In March, CoreBrand launched its 2014 Top 100 Most Powerful Brands report. For a corporate brand to appear on this ranking, it must achieve both high Familiarity (awareness), and high Favorability (quality of perception). Generally accepted market research, well-known facts, and history indicate that the more your target audience is aware of you, there is an increased likelihood they will make a connection and want to do business with you. The first fundamental step in building a powerful brand, therefore, is developing a deep sense of understanding within your target audiences.
To dig in deeper, CoreBrand just released its Most Familiar Brands of 2014. This report focuses specifically on the Familiarity attribute used in the creation of our Top 100 rankings, and highlights the companies who are most successful at achieving widespread understanding. From these companies, we learn important lessons on how brands can achieve high Familiarity.
- Be reliable
Sure, sometimes unexpected messaging or a disruptive visual expression might capture attention. But it is best to respect and understand the equity in your brand’s identity. Stakeholders recognize your brand through its visual identity, which includes your logo, typography, color palette, graphic elements, layout and imagery.
The Coca-Cola Company (at the #1 spot) has had the same iconic script logo since the beginning. In some cases, being out of character might get you noticed and increase Familiarity, it might be for all the wrong reasons and therefore unsustainable. J.C. Penney stands as a good example of this, as they confuse their audiences with multiple logo changes in a short period of time without strong communications around the rationale for doing so. While J.C. Penney is in the spotlight for now, the notoriety is likely to fade, as the brand is not demonstrating reliability.
- Exceed expectations
If you have done a good job communicating to target audiences, they will walk in the door (literally or metaphorically) with preconceived ideas. A good brand lives up to expectations – a most powerful brand exceeds them. This is especially true when it comes to customer service and the person-to-person contact any customer has with your employees. Word of mouth can either add momentum or drag on your brand, and it lives or dies with interactions with your employees. It is vital that they “get your brand” and are empowered to make the right decisions on your behalf to guarantee a good, brand-consistent experience for your customers. The best way to achieve a culture of brand-empowerment is to start with signals from the top. You must have senior leadership on board with your brand strategy and living the brand every day in their own behaviors and choices.
This can be seen in at the Hershey Company—not only does their leadership receive high marks on CoreBrand’s Corporate Branding Index, but if you look at reviews on Glassdoor employees praise the corporate culture and training opportunities.
- Support your brand
In many ways, Familiarity can be bought. It is about achieving not just awareness but a depth of understanding that is about regularly getting in front of your audiences. Brands who are successful understand what is required for their message to reach customers and they put the right amount of communication spend behind it. It’s no surprise that 3 of the Top 10 Most Familiar Brands are credit card companies, known for their ubiquitous marketing programs.
Mastercard is a great example of this, with its Priceless campaign and the various ways the company has been able to carry the theme through its marketing from advertising to Priceless Cities promotions. This kind of marketing innovation and broad reach has even spawned its own social media meme.
How much to spend is unique to every company and industry, but not spending enough can be a waste of money and time. When looking at budget levels, you can uncover what the optimal level of spend is through conducting an ROI analysis. But if you are budget constrained don’t forget that “spending” isn’t just about cash, it’s about resources and energy too. Find alternative ways to support your brand such as PR, word of mouth, social media, sponsorships, and community events.
- Be consistent
Stakeholders have so many ways of coming in contact with your brand. Many corporate brands appeal to a diverse target audiences in demographics as wells as psychographics. Understand that this diversity brings many challenges in how and where to reach customers effectively. Consistency across all areas of your brand not only creates efficiencies but also helps to increase awareness and Familiarity.
Walt Disney appeals to all audiences, from kids to adults. And the company is involved in just about every media channel and marketing strategy out there—from events to TV to toys and sponsorships. But no matter where you see Disney, the message is always the same about celebrating wonder and imagination through innovation and globally accessible entertainment.
The more your stakeholders hear the same message over and over regardless of where they hear it, the more apt they are to remember it and associate it with your brand. Sure you need to adjust your message dependent upon your audience—employees, investors, the community, partner/sponsorships, retailers/distributors, media/PR, etc.—but retaining the same central brand promise is vital in building brand clarity. When all of your touch points are in unison the “volume” on your brand is turned up.