Despite the clear power of branding, brand promotion agencies themselves are falling behind in promoting their own brands, according to research from Canadian brand agency Gottschalk+Ash International, which suggests a number of simple ways to increase brand marketing business.
There's no question about it: with so many new branded products arriving on the market every day, clearly defined brands help businesses both increase profits and capture their target audiences.
Gottschalk+Ash has conducted its first survey of the attitudes corporations have toward branding firms in order to understand the challenges companies face when hiring a branding firm, building internal brand awareness, and managing their brand messages.
Change for growth
The Gottschalk+Ash 'Attitude to Branding Firms' survey revealed a number of ways in which branding agencies are letting themselves down or could improve their performance, including:
67% of those interviewed reported that no branding firm had approached to them in the past 12 months, and 34% said that no branding company had never approached them.
- Decision making:
In particular, corporate Senior Vice Presidents commented that branding firms tend to only market to Directors of Marketing or Corporate Communications Managers. It was suggested that branding firms should also target some other senior level prospects in their quest for new business opportunities.
Only 60% of the companies interviewed are currently using a branding firm; many said that they would remain with a firm longer if branding projects were flexible and able to evolve with company needs.
- Annual brand meetings:
Only one in eight companies (12.5%) reported having an annual brand meeting. It was suggested that companies and their brand agencies should schedule annual brand meetings and audits.
The majority of those interviewed were concerned with their inability to impress their operations teams with the importance of branding. The brand was often viewed internally as merely being advertising or a logo.
All of the companies surveyed clearly identified three key attributes that would determine their selection of a branding agency:
Decision makers said they want brand leaders to demonstrate that they have listened to them and that they understand the company, its challenges, and where it wants to go. Branding solutions that demonstrated a clear financial benefit or ROI were the ones that most impressed business leaders.
Decision makers said they need to feel confident that the branding firm they choose has the knowledge, capability and the commitment to deliver on its promises. This means the firm needs not only experience and vision but also a practical approach.
Decision makers said they need to feel comfortable with the employees from the branding firm they work with. While branding firms should have a point of view of their own, they should also maintain ideals that are consistent and responsive to the culture of the client company. In other words, branding companies should listen first, and then offer responsive leadership.
According to Gottschalk+Ash, there are several ways that branding firms can improve their client and prospect relations:
- Relate branding to business objectives and financial gains. Branding firms should aim to present clients with financial data on the value of a brand as a tangible asset.
- Encourage clients to think about brands as evolving organisms requiring ongoing relationships. The majority of subjects surveyed used branding firms on a per-project basis. Many respondents suggested developing a long-term relationship through yearly reviews of branding programmes.
- Educate clients and prospects (including senior executives) on the true value of a brand and brand management programmes, and provide educational material.
- Create a brand management manual to help clients with the processes of brand implementation, education and rollout.
- Research a client or prospect's industry and develop an in-depth understanding of the company and the challenges it faces.
According to Justin Young, director of client services for Gottschalk+Ash, "Building a strong brand identity is a strategic necessity for companies to survive in both global and Canadian markets. Brands are key to building and retaining customer loyalty along with creating long term growth and success."