We work closely with our clients to establish and manage their brands – from the analysis, strategy and identity development phases, to implementation and brand controlling efforts. Evaluating the strengths and opportunities of brands and defining their identities is just a small part of the many services we offer. We partner with our clients to transform brands into effective strategic management tools that define clear goals, simplify operational decisions, and ensure the viability of organizations and companies over the long term.
Measuring the brand: The beauty and the beast
»Half of my advertising is a waste – I just don’t know which half«. Henry Ford supposedly said this. The quote may be charming, but is not a fundamental law of marketing.
For many years now, practical criteria have been in place to measure and document the benefits of advertising and brand maintenance efforts. The key to their success: a functioning system of key performance indicators (KPIs). It helps to identify the right starting points to strengthen the brand and make strategic decisions that have a positive impact on the entire company.
Naturally, there is no one ideal solution to implement an effective KPI system – companies, brands and stakeholder groups are simply too different for this to be the case. Instead, there are principles which can be used to create a logical system.
Deriving strategic brand objectives
Brand objectives may not be developed in isolation, but need to be derived from the company’s overarching strategic aims. In other words: The KPI system should correspond to the company strategy as well as the brand positioning. Choosing the right indicators will help make the brand objectives more tangible and manageable.
It is necessary to measure KPIs from different areas in order to determine the strength of the brand. For example, the area of »perception« involves exploring brand awareness and the level of quality customers associate with the brand. »Behavior« encompasses key performance indicators like the percentage of repeat buyers or the willingness to pay a premium for a brand-name product. Reliable feedback on all of these aspects can be collected by conducting surveys.
Companies are often tempted to request and measure as many KPIs as possible. Furiously collecting data only leads to amassing huge amounts of raw data, but in the end, the findings are frequently quite minimal. When it comes to KPIs, less is usually more: In most cases, the best approach is to choose a dozen indicators that can be examined in detail in terms of expenses and revenue.
Strengthening every aspect of the brand
It is necessary to get all stakeholders involved – customers, vendors and investors – in order to achieve a truly holistic assessment of the brand. Relevant competitors should also be included as KPIs tend to be less informative when viewed in isolation. The data is collected, structured and formatted in a logical way to promote careful and thorough analysis. All findings flow directly into brand and management decisions. This is how the KPI system promotes objective, data driven brand management.
People shouldn’t be intimidated by the challenges involved when implementing a KPI system as it can be easily adapted and scaled to meet the unique needs of each corporate brand. The metrics gained from this analysis provide an indispensable basis for the further development of the brand. They reveal the brand’s strength and success, making brand management efforts more logical and efficient. And in the end, the entire company profits.
Brands and innovation: Friend or foe?
Strong brands thrive on clever innovations, but these can sometimes have a destructive impact. Tools and methods are available to help avoid such negative outcomes.
The topic of innovation is important to every company. Approximately 30,000 new products launch on the German market each year, primarily from prominent manufacturers of branded goods. Such efforts have major flaws, however: 50 to 60 percent of these products are not accepted by customers*. The magnitude of these failures is even more dramatic when one considers that customer-oriented innovations are at the heart of successful growth strategies. New products and services create relevance in saturated markets and in times of crisis, boosting sales and profits. This only works if a company can actually adopt the customer and market perspectives, and establish an effective innovation process internally. Instead of simply claiming to be innovative, companies need to exemplify and be powered by innovation.
All innovations need to be in line with the brand. In many cases, innovative ingenuity is considered a main prerequisite for success. But only the fewest organizations link brand management to the innovation process internally. Many implement new ideas without taking the brand identity into account, creating dissonance in the overall brand profile. In the worst case, customers no longer know what the company or product stands for in the end. In order to reveal their full potential, innovations need to be consistently integrated into the overall brand identity.
How good are innovations?
Developing innovations should involve efforts in two different directions: An established innovation process within the company, and customer integration.
Canyon is a good example of how a company successfully examines whether or not innovations will have a beneficial impact on the brand. The exclusive bicycle manufacturer worked with KMS TEAM to develop a method for evaluating product and service innovations in line with the brand’s mindset. Suggestions for improvements and changes are brainstormed and evaluated in the process. This approach and the decision regarding whether or not the suggestions are to be realized is closely linked to the company’s design and communication concept. As such, products and services are always integrated directly into the overall brand identity.
A positive side effect of this evaluation system is that is dramatically shortens the time and effort required to make decisions internally. It helps Canyon bring relevant innovations to market very quickly – and they are also a good fit for the brand.
MINI is an excellent example of how companies can get customers involved as innovators. MINI gets customers actively involved in designing models, services and other vehicle elements through its online portal »minispace.com«, and allows them to take part in the innovation process for the brand. All suggestions can be evaluated at the end, and the idea with the most votes is chosen for implementation. MINI gives its customers the feeling of making their own contributions to the brand. Realizing these ideas helps the company generate enthusiasm surrounding the brand while creating equally relevant innovations. MINI promotes a very lively, on-brand dialogue among specific target audiences through this portal.
In summary, key prerequisites for customer-oriented, on-brand innovations include getting customers and employees equally involved in innovation work, and establishing an innovation process that is exemplified throughout the company. Brand management should also be involved in developing innovations early on to ensure that all ideas are created and evaluated in line with the brand.
After all, the customer determines the success of each innovation in the end.
*Absatzwirtschaft: »A marketing trap for new products« (December 4, 2014)
Author: Katrin Rindermann, Brand Strategy Consultant KMS TEAM