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Explainer

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Synopsis

Do you know how healthy your brand is? Whether you want to overhaul an existing brand image, improve your brand's health, or define your brand for the first time, this Brand Management framework is an all-in-one brand management toolkit. In this explainer, we'll cover the top tools for brand management and how to use them, including a Brand Anatomy Breakdown, Brand Audit, Brand Statement Formula, an Omnichannel Overview for Brands and a Brand Health Tracker — all of which you can download and customize for your needs.

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Outcome

This brand management resource consists of exploratory tools to deconstruct what makes a good brand, how to sustain it, improve it, and put it all together to ensure a healthy brand image with a strong consumer perception. These tools help explain how the household brands we love have become so integrated into our psyche. We in turn boil these subconscious feelings down into a single adjective. But for the company, brand management consists of hundreds of smaller components that all add up to form a complete brand image.

Tool highlights

Brand anatomy

Think about the funky shoe brand Crocs - how did these holed, foam clogs go from an internet meme to become one of the most popular brands in 2021? While Crocs' iconic shoe was released in 2002 and seen as a major growth stock by the time of its IPO in 2007, it was largely written off as a fad by 2008 and its stock plunged from $69 to $1 after it lost over $185 million in profit during the recession.

However, by the start of the coronavirus pandemic, its comfort-over-style look came back with a vengeance. According to Crocs' Senior Vice President and CMO Heidi Cooley, the company saw a surge in 60% growth in 2020 and plans for year over year growth as high as 50% by year-end 2021. Its stock as of November 2021 sits around $170 a share, and since 2008, the company has sold over 700 million pairs of shoes. So what did Crocs do?

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In this brand anatomy breakdown, you can deconstruct your brand via an iceberg visualization. Execs can use this Brand Anatomy breakdown to structure their conversations around brand equity and inform team-wide conversations so everyone speaks the same language of brand management. If a C-level exec needs to tackle a "brand make-over", they can use these categories to structure their renovations. (Slide 5)

Levels of bran anatomy

The surface level of a brand is its iconic capital - its look and feel. Crocs' iconic capital created a love-hate relationship with consumers, which created headwinds in the short term but contributed to its success in the long run. Underneath the surface are the experiential elements of the brand like the company's financial capital, which covers the strategic planning behind the brand and how well the company manages investor relations, sales goals, its marketing strategy, and so on. In 2008, Crocs grew faster than it could handle and took ten years to get its financial capital back on track.

Then there's emotional capital, which is customer-centric through either direct customer relation, referrals or retention. Crocs ultimate win was due to its focus on emotional capital. It created strong loyalty with its fans both due to its emphasis on disrupting the status quo and its focus on collectability with must-have collabs and promos. While the brand's quirkiness won it over with status-quo bucking Gen-Z, its comfort won over older shoppers. Plus, the pandemic accelerated the trend towards comfortable clothes — and Crocs had the perfect brand to take advantage.

Execs also shouldn't forget human capital, which is the company's internal culture. If a company's employees are disengaged, it hurts its brand like a walking negative billboard. Improve brand health and employee retention with strong leadership tactics that make employees proud to work for your company.

Brand audit

Now that you have established all the contributing components of a brand with your team, you'll need to conduct an audit to determine where you stand now. Did you know Formula 1 is the fastest growing sports league on social media ahead of the NBA, Premier League and UFC? Today the sport receives around half a billion unique viewers every year, but that wasn't always the case. Before Liberty Media took the organization over in 2017, Formula 1 was a declining sport that made most of its money from licensing rights and setting up races and didn't even have a marketing department.

So how did this new parent company turn things around? First and foremost, it started with a brand audit. Brand audits examine your current brand status to learn where you stand with consumers today and help to bridge the gap to where you want to go in the future. Many companies do brand audits differently and use varied tools. For example, a Brand Mind Map helps execs plot a list of topics to cover when considering their brand. This visualization includes some common areas to consider, like strengths and weaknesses, customer targets, company purpose or competitors. (Slide 17)

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As Liberty Media rebranded Formula 1 in 2017, it created a new logo, updated intro graphics, and launched a new app. But all of these individual changes were mapped under the umbrella to transform the organization from a "motorsport" company to an entertainment company. It retooled its camera positions and microphone placements to better capture the speed and sound of the sport for digital consumption. Because Formula 1 owns all the copyright to its hundreds of hours of content each season, it could leverage this beyond TV deals to new internet venues, like Youtube recaps or the Netflix Drive to Survive docuseries which made the series more accessible to American audiences in particular.

Other brand audit tools include a traffic analysis to assess where the public engages with your brand or a customer survey to learn how your brand is perceived by customers directly. Add the answers up and calculate a net promoter score. (Slide 18-20) As part of Liberty Media's Formula 1 brand audit, it learned that its core audience wanted to go deeper and casual viewers needed more information to truly invest in the sport. So it made a new partnership with AWS to utilize each car's 120 unique sensors and synthesize this data to allow the fans to go deeper with in-depth analytics to capture driver speed and other stats against all-time records and other drivers on screen in real-time.

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This data is now used to provide deeper analysis for fans on the company's app, live TV, and even provide in-depth analysis through its Formula 1 TV subscription streaming service. The company is now focused on growing its US audience, which is why it invested in its Netflix series, launched a new race in Miami for 2022, and even scrapped its NBC deal for a new partnership with ESPN that gives sports fans access for free.

Brand statement formula

Now that you know where your brand stands with the public today, it's time to address direct relations with an updated brand statement. A brand statement formula can be used to force yourself to think in terms of critical talking points to create credibility and answer subconscious questions in your customer's mind. There are two options for when you want to focus on your competitors vs when you want to compare yourself to a competitor. (Slide 14)

For example, both Nike and Adidas have released similar brand statements over the last few years. Here's one from Nike: "At Nike, we're committed to creating a better, more sustainable future for our people, planet, and communities through the power of sport."

Here's the one from Adidas: "Our purpose, 'through sport, we have the power to change lives,' guides the way we run our company, how we work with our partners, how we create our products, and how we engage with our consumers. We will always strive to expand the limits of human possibilities, to include and unite people in sport, and to create a more sustainable world"

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Both statements focus on a larger purpose, in this instance a focus on sustainability. The hidden engine behind the words is the idea of innovation. Through innovation, both brands want to create a more sustainable future. But why did both Adidas and Nike feel the need to address sustainability in their brand statements?

Because the fashion industry produces over 92 million tons of waste per year, the fast-fashion supply chain has become under direct criticism from consumers. With greater awareness and emphasis put into sustainability in 2021 especially, both brands have amped up their efforts and more specifically, their messaging. To break the brand statement creation process even further, you can use a more detailed brand messaging map to structure all your external-facing communications according to your brand ethos. (Slide 15)

Omnichannel overview

So you've engineered the perfect Brand statement to address the subconscious questions you want to address. But brand management takes place over multiple touch points. For instance, when you think of the pizza company Dominos, you probably don't think of a digital company. However, Dominos was able to overtake its main rival, Pizza Hut, through its digital transformation that began in 2008. The company hit rock bottom before it rebranded, changed its recipe and put an additional emphasis on digital sales.

It launched its Pizza Tracker tech to let customers follow the progress of their orders and allowed individual franchises to utilize this centralized supply chain management to improve their operations. Dominoes then launched a smartphone app in 2011, rolled out voice ordering in 2014, and by 2015, over half of its orders came from online. Its Anyware system lets customers order pizzas via direct chat on social media, from smart home devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, smartwatches like the Apple watch and even smart TVs. What happened was Dominoes committed to a completely omnichannel approach.

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Omnichannel brand management optimizes brand performance across multiple channels. To maximize the value for customers, you need to have omnichannel excellence across people and processes, digital properties, stores and supply chains and data analytics. If you focus on the improvement of your brand across different channels with different tactics, you can provide an ecosystem brand with interconnection like Dominoes. (Slide 24)

In 2020, Dominoes' focus on omnichannel brand management led the company to reach annual revenue of $14 billion while the largest franchise owner of Pizza Huts, NPC, filed for Chapter 11. The blog Strategy Story puts Domino's success in context like so: If you had invested $1000 in Dominos in 2004, it would have netted you a higher return than Amazon, Google, and Apple by 2020.

Brand health tracking

So how do you track your brand health over time and make sure you're doing okay? For instance, without Dominos' realization that its customers thought its pizza tasted like cardboard, it wouldn't have reinvented itself.

Another major reinvention came from the American luxury brand Coach. Around 2014, Coach began to see sales plummet for four quarters in a row. This was because Coach pivoted away from an aspirational luxury handbag and accessory producer into a "lifestyle brand" that confused consumers with too many offerings at its full-service stores. In fact, it was estimated by analysts that 60% of its earnings came from outlet stores. Because the company developed a reputation of always being on sale, its focus on being an affordable and accessible luxury brand led its rivals to dub it "McDonald's luxury."

It wasn't until 2016 that the company began to rebound after closing underperforming stores and reinventing its luxury brand image. By 2017, its best-selling bag was also one of its most expensive. In 2019, the company acquired Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade and rebranded under the corporate mantle of Tapestry. This year, the company has seen major growth due to digital sales and expansion in China — a market with a growing middle class that resonates with Tapestry's accessible yet aspirational luxury brand.

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This brand health tracker is a way to assess how strong your brand is associated with being "the top" of the marketplace, awareness and usage, and the overall satisfaction and likelihood of consumers to recommend your brand to others. Interview a representative sample of your company's target audience instead of existing customers to assess your brand's strength with the customers you want to attract. The individual scores are added up to create an aggregate score that is rated with the key at the bottom to indicate whether the score is good, average, or poor and in need of some serious help.(Slide 31)

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Conclusion

For more tools on Brand Management, you can download this framework. You'll gain additional resources like a Brand Essence Wheel, Aaker's Brand Personality, a Perceptual Map, a Brand Positioning Canvas and a Brand Architecture vs Portfolio tool that you can customize to your needs. For additional business frameworks and book summaries to save you time, check out our library for more.

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