Corporate Eye

5 Steps for Greater Brand Focus and Long-term Growth

The strongest brands are highly focused. Consumers know exactly what the most focused brands promise to them the second they hear those brand names. These are the brands that offer a sense of security and stability to consumers which lead to brand loyalty and long-term brand growth. However, making sure your brand stays focused over time can be challenging as the world, consumers, and competitors change around you.

Following are five steps to continually test your brand strategy against to ensure you stay focused. They might seem rudimentary, but corporate executives forget them every day.

1. Know your target audience.

As time passes, your target audience is likely to evolve. You need to analyze these changes and determine when your brand needs to change as well. In other words, flexibility is key but don’t change for the sake of changing. Remember your brand focus and change only when it’s appropriate for the long-term success of your brand.

2. Test brand focus viability.

As the macro-environment changes, your brand focus might have to change in order to survive. Consider newspapers today. They’re a dying breed that didn’t change when technology and the widespread accessibility of digital information through the Internet exploded. Those brands stayed too rigid in their brand focus and ignored or denied the fact that the viability of that focus was coming to an end.  Today, many of those brands are struggling to stay relevant and stay alive.

3. Keep tabs on your competitors.

What differentiated your brand and gave you a competitive edge in the past, might not work in the future. You need to actively track your competitors’ activities to ensure your own focus continues to provide the differentiation you need for consumers to choose your brand over others. Competitive analysis doesn’t stop after your brand is launched.

4. Make sure your brand focus isn’t shortsighted.

Unless you want to reinvest a lot of money into launching a new brand or revamping your existing brand significantly in the future, you need to make sure that you’re always thinking in the long-term when it comes to your brand strategy. Strong brands can survive through far more obstacles than weak brands can. Therefore, make sure your brand is viable in the short-term, as you learned in #2 above, as well as for years to come.

5. Extend your brand carefully.

Brand extensions are the easiest way for a brand to lose focus. Don’t let the hope of entering a new market or expanding your product line in order to reach new customers and boost profits destroy your brand focus. Brand extensions should always appropriately reflect your focused brand promise. If you extend your brand in ways that confuse consumers, they’ll turn away from your brand in search of another that meets their expectations based on the brand promise. In other words, instead of making more money and getting more customers through a brand extension, you could lose money and customers.

No matter what you do, make sure you know what your brand’s focus and promise are and evaluate all marketing opportunities against that focus and promise to ensure they’re right for your brand in the long-term.

Image: stock.xchng

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as MSNBC.com, BusinessWeek.com, TodayShow.com, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
 
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