gaining the competitive edge

Next week I’m speaking at The Marketing Forum, a national conference for Chief Marketing Officers and brand managers.  My talk is on “Gaining the Competitive Edge:  How Companies Drive Business Growth by Operationalizing Their Brands without Huge Marketing Budgets.”

The topic was prompted by the results from an Association of National Advertisers study that indicated 64% of Chief Marketing Officers and brand managers say their brands do not influence decisions made at their companies.

When I first read that report, I was stunned -– nearly 2/3rd or companies are pouring millions of dollars into marketing and advertising without really basing their business on the values and attributes they’re communicating!  But then I realized this is probably happening because most people have an incorrect or incomplete understanding of what a brand is.

Many of you have heard/read what I believe a brand is — it’s a bundle of values and attributes that define:

  • the value delivered to customers
  • the way of doing business that is the basis of a company’s relationships with stakeholders

So with this understanding of a brand, it’s clear a brand can have immense direct and lasting impact on all areas of a business because of its unique ability to explain what the company is all about and to ensure the organization delivers on it.   But in order to have this impact, the organization must stop using the brand only as an outward-facing, image-oriented message.  The brand must be operationalized.  It’s the core of the business and as such it can be used a tool for managing it.

My presentation will talk about transforming brand-building from a costly, discrete, and subjective activity into the most integral way of managing and growing the business, using a management approach I call “brand-as-businessTM”.

The “brand-as-business” management approach involves the deliberate and systematic management of the business around the brand — thinking of the brand as the business. The approach uses the brand as a guide for executing all business activities — from generating shared insights about the business, to driving superior planning decisions, to facilitating consistent and efficient execution.

In my session, I’m going to outline examples like one from a client who used the “brand-as-business” approach to re-position their brand to appeal to a different target, completely changing the channels they’re in, their packaging, their product formulations and new products.  Another example will come from a client who used a “brand-as-business” tool called a customer experience architecture to define and deliver the optimal brand customer experiences to new segments and in channels without diluting their brand by fragmenting or distorting it.

My talk is going to require the participants to take off their marketing hats and think more broadly about their business — to stop hoping for bigger marketing budgets and to start figuring out how to help everyone in the organization to develop, maintain, and activate the brand across all of their activities.

I hope people won’t expect that, because my session billed as an opportunity to learn how to build your brand without a huge marketing budget, I’m going to talk how to generate buzz through low-budget social media and guerilla tactics.  While those things may be important, I’m going to focus on how people can increase the power of their brand simply by improving the fundamentals of what their companies do –- I hope it all goes well.

If you’d like a copy of the presentation, DM on Twitter @deniseleeyohn or email me at mail AT deniseleeyohn DOT com — I’ll send it to you after next week.

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