be able to holistically represent your brand throughout all of your marketing channels.
Brand management strategies
Manage your brand assets
From your website and brand colors, to your customer service, each of your branding assets are intertwined while playing their own unique role. One of the keys to great brand management is understanding the nuances of these and the interplay between these online and offline resources. Some examples include:
Slogan or catchphrase
Graphic design language and messaging
Social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
Thought leadership efforts and content
Successful brand management requires the creation and maintenance of these specific assets, and ensuring that every member of your team understands your brand’s visual language, voice and personality. By creating clear and well-defined brand assets, you enable and encourage your entire team to support your brand management efforts.
Develop strong brand strategy
Having a clearly defined brand strategy will not only map out your goals, but lead you to reach them. A brand strategy is like a roadmap that guides the branding process and sets the course for each element along the way. This includes setting your purpose, defining your core values, and outlining your vision and mission statements. Your brand strategy trickles down to each touchstone of your business and connects them in a cohesive and meaningful way, making it easier to manage as it grows.
Maintain brand consistency
As we’ve already mentioned, consistency is key. And in regard to brand management, making sure that all your brand assets are aligned will ensure that your brand identity is clear to anyone who interacts with your brand. Whether somebody walks into your storefront, purchases a product online, interacts with your customer service or follows your Twitter account, they should always sense that these experiences are consistently “on-brand”. Maintaining brand consistency should be included within your brand asset management processes.
Find brand extension opportunities
As your brand grows and gains momentum within your respective market, you may find opportunities to stretch your offering. Known as brand extension, this refers to brands using their established name, reputation and clout to develop new products. These products might fall into a similar category, or at other times be vastly different from one another. Regardless, keep in mind that strong brand equity is an essential prerequisite for brand extensions, as it helps gain credibility based on existing trust. Be careful, however, as venturing too far from your brand consistency may lead to brand dilution.
Establish an authentic brand culture
Brand culture is like the unwritten rule book that governs a brand, and it’s values. The culture of a brand is, of course, rooted in its brand identity, but reveals itself through every experience and interaction it produces. It is like the soul of the brand, and can be felt throughout every touch point.
A great brand culture encourages prospective employees to join you, and gives current employees a sense of pride and belonging. If your brand culture is purposefully integrated and aligned with your brand identity, it will encourage your employees to act unquestionably in a way that supports its values and promises to customers.
Measure brand perception
How do you know if your brand is succeeding? Is it possible to grasp if your brand’s messaging resonates with your target audience in the right tone of voice? Do your employees recommend your products or services? Monitoring, analyzing, questioning and learning are all vital components of strong brand management.
If your brand’s core values are not properly conveyed, or if its visual assets miss the mark, then identifying these issues is just as important. That’s a good reason why continuously changing your brand identity to stay “on-trend” can work against you.
The best recommendation is to measure your brand perception every six months to a year to understand if people perceive it the way you intend. This way, you can be sure that as your business evolves, it will remain in tune with your brand promise, and overall goals.
Choose the right brand management method
Essentially brand management can be sewn throughout all of your marketing strategies and efforts, from advertising to social media marketing and everything in between. Here are a few strategies that can help take your brand management to the next level and reach more potential customers at the same time:
- Targeted advertising
- Viral marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Content marketing
- Organizational structure and executive education
- Internal communication
- Reputation management
How to track brand management
Tracking brand management will depend very much on your specific goals for it, and how you plan to go about building and increasing it. In general however there are a few key points to keep in mind when deciding how to track your efforts:
Define your KPIs. What are the main metrics you wish to track to achieve your goals? Is it brand awareness, increased sales or something else, including important business analytics metrics? These performance indicators should be clear, relevant, measurable and trackable.
Choose your analytics tools. This includes those relevant for social media analytics. There are a number of free and paid tools available, depending on what you want to track, Google Analytics is just one example of a way to measure website traffic, where it's coming from and how users are interacting with your brand assets.
Monitor brand mentions. This can be done through your social support team, if you have one or with specific social tracking tools. Essentially it involves counting the number of times your brand is mentioned online, and can sometimes delve deeper into if these mentions are positive or negative.
Conduct surveys. Go direct to the source and ask your customers what they think of your product, service and brand. These can be very insightful in terms of whether your brand management is hitting the mark or not.
Track your competitors. They have the same audience, maybe the exact same product or service, so how they manage their brand is relevant to you. What works for them, what doesn't and how can you build on this or avoid their mistakes.
Regularly assess your brand management efforts. Never stop assessing what you are doing, to make sure of its impact, and be confident with pivoting in another direction if something isn't working. This can help prioritize resource allocation and make sure you're meeting return on investment goals.
What is a brand manager?
While the exact role may vary from company to company, essentially a brand manager is a professional who is responsible for overseeing and managing a company's brand and its associated products or services.
Their main goal is to build and maintain a strong, consistent brand image and reputation that resonates with target audiences and differentiates the brand from competitors.
While the specific tasks and responsibilities of a brand manager may vary depending on the company, industry, and size of the brand, some of their common duties may include:
Developing and implementing brand strategy: The brand manager is responsible for creating and executing a long-term plan for the brand that includes defining target audiences, creating a unique brand positioning, and developing a consistent brand message.
Conducting market research: Brand managers conduct market research to understand customer needs and preferences, as well as gather information about the competition and industry trends.
Overseeing advertising and promotion campaigns: The role of a brand manager will likely involve responsibility for creating and executing advertising and promotion campaigns that effectively promote the brand and its products or services to target audiences.
Managing product development: Brand managers may work with product development teams to create new products that align with the brand's strategy and resonate with audiences.
Monitoring brand performance: Often a brand manager is responsible for monitoring the performance of the brand and its products or services and making data-driven decisions to improve brand performance over time.
Protecting the brand's reputation: Brand managers are generally responsible for ensuring that their brand's reputation remains positive and that they're consistent in their messaging and interactions with customers.
Brand management companies
Small businesses can hire brand management agencies to help them increase brand awareness, stay on top of the latest industry trends and even complete a rebrand. To find qualified branding or design experts, check out the Wix Marketplace to hire freelancers who can assist with brand management.
Brand management courses
If you choose to do brand management in house, try taking a brand management course. These educational institutions offer online courses from leading professionals. The courses range from introductory level (basics of brand management) to more advanced topics like strategic brand management:
Brand management software
After you've learned the basics of brand management, use a SaaS tool to manage your overall branding strategy and related campaigns. Some trusted software includes:
Brand management examples
In 1975, Pepsi created a nationwide marketing campaign, known as “the Pepsi Challenge,” to increase brand awareness and foster brand recognition. The challenge was a simple blind taste test open to the public across the country. Participants were blindfolded and tasted each cup containing Pepsi or its competitor Coca Cola, and asked to choose their preferred drink.
Decades later, the Pepsi Challenge remains a strong ongoing marketing strategy for the soft drink company, and has been featured on TV ads and social media under hashtag PepsiChallenge.
In 2014, Southwest Airlines unveiled a brand management strategy to promote its heritage, history and personality. They wanted their customers to feel proud about flying Southwest Airlines. In turn, the company brightened its color palette to “bold blue,” “warm red” and “sunrise yellow,” and worked the hues into new uniforms and logo iterations, as well as remodeled its airport gates.
Hallmark are a prime example of a large corporation who have built an authentic and relatable brand story based on their humble origins. For a company who sells greeting cards and gifts, that emotional connection is crucial to their branding.
Our story begins in 1910, when 18-year-old Joyce Clyde Hall stepped off a train in Kansas City, Mo., with nothing but two shoeboxes of postcards under his arm. He had little money – not even enough to take a horse-drawn cab to his lodgings at the YMCA – but he had an entrepreneurial spirit and the determination of a pioneer. Hall quickly made a name for himself with the picture postcards he sold. - Hallmark
For a large brand such as Starbucks, consistency across their shops and franchises has been essential to their brand management efforts. Maintaining a consistent and high level of service and product quality across thousands of global coffee shops is instrumental to their success.