“Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”
Sir Winston Churchill
This is a book for anyone interested in building a stronger brand and a stronger business. Whether you’re a young entrepreneur, an established CEO, a CBO, the owner of a private company, part of a corporate team building an established brand, or simply interested in building your own personal brand, the principles of brand-building and brand maintenance are applicable across the board.
Our world has changed. Consumers have more information, more channels, more power, more brands, and more choice, but less time, less loyalty, and less trust.
What is a brand? How do you build a strong brand in this changing landscape? Brands are more than logos and advertising. They’re a promise. A commitment that creates an expectation. They exist as perceptions and are ‘owned’ by the customer. Brands are organic entities—living, changing, and in need of constant nurturing. The best way to build enduring brands in this constantly changing world is to integrate business, brand, and communications, with the brand at the centre.
Strong brands have relevant, differentiated, and compelling promises that they keep. Your promise is the over-arching commitment you make to your stakeholders. Consistent delivery of desired experiences is the heart of what makes great brands great. At The Brand Company in Hong Kong, we developed an approach we called Brand Centered ManagementTM (BCM). Based on timeless principles that are as relevant today as they were yesterday, it is both a philosophy and a process to help build businesses in a consistent, brand-centric way. It is a right-brained, creative way of approaching business strategy. The medium or delivery mechanisms may change, but the principles of brand-building remain the same. A motivating and credible promise is essential for a brand whether it’s communicated in a newspaper, a website, or a Facebook message. Don’t be fooled by the wonderment of new media; yes, it’s important to stay abreast of new ways of connecting with your target audience and getting your message successfully delivered to them. But it’s still just a means to an end—the content of the message and how it is interpreted is what’s important—more important than the messenger that delivered it.
The Risk of Brand Mismanagement Is Real
Brands are mismanaged every day.
In my thirty years of advertising and brand consulting, I have witnessed companies and people making the same mistakes over and over again. Few companies will admit to not having a strategy for their brand, but even when they have one it is often ill-defined. Branding and brand-building are often confused. Refreshing your logo or visual identity is often mistaken for brand building.
Neglecting your brand increases the risk of lost opportunity, competitive incursion, irrelevancy and obsolescence. Innovation and creativity are overused words that are under-delivered in kind. Easy to say; hard to do.
So, what’s the solution?
What companies often fail to recognise is that effective brand- building means positioning your brand in people’s minds. Defining the target and territory you want to own is essential. Regular strategic review of your brand helps keep it strong and healthy.
Strategy is all about choice; what you choose to do and, just as importantly, what you choose not to do. The Brand Centered ManagementTM approach provides a disciplined structure and process within which creative freedom is encouraged. It is agnostic; it works with a wide range of tried and tested strategic tools to illuminate, inspire and help ‘lift the mist’ in order to make good choices each step of the way.
The result is a greater awareness of current perceptions of your brand and an enduring strategic platform on which to build its strength going forward. It also engages the team and encourages them to pull together behind a focused strategy that aligns brand, business and communication.
Tools as a Dim Sum Meal
I collected the strategic tools I used at workshops to solve customer problems in a file labeled the ‘toolbox’. The beauty of the Brand Centered Management process is that it is eclectic in accommodating all sorts of strategic tools. Over the years I’ve developed and collected dozens.
Tools are what differentiate higher-thinking species. They help perform tasks that without them are extremely difficult, if not impossible. And they unlock new ways of thinking and doing things that might never have happened without them. It took the aardvark eons to evolve a long sticky tongue to reach the ants inside an ants’ nest. It took chimpanzees considerably less time to figure out a stick could do the same job.
Dim Sum Strategy captures some of the most useful strategic tools, tips, ideas and insights that I’ve encountered throughout my career. I’ve curated the ones that I most frequently return to, the ones that have resonated with my clients. Then I’ve boiled them down to the bare essence—just enough to get a solid understanding and to be of immediate value within minutes of reading.
I’ve tried to present them like a Dim Sum meal. They are mostly bite-sized, in a wide variety of flavours. Some are more substantial, but all are easy to digest. Some will be familiar old favourites, others something new you’ve not tried before. Most are the result of collaborations with colleagues in the agencies and consulting companies I’ve worked with, some are my own and some the works of better minds than mine. For the latter, I have given attributions and references wherever possible for those interested in searching for more detail. I have provided little more than a researcher could find through an internet search other than provide relevance and context. My hope is that it will raise awareness of these valuable strategic tools amongst a new generation of leaders and influencers.
I would be surprised if some concepts are not familiar to you already and, simultaneously, disappointed if some are not new to you. I hope you’ll find them insightful and can apply them to your business and personal life.
Each is a timeless tool. A constant. Something that has stood the test of time and will likely continue to do so. I’ve tried to keep each one short, but there should be enough information to grasp the concept and apply it straightaway. The intention is to introduce each tool—an appetiser if you like—not a comprehensive philosophy or step-by-step instruction manual.
For those who like order and plan to read it cover to cover, the book is structured as the Brand Centered Management process is, from Discovery through to Delivery. If you want to test your knowledge of your business and your brand or question the value of reading this book, go to the Brand Health Check on page 49. If you’re interested in defining your brand you can jump to the section on Definition and Brand DNA development. Or if you just want to browse the content list and cherry-pick tools that intrigue you, that’s fine too; you should get something out of every tool in its own right, although each is richer in the context of the whole.
Throughout the book I’ve added sidebars to highlight relevant points or anecdotes.
With that in mind—dig in!