- 4 Principles for Building and Sustaining Brand Equity - July 9, 2016
Millions of businesses are joining the startup world each year. In an environment flush with competition, those new to the field must strive to differentiate themselves from other entities. But what separates one excellent product from another? That would be the brand, which becomes one of the most important assets as a company grows and develops.
“Brand equity” refers to the value of a brand name that a company holds. When it comes to building a brand and business from the ground up, there are many key elements to establish. Having a strong brand equity goes beyond simple distinctions such as the company name, logo or package design. It also requires selecting the right brand elements, creating differentiation, generating awareness, maintaining a solid reputation, and most importantly, connecting with customers.
Even once you’ve established a strong brand, you must continue to sustain and protect that brand equity in order to succeed as a competitor in the industry.
As an entrepreneur, learning how to build, protect and sustain your brand equity is fundamental to your company’s success. Keep in mind these four essential principles when managing and preserving your company’s brand.
One of the basic components in developing a solid brand equity is to have a product or service that stands out. It is your unique attributes that will make you stand out from your competitors. A strong product differentiation leads to competitive advantage, all of which contributes to brand equity.
The brand awareness and brand association of a business are strongly influenced by the quality of the products and services. This entails:
- Points-of-parity: elements of a brand that are necessary for it to be recognized as a legitimate competitor in the industry
- Points-of-differentiation: the unique attributes of a business that differentiates it from its competitors
For developing an excellent product or service, address these points first:
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- Why should a customer buy your product compared to a competitor’s product?
- What are the basic, expected and desired needs from your customers? How can you serve them?
- Will your differentiated product have a cost advantage? Could your in-house expertise or capabilities be easily replicated by others?
A strong product differentiation doesn’t simply mean having a high-quality product with impeccable features, but rather it indicates that your product is unique enough for it to be difficult to imitate. Once these features and characteristics of the product are well established, this makes it easier to protect the brand from any marketing threats.
Brand consistency and image
When the product development stage is completed, the next step is to create brand image and consistency. Brand image constitutes brand elements, which are the various aspects that identify and differentiate a brand. This includes the business, logo, tagline, slogan, signature colors and package design.
It’s in your best interest to preserve and protect these brand elements. Brand consistency and the uniformity in packaging, advertising and promotions can bring cost advantages. In fact, branding experts from the article “One World, One Car, One Name” in Bloomberg BusinessWeek state that using only one name for branding purposes can help businesses save marketing costs up to tens of millions of dollars per year.
Your brand is at its strongest when consumers can easily recognize and associate the style of marketing and products with your brand without any mentioning of the name or logo. Many successful companies are able to achieve this brand consistency such as Target, with its distinctive logo and style.
Having brand consistency can prevent customer confusion and allows for a stronger consumer impression. Branding must elicit the same type of feeling and recognition across all mediums, whether on the company website, social media, product packaging, marketing materials or advertisements.
Legally protect your brand and trademarks
What happens if you see another company copying your idea? Your unique ideas are intellectual property, which must be protected.
Copyright/trademark infringement is a common issue for businesses and is something that could easily tarnish a brand. It’s essential to register with the right legal entities first by filing a trademark to preserve and protect the brand rights. For example, in the U.S., you would register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Businesses with strong brands have often found themselves taking legal action against another entity. Stolen ideas and trademark infringements would pull these companies into lawsuits and legal consequences. For example, Starbucks once sued a dog day care center called, “Starbarks.” The famous coffeehouse chain had to write cease and desist letters to take further action to protect their trademarked name and logo. As a result, the pet daycare center Starbarks had to redesign its entire logo and change the business name. The changes prompted rebranding of the entire business, which affected their customer relationship and brand image.
The ownership and rights over these products and ideas are absolutely essential in establishing brand consistency, credibility, and reputation.
Sustainability and longevity of the brand
Once the foundation of the business and brand are well-established, how can you build your brand to make it in the long-run?
Brand sustainability is about perpetuating long-term differentiation and strong brand recognition.
This can be achieved through sustainable competitive advantage, which means having unique abilities, attributes and company assets that are difficult to be reproduced or exceeded by another company. If the assets and brand elements of the company are tough to replicate, this paves way for the company to have a competitive edge. It’s essential to hold a superior position over and persistently outperform the competitors in the industry. By continuously developing value and benefits, you are seeking to create a long-lasting relationship with your customers.
Through building and strengthening your brand and the business, you are protecting and sustaining your brand equity, which is critical in paving a concrete road to success as a leading competitor.