recently shared the speaker’s platform at a business conference with the CEO of one of the largest international property and patent law firms. I was intrigued by his comments when he stated that;
“Over the next few decades the power and security provided by IP protection will gradually diminish and brand or trademarks will quickly become the new protector of a company’s intellectual property.“
This got me thinking about how often brand as a subject and a business discipline is actually included in board agendas and debated and discussed around the board table. I know from my own experience on various boards that brand hasn’t exactly been a discipline that has been a central focus of attention. In talking to my director colleges I found I wasn’t alone in that it appears very few companies have programs associated with improving their brand presence in the market place or protecting their brand image.
The likes of Coca Cola, Harrods, Exxon/Mobil etc spend millions on building and protecting their brands around the world and I know from personal experience they have dedicated in-house structures and disciplines around maintaining and enhancing their brands. But in general it appears most companies pay little strategic attention to their brand image. Brand isn’t just signage, packaging advertising etc. Brand is the heart beat of any organisation which will eventually determine success or failure.
So how important to medium sized businesses are the development and maintenance of a brand and where does brand discipline fit within the strategic and marketing plans of a company?
In my opinion brand is a significant enabling influencing factor which supports the generation and maintenance of a business’ revenue streams. It is the underpinning platform that everything affecting company performance is built on. From staff pride and morale, investor/shareholder confidence through to client recall and loyalty, brand is the silent enabler which permeates everything the company stands for and believes in.
Therefore brand as a discipline needs to be given focused attention in the development of any business’ strategic and marketing planning process. A measurement matrix should be developed to enable the tracking of brand development and market place recognition. Internal programs need to be introduced to educate staff on the importance of brand and the disciplines surrounding brand maintenance. The board need to adopt an awareness factor around the importance of brand to the business and include it as a subject for discussion on a semi regular basis. A brand policy including standards needs to be developed with a senior manager being given a care taking role.
Brands aren’t built overnight but can be lost within hours, remember Arthur Anderson. Brands need regular stroking and feeding to keep them alive. So my advice to SME’s and smaller companies is, begin your brand program as soon as possible, take small but focused and planned steps, make sure you include all your publics in your program, not just your end use clients and regularly monitor brand awareness and loyalty.