Strategic Marketing—Developing a Corporate Brand Platform, Part 2

by  Joyce Jensch

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the need for branding and how to do a brand assessment, which included research methodology and competitive brand auditing. In this part of the article, our attention moves to the process of establishing a meaningful brand platform.

The Branding Process

There are several concepts that need to be defined in the branding process. Most important is what is a brand? A brand is a single, clear promise that a company makes and fulfills for its stakeholders. Branding is the strategic process of establishing both the tangible and intangible attributes to differentiate your company. The brand platform is a model for defining a brand identity. The platform elements are:

  1. Vision or Mission Statement
  2. Core Identity Concepts
  3. Brand Promise
  4. Value Proposition
  5. Byline
  6. Tagline
  7. Brand Story

Element #1 — The Brand Vision

Depending on the author of the branding terminology the name of these elements may vary. The vision statement may be called the core belief while the brand promise may be entitled the brand essence. However, the rudimentary elements of the branding process remain the same. Element #1 is the brand vision. The vision expresses the philosophy driving the organization. It is a long-term goal that helps unite the internal team to a common path. It is a clear sense of destination. Defining the destination is the first and most important step in brand development. It isnít a wish-itís a definition of the way the world will be in 3 to 5 years and where youíll fit into it.

An excellent example of brand vision in the semiconductor equipment industry is provided by Jim Morgan of Applied Materials. As chairman of the worldís leading semiconductor equipment supplier. He said, "Information is power. Information is wealth. Information is self-determination and in the 21stCentury, we have the potential of placing information in the hands of people around the world. This is the promise of the networked economy; the hope of individuals around the world; the purpose of Applied Materials."

Element #2 — Core Identity Concepts

Element #2 in the brand platform is your organizationís core identity. The core identity captures the set of associations the organization wants to create and maintain. At least one of the elements should resonate with customers and differentiate the brand. The core identity should be easy to communicate and consistent for all products. One example of an organizationís core identity is provided by Air Products, a supplier of high purity chemical and gases to the electronics industry. The companyís brand vision is "Building Lasting Relationships.Ē The core identity is focused on:

  1. Understanding of customer needs
  2. Integrity and honesty in doing business
  3. Passion to meet and exceed standards and expectations

In defining the companyís core identity, Air Productsí recognizes the needs of their customers, and the set of associations the organization wants to create and maintain.

Element #3 — Brand Promise

Simply stated it is what the customer gets from your brand. The promise distills the broad ideas of the platform without losing meaning. The promise drives the value proposition and provides differentiation that can last. The brand promise is sometimes also referred to as the brand essence.

The promise is used in many facets of marketing of the company and its products such as the logo, sales tools, and advertising. Examples of brand promises include:

KLA-Tencor-The yield company;
BMW-The ultimate driving machine;
Volvo-Safety;
Xerox- The digital document company.

Element #4 — The Value Proposition

This represents the functional and emotional benefits customers expect to receive by working with the branded company. The proposition reflects a balance between the aspirations and reality of what the brand is able to deliver. Two contemporary examples of a value proposition are illustrated by delineation of the functional and emotional benefits derived from using products such as a palm pilot or Volvo. The functional benefit is the real world outcome of choosing and using the brand. In the example of a palm Pilot, the product keeps you organized and can save you time. The emotional benefit is the ability of a brand to make a user feel something. Owning and driving a Volvo provides the driver with the reassurance that the passengers will be safer.

Element #5 — The Byline

This phrase should accompany the brand name in all marketing and promotion materials. It should clearly describe "the business" that the brand is in. It is a descriptor of the brand. This may be one of the most difficult elements of the platform to identify. The effort to try to "boil down" all aspects of your companyís product or service offerings into a simple phrase is not easy. Examples of consumer product bylines include: Whirlpool-"Home Appliances" or ACE-Hardware. In the semiconductor industry each publication has provided a descriptor for its readership: Solid State Technology-The International Magazine for Semiconductor Manufacturing; Semiconductor Manufacturing-Fabs, Foundries, Capital Equipment and Materials and MICRO Advanced Process Control, Defect Reduction and Yield Enhancement for Semiconductor Manufacturing.

Element #6- The Tagline

The tagline is an expressive line used to dramatize the brandís benefits. Traditionally referred to as "slogan". Examples of taglines are: KLA-Tencor-Accelerating Yield; Schott-Glass made from Ideas; ASML- Tools That Build The Future; Federal Express- The World On Time; Saturn- A Different Kind of Car Company.

Element #7 — The Brand Story

Your organization may not have one as famous as Apple Computers, Hewlett Packard or Federal Express ,but it may surprise you what type of history your organization may have. This legend of how the brand got started is used to preserve and enhance a brandís heritage.

It can provide inspiration and motivation for customers, employees and stakeholders. This story can used in corporate identity articles, special events (e.g. 25th anniversary celebration) and new product launches. From Hewlett Packardsí beginnings in a garage in Silicon Valley- a whole industry was founded. From a C-rate term paper-Federal Express–a new concept in delivering packages across the world–was established.

Defining The Brand Platform

Your company may choose to conduct its own market research to define the brand platform or contract with outside agencies. It may also decide to develop the brand platform in-house or to utilize the expertise of public relations, marketing communications or advertising agencies. To develop the platform one must use the results of the research combined with the companyís long-term goals. A consistent message must be delivered and heard internally and in the marketplace. The platform provides simple, relevant statements to each audience of interest. An important aspect of "launching" a corporate or product brand platform is getting the buy-in of the internal stakeholders. If your companyís employees such as customer service, manufacturing or sales donít believe the company can deliver "the World OnTime" — it just wonít happen.

‹‹ Joyce Jensch
[About the Author]

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