In May 2013, CoreBrand released its Favorability Report, analyzing the Favorability scores of its top 500 tracked corporate brands to understand the dynamics influencing brand performance and separating the winners from the laggards. Favorability scores are comprised of three primary attributes: Overall Reputation, Perception of Management, and Investment Potential.
While my company identified expected negative Favorability trends, we also uncovered core strengths and possible resiliency among different tiers of tracked companies. Overall, there is evidence of strength and confidence returning to corporate brands, suggesting the economic recovery is under way.
The report shows that a well-managed brand can be a powerful business asset in tough economic times, as well as a tool to regain lost footing. Based on our research and findings, I distilled it into four key takeaways PR professionals should consider when leveraging the corporate brand in today’s market.
Build Your Relevance: Quantifying your reputation over time.
It’s difficult to stand out if you don’t first understand what makes your company unique. Initiate research to justify your positioning and marketing activities. Tracking systems help show successes of past initiatives and opportunities ahead. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and how they match with audience needs and preferences, clarifies what your focus should be and where you should be moving as a business.
When tracking your brand, it’s important that your brand measurement program is not a one-off tactic. Review these types of internal evaluations on a regular basis to determine if opportunities were taken or have changed, and if any threats have been overcome or new ones are on the horizon. We encourage our clients to take these evaluations as frequently as quarterly or as far apart as annually. Any less than that would make it difficult to pinpoint exactly what factor is responsible for success or failure.
Sustain Your Differentiation: Understanding your competitors.
The purpose of your brand is to set you apart from the crowd and help buyers to understand your unique superiority. Being successfully differentiated is how to best utilize your blend of employees, products and culture. Expand your research outwards to peers and competitors. This puts context to your actions compared to others, helping to highlight initiatives you can take to better position yourself and stand out among the competition.
Sustain your differentiating relevance in the marketplace by clearly and proudly conveying your company’s benefits and abilities. The stronger you claim your position in the market, the greater impact your brand can have in attracting the right audiences.
Raise Your Credibility: Aligning your position for a more solid reputation.
Align your messaging with current initiatives to ensure consumers trust in your efforts. It’s not about how often you shout into the void, it’s about strategically communicating to your target markets and backing up your claims with actions. Talk is cheap when spoken, but expensive when broken. Consumers are quick to backlash against broken promises or services that don’t meet expectations. Building a brand isn’t just about what you say; it’s about what you do as well.
Use audience research and testing to refine brand messaging and ensure positive resonance with key targets. This requires time, perseverance and dedication toward growing positive sentiments towards the corporate brand, which feeds directly into growing brand Favorability.
Leverage Your Leaders: Putting your management where your mouth is.
During the economic downturn, the Perception of Management attribute became misaligned. This indicates a level of mistrust and skepticism with leadership, and underscores the critical role executives play in guiding brands through times of crisis. Audiences look to leadership to build trust.
Senior management needs to promote clear, consistent, and transparent communications to the market. Set expectations by painting a vibrant picture of the vision for the company and the plan to achieve it. Lead by example and show consumers that the company is well rounded and focused on more than just profits.
While improving Familiarity is about turning up the volume of your brand in appropriate ways, improving Favorability is about focusing on the quality of your brand messages.
Companies that understand who they are and where their potential to grow exists are best positioned to take advantage of changing market conditions.
Charles Muir is a marketing associate of CoreBrand. He can be reached at (212) 329-3037 or CMuir@corebrand.com.