Question: What fuels your business through good times and bad?
In 2003, the Baylor College of Medicine revamped the Pepsi Challenge and found that, just like in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in blind taste tests, participants overwhelmingly liked Pepsi more than Coke.
But here’s the difference. Unlike the original challenge, Baylor then took the “blind” part out of the equation. People were shown both brands—and almost everybody chose Coke.
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Since the early 1980s, Coke has worked on its rebranding efforts—they were way behind Pepsi in profits—and won. Today’s numbers indicate Coca-Cola controls 42% of the soft drink market, while Pepsi comes in at 30%.
So what’s the answer to the question above? Your brand. It’s your brand that fuels your business through good times and bad.
Just because Coca-Cola’s on top, the company’s not resting on its laurels, as ongoing brand-building and brand management are crucial. Even though opinions fluctuate, it’s not easy to change people’s minds once they’ve formed an impression of your brand.
If you’ve been do-it-yourself brand building so far, you can see how much work goes into it. But how much is too much? Hiring brand marketing experts can be the smart move, but you’ll want to ask yourself a few key questions before you hand the reins over to a branding agency.
1. What’s your brand image?
What is branding? Branding is a pretty broad term, but in a nutshell, it’s about the associations past and current customers make with your business and products. It involves a lot of elements such as your company image, what’s it like to do business with you, your products, communication, customer service, follow-up and so on. It’s the entire experience of engaging with your business (even a simple word-of-mouth recommendation) goes into building and maintaining your brand.
Before you consider whether or not you need to outsource your branding, you’ve got to know where to start. If you have absolutely no idea where your brand stands among your competition, you might want to consider a brand identity survey to shed some light on things.
2. What’s your brand system?
To determine whether or not you need to hire a branding agency, you ought to consider what your current brand strategy is—and go from there:
Resources: If your company’s brand management is DIY, how many hours are devoted to marketing, designing and testing? Brand marketing takes time and skill. If you have an employee handling this job half-time, not only could you be limiting your brand power but it might not be enough of a priority.
Perspective: Is your internal brand builder able to get a healthy outside point of view on your brand assets or attributes? When you’ve been at a company for several years, your perspective can get a little narrow and set in its ways, making it tougher to “think like a customer.”
Consistency: Does your company have high employee turnover? If so, branding responsibilities might be getting passed around between different workers. This can negatively affect the focus and consistency of your brand management.
3. Is your brand strategy working?
The best way to answer this question is by asking your audience and customers about your brand. If you haven’t surveyed your customer base yet, you can always use a market research survey to connect with them. And if you don’t have a customer database, you can always lean on SurveyMonkey Audience to find the people in your target market to see what they think.
Basically, you want to find out:
- What brands come to mind in your industry?
- Are people aware of your brand?
- What do they think of your brand?
- Are your customers loyal to your brand?
Once you begin surveying and collecting responses, remember to set benchmarks to track your progress over time. When you set internal business benchmarks, you’re helping your company define goals. But it’s also important to note how you stack up against the competition by using external benchmarks.
For example, companies all over the world ask consumers the ultimate question: How likely is it that you would recommend this brand to a friend or colleague? which can tell you a lot about how loyal customers are to your brand. This is called the Net Promoter® Score, and knowing whether or not people are talking about you (or your biggest competitors) is crucial to your brand image.
4. What are the pros & cons of outsourcing your branding?
Now that you’ve taken stock of your brand building system and surveyed your customers, now take a look at how a marketing agency can help your brand.
Marketing Agency Pros:
1. Professionals take over your brand management
2. A healthy objectivity is brought to your brand assets
3. Company resources can be directed to other business needs
Marketing Agency Cons:
1. More expensive than the DIY branding option
2. Creative control gets taken (mostly) out of your hands
3. Results are not guaranteed
If your brand identity survey results come back below your expectations, you might want to take a closer look at your system to see how much money and time you’re spending on DIY branding. That money might be better spent on a marketing agency. Because your brand is worth every penny. Just ask Coca-Cola.