Brand Tip #10: Managing a Brand

Once you’ve explored the basics of identifying and developing a brand, then you're ready to start managing it. Managing a brand means (i) monitoring its reputation; (ii) analyzing the competition and opportunities for synergies; (iii) protecting the brand through trademark maintenance, an understandable policy and the pursuit of infringers; and (iv) crisis management. Focus groups and surveys are effective means to gauge the perceptions of your audience and measure it against your own view of your brand experience. These activities serve important functions in both brand development and, as the life cycle of the brand increases, in brand management. Given the dominance of the internet, however, it is equally vital to monitor a corporate identity or brand online. One gauge of a brand’s online reputation is its search engine ranking, the most coveted position being the first results page of a search engine query. So how do companies land their brands on the first page of a search result in Google or other search engines? The answer is by practicing search engine optimization (SEO), a process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines. SEO experts help businesses build traffic and leads, and their services can cost a few hundred or a few thousand dollars per month. Through internet research you can also potentially determine such data points for the competition as a competitor’s market share, annual revenue, desired targets, rate of growth or decline, press mentions and so on. You can search for information on publicly traded competitors by reviewing their SEC filings online and find information on public or private companies by searching sites related to news, newspapers, networks, business journals and press release distribution services. For a fee, you can utilize the services of researchers to determine ad spend for your competitors. For all its advantages, the expansive reach of the internet is an ideal breeding ground for trademark infringement and abuse. Consider the case of a North American retailer that lost substantial revenue from the redemption of fake discount coupons printed by customers from unauthorized websites. Accordingly, you must monitor your trademarks for infringement and counterfeiting and educate your stakeholders on proper usage of your mark with an understandable policy. The last element of brand management is crisis control. A critical aspect of managing your brand’s reputation is defending it effectively in times of crisis. To be sure, an event like an oil spill, food contamination or airline mishap can have a catastrophic impact on consumer perception of a brand, particularly if the event is not handled well. Obviously, reacting immediately in a time of crisis is paramount.  Oftentimes, a company’s less than immediate response to a crisis has much to do with a lack of strategy. For example, if your product were affected by widespread contamination, how would the message be communicated to your stakeholders? Who would be responsible for the communication? What would the message say?  Just as many businesses have contingency plans in place for business interruption due to acts of God, labor strikes and mechanical failures, so too must you have a plan for managing a crisis affecting your brand.


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