Managing Brand Essence for Midmarket Companies

A brand embodies the meaning of a business, rolling up all its complexities into a clear expression. From the outside, this helps customers make sense of the company’s products and services. Internally, authentic brand meaning focuses the purpose and work for both business and consumer companies.

Defining and building a brand is difficult. The first hurdle is getting the organization to value the potential of their  brand and the importance of a dedicated brand management function to strengthen and build it.

Why are Brands Important for Midmarket Companies?

Many midmarket companies have grown their businesses by delivering great products and developing good reputations. So why spend time developing a brand?

Brands are symbolic. They stand for the reputation and value promise that organizations have built over time.

Companies that want to get to the next level face many challenges. Markets are increasingly more crowded and buyers have lots of choices. From the outside, midmarket companies appear as small points of light to purchasers and consumers. Standing out in the crowd calls for more than a good performance track record.

Brands represent the customer experience. A “brand promise” is larger than a product or service performance specification.

Brands begin with internal and cultural beliefs. A clear brand culture helps attract top talent and sets a tone for doing great work across all departments. When organizations understand their own brand, people collaborate, focus and perform better. All of this creates a strong customer experience.

Brands represent investor benefit. Customer promise combined with a performance culture can boost company valuation for successful capital raises, mergers or acquisitions. Business valuation is a key way for well-defined and authentic midmarket companies brand essence to measured.

However, if not carefully nurtured the brand can go astray or become diffused.

Why Brand Management? 

A brand manager must understand all the moving parts of the business to see the meaning and potential of the brand. He or she must be able to express the brand message and be willing to cross departmental lines to engage everyone in the company.

Brand experience is created throughout the organization, not just through marketing and sales. Brand management is a leadership function, with one part strategy, ten parts stewardship. Brand managers must continually nurture the brand, bringing it to life in communications within the business and in market-facing communications and media.

Brand guidelines are essential tools for employees who are constantly making decisions about how to deliver to customers. Many of them were hired for that ability and they look to the organization for guidance. Employees are craftspeople; their work requires skill and judgment. Brand management can guide their efforts to enable a precise customer-focused brand experience.

Keys to Establishing a Brand Management Function

A strong brand and brand management function can take midmarket companies to the next level. Here are eight keys to designing a brand management success:

  1. Get commitment from leadership to support the brand and management function to create competitive advantage.
  2. Include the brand manager in strategic planning as a member of the C-suite, with access to financial, operational, HR, and product development information and personnel.
  3. Understand internal perceptions of the brand: survey employees and other inside stakeholders to understand how they see the company’s brand promise.
  4. Understand external perceptions of the brand: surveys, interviews and competitive reviews provide  information about what the market thinks and how the company compares with competitors.
  5. Educate the marketing department about the value of brand, beyond logo, graphic standards, website and marcom materials.
  6. Develop brand guidelines: how the core values and qualities of the business translate into positive customer experiences.
  7. Educate the entire company: Show how the brand experience for customers is affected by every department and all business operations.
  8. Develop brand metrics and measures, a combination of quantitative awareness tests and qualitative perceptions.

Clearly the cultivation and management of brand essence is takes time and requires ongoing interaction throughout an organization. In future posts we'll explore digital tools, platforms and programs that enable brand engagement and activation, both internally as well as with the marketplace.