Branding Strategy
In marketing, a brand is ‘the set of physical attributes of a product or service’ such as features or packaging, ‘together with the beliefs and expectations surrounding it’ (CIM, 2015). Explicitly, it is how and why the customer recognises and values a product or organisation. Many different kinds of brands exist within a typical market (Ghose and Lowengart, 2009:365). Businesses therefore, ‘compete to add value to their brands’ (Holt, 2002:80) in order to attract more customers. Subsequently, branding is the process instigated by managers that aims to create, develop and improve brand equity through selected strategies. There are different types of branding and a number of methods for the implementation of branding on a business or product. Both of these aspects are combined to form a branding strategy.
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Contemporary Relevance to the Business WorldCreating a ‘competitive branding strategy’ has always been ‘an important problem for marketing managers’ (Carpenter, 1989:1029) due to its potential to influence customers. Furthermore, the management of a brand is becoming essential for businesses due to ‘an increasingly competitive marketplace’ (FTSE Global Markets, 2015). With new brands and products being introduced at a significant rate, brand equity and the strategy used to achieve this becomes indispensable in the constant struggle for survival in the contemporary business world.
Businesses are affected by constant ‘changes in technology, demographics, markets, government policies, and other factors’ (Baron, 2006:104). These changes can present opportunities for new business creation, business growth and business expansion, all of which require the development of a new brand or a change in existing branding strategy.
Brand strategies are continuously progressing and the development of new strategies is concurrent with new trends and opportunities. This has resulted in the creation of innovative branding strategies and solutions by branding entrepreneurs aiming to surpass their competition (Holt, 2002:80).
New Trends in Branding Strategy
Digital BrandingThe advent of the digital age has brought about a number of developments in branding strategy. Customers have access to a wide range of media channels, which they use to evaluate many brands before making a purchase (Edelman, 2010:2). In addition to this, customers are interacting with brands after a purchase through social media channels. This has led to an increase in the number of digital ‘touch points’ (Edelman, 2010:7) available for a business to promote their brand. Consequently, businesses have had to adjust the management of their brand implementation activities to cater for this change to digital marketing.

Cross Chanel Integration

The last few years has seen a ‘proliferation of marketing channels’ becoming available to managers due to recent developments in technology and the internet (Bughin, 2014:15). This has led to an increase of the number of media channels customers are viewing their brands on. Businesses therefore, need to make their brand available across all of these channels through a process called ‘cross channel integration’ which, is proven to enhance customer’s ‘brand attitudes’ and increase ‘media engagement’ (Wang, 2011:275). The consistency of their brand is another vital aspect that needs to be guaranteed across all new digital channels to prevent mixed messaged being delivered to customers. Customer’s attitudes of a brand’s offline or online value are influenced by ‘not only brand beliefs in the respective channel, but also the beliefs from the other channel’ (Kwon, 2009:376). This proves that cross channel integration is essential, as a decline in brand image for one media channel could result in a major decline in the entire brand equity.
A business currently going through a remarkable change in their branding strategy, whilst facing challenges in the digital age, is the Financial Times. The Editor has stated that the Financial Times brand needs to become a "digital platform first and a newspaper second" (Tesseras, 2013). This shows significance of this new trend for digital branding within the publishing industry. Furthermore, it has been identified that ‘content or subscription revenues for the Financial Times on any platform look set to overtake advertising revenues’ (Tesseras, 2013). Such a shift in the publishing market towards a digital platform would indeed be a massive threat to profitability for any business operating in this sector that does not drastically changing their branding strategy, like the Financial Times has.

Crowdsourcing Branding

A contemporary development in branding strategy and has been to outsource the creation or development of a business’s brand through a process called ‘crowdsourcing branding’. A community of designers can be employed via a third party website to create the logo, packaging, webpage, app as well as other aspects of a business’s brand (99designs, 2014).
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Alternatively, brands can hold a customer competition for the development of their brand. This type of crowdsourcing branding offers ‘brand owners powerful opportunities to engage’ and ‘develop a direct, emotional bond with customers’ (Miziolek, 2011:17).
Being online and using competition between many designers for payment has as allowed crowdsourcing branding to become an quick and inexpensive opportunity for an organisation looking to either initially brand or rebrand their business or product. However, crowdsourcing branding also holds potential risks for businesses including ‘uncompromised quality’ and the fact that ‘little time, energy and thought can go into’ the designs (Airey, 2012). In addition to this, businesses can potentially be exposed to the danger of receiving a design which infringes copyright laws. Despite the new opportunities for customer engagement offered by crowdsourcing branding, businesses should be wary of using it to direct their overall branding strategy, which, should be ‘managed and directed by brand professionals’ (Miziolek, 2011:17).

Personalised Branding Strategy

Businesses may choose to implement a brand personality strategy that aims to personify the intrinsic values of a brand through ‘expressions of valued social and moral ideals’ (Holt, 2002:80). This creates a connection between the customer and the brand through the establishment of similar core values that can consequently improve sales for that brand. An authentic brand story is one way that customers relate their values to a brand. With the emergence of many new brands in the marketplace, brand story is becoming more important in 2015 as it enables a brand to stand out against its increasing number of competitors.
Brand personality has been utilised by marketers in this way for a number of years. However, new developments in technology have improved the collection of customer data which has led to new trends in brand personality strategy. As technology has become ‘more nimble’ in recent years, it ‘has resulted in a wealth of data’ for ‘business unit applications’ (Ouimette, 2009:79). The access to this information has allowed businesses to create customer profiles and give an even more personalised and interactive brand experience. It has been proven that brand personality is an essential component of contemporary branding strategy management, which, leads to an increase in brand equity (Ahmad and Thyagaraj, 2014:20).
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Amazon is an excellent example of a company who employs a personalised branding strategy by utilising recent developments in technology to collect data from its customers. Managers have ‘forged a personal bond’ (Andruss, 2012) between their brand and the customer by providing lists of recommended products specifically targeted at individuals based on their previous shopping history and other data. They send these recommendations directly to customers via email newsletters shown in the picture below.
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Ultimately, the adoption of a branding strategy that has increased personalisation for customers has been seen to aid profitability in business through the improvement of brand equity. This is due to that fact that ‘personalised experiences build better emotional engagement with users’ (Ballard, 2011:25) and therefore enable a business to differentiate their brand from competitors. Furthermore, customers are more likely to be brand loyal when a personalised branding strategy is implemented because the brands ‘reflect something of how they would like to see themselves’ (Cottineau, 2012:242).

International Brand Development

In the past 20 years, globalisation has unified national economies to create a global economy which, has opened up opportunities for international trade and business expansion (Sarkar, 2010:47). In addition to this, there has been a significant increase in ‘the share of global sales out of total sales in the recent past’ (Ghose and Lowengart, 2009:365). This new trend has led to an increase in the number of brands operating internationally which, ‘has created a challenge for marketers as they need to compete against local products targeting diverse consumer segments’ (Ghose and Lowengart, 2009:365). Accordingly, managers have to develop international brand strategies to enable them to succeed whilst implementing a multinational or even worldwide brand.
The development of international and global brands has proven to be advantageous for international businesses (Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004). Customer’s attitudes are more favourable and their likelihood of purchase increased towards global brands (Punyatoya et al, 2014:171) therefore, allowing great scope for profit ventures against the competition of local brands.
On the contrary, international brand development can involve a number of risks. For example, the centralised strategies used by international businesses for international branding development can be ‘insensitive to local markets’ and unresponsive to problems that may occur (Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004). Coca-Cola, who has undertaken extensive international brand development and created an exceedingly successful global brand, experienced these problems recently. Operations were forced to revert back to a multidomestic branding strategy, by giving more independence to local subsidiaries which, successfully focused branding to local requirements (Schuiling and Kapferer, 2004).
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Environmental and Ethical Branding Strategy

The proliferation of news about environmental issues and climate chance is changing people’s values on sustainability. Customers are now becoming more ‘concerned about environmental issues’ and want ‘to know how and where products are made’ (Doval et al, 2013). Consequently, this outlook influences their buying behaviour when it comes to choosing between brands. The rise of these recent environmental issues and their effect on customer behaviour has forced businesses to become more sustainable across all business functions by reducing waste and minimising their environmental impact where possible.

Moreover, there has also been significant media coverage on unethical business operations showing unfair trading with lower economically developed countries. Vending International (2008:20) has identified that people care where the products they buy come from and the quality of life experienced by the people who make them. Due to this consensus of opinion amongst customers, businesses are put under the additional constraint of having to make their operations ethical through means such as ethical sourcing. Business’s branding strategies need to reflect these ethical and environmental changes and showcase this in their core business values via an ethical brand.

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Tetley (a tea manufacturing company) have implemented a branding strategy with ethical sourcing at its heart. They have presented these values to their customer via their brand, by becoming ‘a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership’ (Vending International, 2008:20). Ben and Jerry’s are another brand that have considered these new trends and changed their branding strategy to suit. Managers have promoted this through a video (below) that shows how sustainable and ethical values are being incorporated into their brand image.



Businesses who demonstrate their commitment to environmental and ethical issues to customers via their branding ‘establish a strong connection between their luxury image and positive social and environmental values’ (Gibson and Seibold, 2014:780). Accordingly, it has been seen that the development of an ethical or environmental branding strategy with implementation of the associated marketing materials can have a positive effect on brand equity and the bottom line.

Brand Protection Strategies

The counterfeiting of brands is a substantial ‘problem for the luxury industry, one that has arisen in recent years’ (Qian, 2014:59). This issue is causing a number of problems for businesses selling luxury goods. It can result in a decline in brand equity and perceived quality of the brand which, may lead to a decline in sales due to customers buying the counterfeit product or service instead of the genuine branded one. Despite laws in intellectual property that protect the rights of a brand, counterfeiting is costing the UK economy £30m every year (Mahdawi, 2013).

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This issue has recently accelerated, placing pressure on businesses to compete with low cost counterfeit products. However, managers have the opportunity to ‘implement brand protection strategies’ to counteract this problem (Chen, et al, 2013:375). There are a number of methods which can be employed to help prevent counterfeiting in addition to the laws already in place. Firstly, businesses can ‘put emphasis on the superior quality’ of their brand by offering ‘a lifetime warranty on products’ (Chen, et al, 2013:381). This encourages customers to buy their brand by making it worth their money in the long run. Secondly, businesses can communicate with potential customers to illustrate ‘the key differences between’ their branded goods and counterfeits (Chen, et al, 2013:382). This helps customers to identify counterfeits and avoid buying them if they do not intent to do so. Thirdly, businesses can ‘educate consumers not to purchase counterfeit goods’ by explaining that the purchase of counterfeits is illegal and by ‘associating negative images with counterfeit goods’ (Chen, et al, 2013:382). Rather than aid businesses to take advantage of opportunities, these brand protection strategies helps businesses to prevent a decline in their brand equity which can lead to a loss in profits.


Securing the future of SMEs through branding strategy - (Lauren O'Brien)
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This division of the wiki page is intended to contribute and build upon the existing content, with a specific focus on the role of branding strategy in relation to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The impact branding strategy has upon SMEs will be explored, including why many SMEs reject the notion of investing in their branding strategy, and the rationale for the adoption of such a strategy.

As previously mentioned, key global trends and increased competition within the marketplace are forcing businesses to create, or reassess, their branding strategy. Holt (2002) expresses that businesses must create a strong brand to allow them to increase their marketplace competitiveness and attract a wide variety of consumers.

Despite this, many SMEs and independently run businesses are reluctant to invest their capital in building their brand. This is due to the belief held by many entrepreneurs that branding can in fact be counterproductive to small businesses (American Express, 2011), questioners of branding strategy believe that creating a narrowly defined target audience restricts revenue and growth opportunities. Sceptics argue that allocating time and resources to developing a branding strategy detracts from profitability.

However, Lincoln (2012) argues that the above assumptions are a fallacy which must be rectified if SMEs wish to grow and sustain a profitable business. He argues that adopting a branding strategy allows SMEs to define their personality and value proposition, leading to differentiation through brand positioning. Adopting a branding strategy is important for all businesses, however it is especially important for small enterprises as it essential they enter successfully into the global market, consequently creating their own identity and growing in popularity (Chakraborty et al., 2013).

Lincoln (2012) proposes various benefits which SMEs are able to reap once they invest in operating a branding strategy:

-Awareness: Creating a strong brand through a coordinated branding strategy ensures customers will recall the company next time they need a particular product or service. Additionally, creating awareness helps SMEs to gain recognition from customers.

-Identity: An effective brand strategy will outline the communication of a small business brand, by encompassing its name, and visual appearance. This is important as the brand identity of an SME is a vital means of customers recognising its brand, enabling a consistent brand image to be created, differentiating the SME from its competitors.

-Harmonisation: All products and services are able to achieve a consistent name, visual identity and positioning across the market the SME operates in, even when the SME has a broad range of products and services.

From observing the discussion above, it can be seen that the key to success for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises is the implementation and maintenance of a purposeful branding strategy. Due to expanding markets and global pressures, the need for SMEs to have a strong brand is greater than ever before, as Holt (2002) emphasises that SMEs need a strong brand identity to capture new customers and increase their market competitiveness. Although there is some reluctance shown by SMEs to implementing such a strategy, Lincoln (2012) stresses the various benefits of allocating resources to create a focused branding strategy, including increased consumer awareness, a strong brand identity, and the harmonisation of all products and services offered by SMEs.


Summary

There are a plethora of new branding strategies emerging regularly due to changes in the external business environment, be that due to the development of new technology, the rise of environmental issues or an escalation in counterfeiting goods. These occurrences have the potential to damage or give opportunity to brands, forcing businesses to create branding strategies that either protect their brand or allow them to exploit these new developments.


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Additional Bibliography:


American Express (2011) Why Brand Image is Important to the Tiniest of Businesses. Available at: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of-businesses/ (Accessed 1 April 2015)



Chakraborty, A., Deb, S., Mostafa, M., & Choudhary, A. (2013) ‘Importance of Brand for SMEs’ Business Management and Social Sciences Research, 2 (3), pp 45-48. [Online] Available at: http://borjournals.com/Research_papers/Mar_2013/1174M.pdf (Accessed: 3 April 2015)



Holt, B. (2002) 'Why Do Brands Cause Trouble? A Dialectical Theory of Consumer Culture and Branding'. Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 29 (1), pp. 70-90. [Online] Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=6789004&site=bsi-live (Accessed: 3 April 2015)



Lincoln, J. (2012) Why Brand Strategy and Branding Matters for SMEs. Available at: http://www.johnlincoln.biz/why-brand-strategy-and-branding-matters-for-smes/ (Accessed 4 April 2015)