Monday, September 24, 2007

How to move your brand Forward - Fast

This paper is based on a presentation given to my staff by Katie Pendlay and Matt Yazici in July, 2007.

Stinson Brand Innovation applies numerous proprietary tools to help our clients maximize their brand potential. One of these very valuable tools, especially useful when defining a new brand, evaluating a brand in a time of change, reviewing a portfolio of brands, or repairing a brand that has been damaged, is called Forward. Fast.®.

Harnessing Brand Power
What is a brand? One of the reasons it is so difficult to pin down an answer on this subject is that a brand skirts the line between art and science. A brand is a customer’s feelings about a product, service, or organization. It is also at its best when its elements harmonize to display a level of deceptive simplicity. This play between design and feelings creates a complex mechanism of visual, verbal, emotional, and experiential elements.

Powerful brands are extremely valuable to a company. They allow that company to charge a premium price, because someone loyal to a brand will expect to pay more for the product or service. Powerful brands lead to brand loyalty, and with that comes increased market share, higher stock prices, and increased future earnings as loyal customers evangelize the brand to others.

Forward. Fast.® is a marketing tool that diagrams, defines, and evaluates a brand. It is a framework that we apply to a brand, and it allows us to look closely at key aspects of said brand. The idea is to learn what a logo really stands for and the attitude it projects, then to understand what positive brand associations can be created. By going through this process, we can make the shift from brand memorability to brand loyalty.

The framework of Forward. Fast.® is composed of two parts, the “Play” side, which explores what the current situation is, and the “Fast Forward” side, which explores the possibilities of your brand. Each part is composed of three elements.

Taking a memorable brand…
The “Play” side consists of Likeability, Logo, and Quality Offering.
► Likeability is described by industry reputation and general awareness of the brand. It is measured by analyzing internal and external customer listening by interviewing account managers and customers alike.
► The Logo is a type treatment and/or brand mark and also encompasses parent company representation. We measure this by reviewing the creative rationale for the current logo lock-up including color, font, and placement of each element.
► Quality Offering is represented by product offerings and quality claims. To measure this we evaluate the value proposition of the brand and key points of difference to competitors using substantive, quantifiable data.

…and turning it into brand loyalty

The “Fast Forward” side consists of Associations, Attitude, and Quality Experience.
► Associations are memorable links to other things. This can be characters, non-profit programs, or any other variety of connection. We develop these connections to programs and images that we can associate with the brand, and identify potential partner companies and other brands within the group that can lend credibility to the targeted brand.
► Attitude is the “personality” of the brand, and could be represented by a coined word or phrase. The best way to create a unique personality is to develop visual and verbal campaign hallmarks.
► Quality Experience is the subjective evaluation of interaction with the product and/or brand. It is usually described qualitatively rather than quantitatively. We perform an external customer listening to evaluate whether customers feel supported and if they feel the brand is reliable.

Though each case is specific, a general application of our Forward. Fast.® tool would run approximately 6 weeks. The first two weeks are a review and assessment period. During this time, we will examine current promotional materials, journal advertising, trade associations, and competitive analysis. The next week will be two-fold. We will conduct customers listening via conference calls with account managers and phone interviews with customers. These first three weeks represent the initial analysis and will fill in the blanks on the “Play” side of the diagram.

During the next two weeks, we will begin creating the Fast Forward side. We will establish two or three concepts for a visual and verbal framework, including a core visual, tagline and key messages, as well as a sample brand vocabulary. The next week is spent validating our findings with account managers and customers, to ensure that the models we’ve created are effective.

By applying the Forward. Fast.® framework to a brand, we can dial down and get to the heart of what the brand means both internally and externally. Once we know where we are, we can develop strategies to get the brand where it needs to be. Anyone can have brand memorability. But why not move your brand Forward. Fast.® and acquire brand loyalty.

We can help.

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