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Who understands brands’ value best?

The people who buy them – that’s who. Investors, license-aquirers and purchasers give brands a concrete monetary value.

It can boggle the mind that, ostensibly, “a simple logo” can be worth £$Billions in these investors’ estimation. Yet the truth is even more ephemeral, because a brand’s value is held not just in a ‘name’ or a ‘logo’ (those are just conduits), but rather in the mind of the buyers.

Brands – separately from businesses themselves – can therefore hold immense value. So how do we create and build them?

First, we create the “brand conduits” – the name, the logo, the URL, the creative. We then build on these into a brand that exists in buyer’s minds.

Whilst the conduits themselves are important, their inherent value is often grossly overstated. It matters that the conduits are ‘appropriate’ (a name that sounds fitting; an apt visual style), but there is no such thing as an immediately-valuable brand.

What matters more is how value is added.

There are three ways to add value to your brand’s ‘conduit’:

  1. Smart positioning strategy. Ensuring every interaction is tightly focus on a research-proven target market.
  2. Spending cash (or time… which anyway = money) on advertising and exposure.
  3. Providing a brilliant, consistent product and service.

There’s enormous scope for error on the path to building a valuable brand. Common failings (worth noting, perhaps even more so than the 3 rules above) include:

  • Skipping the strategy – A lack of carefully planned, well-researched positioning strategy dooms the vast majority of future effort to failure.
  • Underspending on exposure – The brand will only ‘stick’ in buyer’s minds if it first ‘reaches’ them. This reach – via advertising, PR, partnerships or sheer effort – rarely comes cheap.
  • Being anything less than brilliant – Net Promoter Scores of 9 or 10/10 are critical. Anything less marks a brand as ‘not worth remembering’.
  • Myopic focus on superficial creative – This can cost time, money and brainpower, and often occurs in the ego-driven belief that consumers care far more than they really do (“good enough” is often fine.)
  • Succumbing to “value leeches” – Brands are so valuable that others will want a piece after even the first sniff of success. Successful brands must fight off 1000’s of leeches, including new ideas, partnerships and individual operators. High standards are essential.
  • Letting chips become cracks – Fragility is intrinsic to brand value. The slightest slip in standards can soon shatter brands’ value.

All this, of course, falls firmly in the realm of “easier said than done”.

Certainly, it’s never the job of one individual marketing department or agency to build a valuable brand. Collective, connected and concerted effort is required.

There are, then, no shortcuts to genuine brand value. (Those who do find one have probably focused on developing ‘false value’, an act of trickery targeted at investors.)

Instead, for those aspiring to true brand success should follow the long-term playbook, and be prepared to put in the graft.

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