As previously published on In Business Wisconsin February 25, 2014 issue
By Dawn Riedel, director of brand management & marketing services, Associated Bank
Since starting my career in the marketing field 20 years ago, I have never personally been part of a campaign that has received as much employee and customer support as Associated Bank’s new “A good fit” brand campaign featuring the Green Chair. It was an unconventional move to ask our customers to take such a large role in our campaign, but we know better than anyone that banking is personal, and we were humbled to find customers willing to speak on our behalf about why our bank is “a good fit” for them.
It is a known fact that the best brand campaigns have the power to set a company apart from its competitors, increase internal and external loyalty, and accelerate profits. However, what those planning a new brand strategy often forget is that it takes time. Overwhelmed by the excitement of the opportunity and motivated by managers and others wanting to “get going,” sometimes companies bypass some of the most vital elements to developing a successful campaign.
It’s important to realize that a company’s brand is part of its culture and must be real to those who are your most visible brand ambassadors: your employees. But in order to achieve this brand image, it’s essential that all steps in the strategy development process are completed and all delivery vehicles are explored before launching into a new campaign.
Steps of strategy development for a successful brand campaign
- Research: qualitative and quantitative
- Developing the framework, strategy, and messages
- Plan best delivery channels
- Launch campaign
Before developing your strategy, qualitative and quantitative research must be completed to understand what the current state of your brand is and how this image compares to your competition. How is your company perceived by others? A large part of this research must include talking with employees, customers, and potential clients to see how close your existing image compares to the image you would like to portray. Additionally, this will allow you to identify what aspect of your business is most valuable — the golden nugget that is, or will become, your point of differentiation.
Once you do this, you will be able to start developing the framework of your strategy, starting with the formation of your core brand positioning statement. This statement is meant to be kept internal but will allow you to identify attributes and personality traits that directly relate to your brand. By doing so, employees will be able to much more easily absorb the message you want to get across. All employees should be able to succinctly share the same message to ensure brand consistency throughout the company or organization. After this is done, you will be able to build out your key messages and plan which channels you want to deliver your messages across.
When deciding which platforms to utilize, it is important to remember that frequency and consistency are the major players. Although using an integrated, multilayer strategy will enable your company to reach the most people and break through the clutter, it’s important to remember that in a pinch, your website and social media channels can be a cost-effective way to launch a campaign and start the conversation with customers and prospective customers.
However, in order for any of this to be effective, every company must have internal and external buy-in, going back to the core positioning statement that supports your business goals. Internally, employees are the ones who are delivering the customer experience. Therefore, if employees don’t believe the message you are trying to deliver, neither will your customers. In order to avoid this, it’s extremely important for the executive leadership to be a part of the entire development and execution of the campaign. Without executive leadership involvement, it will be nearly impossible for employees across levels to see the value in the brand and its differentiating factor from competitors.
To this end, it’s critical that your brand as an employer and as a provider to customers play hand in hand. How you recruit your employees and communicate with them regularly to engage them in the success of your company and your customer relationships will directly influence the strength of your brand.
By putting in the necessary time for each step, basing your plans in the core truth of your customer experience and culture, and bringing those truths to life in a differentiated, compelling way, companies of all sizes will be able to create a successful brand strategy.