Every successful brand has managed to communicate its company's core beliefs and attitudes—what the company stands for—to its target customers.
Brands allow you to clearly define and communicate what you stand for, whether you're the “lowest-cost provider,” the “most innovative,” the “best total solution,” the “preferred choice” and so on.
But you've got to decide what your brand stands for, and communicate that value proposition effectively and repeatedly. It's not good enough to just run a quality business—you've got to let everyone know what sets you apart from the pack.
The Architecture of a Brand
A brand architecture lays out the key elements of the brand in detail and reveals specific messages and key takeaways for the target audience (customers and consumers). A brand architecture can include emotional benefits, functional benefits, physical benefits, product attributes, occasion appropriateness, user imagery and a variety of other intangibles.
The architecture represents the structural integrity of the brand, delineating how it is built, how it works and how the components fit together to deliver meaningful benefits to the consumer.
Brand architecture combines both the science and the art of marketing into an integrated process. It is grounded in the science of understanding why customers purchase and use products, it and provides direction regarding which elements can create the strongest connection to the customer. It allows the marketer to apply judgment and intuition to act on customer and consumer insights. And, finally, it produces a strategic framework visible to the entire organization.
You can determine the structure of brand architecture by focusing on the key drivers—the attributes or benefits that influence customers' overall decision to purchase or use a product:
- Cost of entry drivers encompass the benefits that any brand must deliver to be considered a viable option. If you're a fast-food provider, you'd better be able to serve your customers their burgers and fries in a hurry. Everyone in the competitive frame can deliver these benefits; they're the minimum ante necessary to play the game. To determine the cost of entry benefits, you need to understand why consumers purchase any brand in the competitive frame, and determine how your brand stacks up on these benefits.
- Differentiation drivers are the benefits that begin to positively separate you from the rest of the competition. These are capabilities or equities that you possess that others in the competitive set may not. Of course, these benefits may not appeal or be motivating to all customers in the target audience. Indeed, if these benefits are not of significant importance, they may remove you from customers' consideration—it doesn't matter how comfortable your minivan is, for instance, if someone's determined not to buy a minivan. More importantly, your distinct benefits may not be at the top of your consumers' minds, and will therefore require a certain amount of communication and education to induce purchase.
- Preference drivers are benefits that can propel a brand to category leadership. These benefits are crucial in the minds of customers as they consider various brand alternatives in your competitive set. These types of benefits represent significant points of leverage with customers and can become the source of sustainable advantages. These may be as simple as a “buy American” consideration, or they may come about through extensive research and experience with a variety of competitors. Preference drivers are the trump card, the brand attributes that keep your customers coming back again and again.
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