Post about "Branding"

Key Steps to Saving Your Brand From Brand Death

A few weeks ago, we explored the two sides of Brand Death. In the first, Sudden Brand Death, media exposure fans the flames and a company’s only recourse is swift, corrective action and strong public relations, which is what save the Tylenol brand back in 1982. Enron, Firestone, the cases of Sudden Brand Death aren’t numerous, but they are extremely memorable.Unfortunately, the second side of Brand Death is much less visible and hard to identify. Slow Brand Death could be caused by management inattention, lack of focus, overall neglect, misunderstanding or incompetence, but the signs are there if you look.1. Decreased customer loyalty: If your brands are showing signs of losing loyal customers, you may be suffering from the early onset of Slow Brand Death.2. Lack of differentiation/distinction: If you are noticing that your competitors are looking more and more like you and that you are hearing the dreaded “c-word” (“commodity”) in management meetings and discussion, commoditization may be attacking your category and your brand.3. Increased price sensitivity or declining price: If you find that you are not able to command a price premium with your target customers and that you are experiencing more price sensitivity, you may be seeing the first sign of Slow Brand Death.4. Lack of internal alignment with the brand promise: If your employees aren’t clear about the promise your brand is making in the marketplace, how do you expect the customer to be clear about it? If your company is not set up to deliver on the brand promise, your brand-customer encounters may vary to the point of eroding your brand strength – or Slow Brand Death.Overall market confusion will lead to Slow Brand Death. The very culture of your company may be leading your brands to continually erode and weaken by a lack of commitment to maintaining strong values – and over-emphasizing short-term results over long-term success. However, while the rapid virulence of Sudden Brand Death may limit your options, thankfully, that is not the case with Slow Brand Death.Here you have time. Perhaps not as much time as you would like, but at least the media isn’t breathing down your neck publicizing every step and miss-step you take. Clear, decisive management action can stop and correct Slow Brand Death. Here is the process you should undertake:1. Get the buy-in of executives: The easiest way to get top management to buy into branding as an important strategic business function is to make sure that they understand the brand’s connection to the bottom line, and the impact of the Slow Brand Death symptoms on that bottom line.. Now, everybody in business “knows” that strong brands deliver profits. But I would venture that very few business people could explain exactly how that happens in financial terms. Marketers must build the case for branding investment by educating management about the links of a well-defined brand, consistently delivered, to:• customer loyalty and its volume benefits and even willingness to pay a premium
• lowered cost of sales and improved operational efficiency
• higher revenue and more predictable cash flow
• enhanced shareholder valueOnce top management understands that improving brand performance will end up making money for the company, you will have their buy-in.2. Understand the current situation: Once you have the support of top management, you need to complete a thorough brand assessment. Your goal is to understand where your brand is now and where your competitors’ brands are, in the hearts and minds of the market. Additionally, you need to assess trends and emerging markets to predict how your brand – and your competitors’ brands – will be impacted in the future. Finally, you need to understand how your brand is perceived internally as well as externally, and what gaps there might be between those two perceptions. Leaving out any of these views could give you a misleading picture of your brand in the marketplace.3. Define the desired brand: Based on the brand assessment, you should have a good idea of market gaps your brand can credibly fill, based on what the market is willing to let your brand do and where the market is going. From this, develop a complete definition of your brand of the future – say five years out. This future or desired brand becomes your goal set. All of your brand actions should be evaluated on their ability to move your brand into the desired space.4. Identify the brand drivers: The brand assessment will help you understand which brand contact-points or functions are having the most impact in creating customers’ brand perceptions. Each brand will have different drivers. For an automobile, it may be the actual test drive and driving experience. For a bank it may be the ATM or the voice response unit that directs you to different functions within the organization. Be sure that you look to identify the brand drivers for each of the important brand audiences. One target market’s drivers may differ from another’s or your strategic partners may have a different set of brand drivers than your customers.5. Align internally to deliver the brand promise: When the desired brand position is determined and defined, many companies move to communicate to the marketplace. This is premature, as it is not yet certain whether your organization can consistently deliver on the brand promise you want to make. Take the time to evaluate your organization’s readiness and ability to deliver the brand promise. You may find that you will need to take some action to bring your company into alignment with the brand. At a minimum, you will need to communicate the new brand promise when your company is ready and able to understand it and use it in their day-to-day jobs. Organizational development, training, and internal communications among others are important elements in achieving this capability.6. Communicate the brand externally: With all of the other steps in place, you can now begin communicating the new brand externally. But before doing this, take the time to evaluate your key audiences for brand communications. What are the most compelling messages that you need to send each audience? Document these messages and make sure you use them consistently in your communications.7. Measure and monitor: No time to rest on your laurels – the key to avoiding Brand Death is to know what’s going on in the marketplace. There are three factors working on your brand: you, your competitors, and your target audiences. Put in place a measurement system (internal and external) to monitor the critical brand contact points and brand perceptions to make sure that you are not straying from your plan and that you are progressing as anticipated toward your future brand.Once you have set up a comprehensive brand process throughout the company, you should continually revisit all of the steps to make sure that you are meeting your brand goals and objectives.Brand Death is costly and avoidable. The decision to kill a brand is the decision to throw away a corporate asset, similar to jettisoning real estate or other capital assets. Management can and should manage their brands as the valuable corporate assets they are. If the brand has any remaining equity at all, the cost of brand improvement is far less than the cost of creating a new brand. On-going monitoring and measuring of brand vitality is critical to successfully manage the brand and ensure that the brand remains viable in the marketplace.

Settle Your Small Business Taxes With a Peer-To-Peer Loan

Like the saying goes, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Unfortunately, small businesses know this saying all too well.Unlike employees who look forward to their refund every April, small businesses loath the approaching spring, knowing they will have to pay Uncle Sam its share of their profits. Each year, small businesses struggling to turn a profit in an increasingly competitive business environment must pay taxes in order to keep their doors open.With dwindling profit margins and tightened lending restrictions, however, many small business owners find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes time to pay the tax man. Although a business may have steady sales and revenue or thousands of dollars in inventory, banks and traditional lending institutions simply aren’t handing out small business loans like they were in year’s past, leaving small business owners with few funding options to pay their tax bill.Thankfully, peer-to-peer lending, or social lending, has solved this growing dilemma. These modern social lending marketplaces have connected millions of borrowers with individual investors. Borrowers receive low-interest, fixed-rate loans that can be paid off in two to five years, while investors are able to benefit from decent returns in an economy with sinking bond and savings rates.Thus, it’s a win-win situation for both small business owners in need of immediate funding and investors looking to make a small profit while helping others.From Desperation to Exultation: One Man’s Venture into Peer-to-Peer LendingJohn Mitchell is an Ohio-based small business owner who found himself in such a predicament just last year. As the owner of the only hardware store in a small town, John’s store flourished the first few years it was open.After getting his inventory levels, pricing models, and management just right, he decided to expand his business by opening a second location in a neighboring town. John sunk all of his profits into opening his new store, which meant he was short on funds come tax time. However, knowing the success of his business, he thought he would simply get a small loan from the bank that housed his accounts and provided him with the initial loan he used to launch his business four years earlier.Unfortunately, he witnessed first-hand the effect the recession has had on lending regulations as the banker he’s known for years denied his loan application. If he couldn’t get a loan there, where could he?On the brink of despair, John took to the Internet to research loan options. After digging through forums and trying a few different searches, he ran across peer-to-peer lending. In less than a week after going through the quick and easy application process, he received a personal loan at a low rate for the amount he needed. A week later, John sent a check for the full amount to the IRS, and less than eight months later, he was able to pay off the loan with the profits from his new store!If you are a small business owner who has found yourself in a similar circumstance, peer-to-peer lending can do the same for you as well, but how does peer-to-peer lending work?How Peer-to-Peer Lending WorksA breakthrough product or service emerges every generation, and in the early 2000′s, the emerging breakthrough was social networking. From helping in the organization of overthrowing political regimes to staying in touch with friends and family members, social networking has had a profound effect on our daily lives. Now, it’s changing the small business financing landscape as well.Peer-to-peer lending is a modern social networking solution for small businesses in search of a way of securing alternative funding. The goal of peer-to-peer lending sites, such as Prosper and Lending Club, is simply to connect individual investors with those in need of funding, and these sites are becoming an increasingly useful tool for small business owners who are unable to secure funding from traditional lenders.Rather than jumping through endless hoops only to be denied by a bank, small businesses can receive funding via peer-to-peer lending in no time at all by following three simple steps:Step 1: Create a Profile and Loan ListingThere are a myriad of peer-to-peer lending networks to choose from, so your first step is to research the best ones and create a profile and loan listing on the site you choose. The loan listing is essentially a cost-free ad that indicates the amount of money you need and your desired interest rate.Step 2: Let the Bidding Process BeginAfter your listing goes live, investors have the opportunity to begin bidding on your listing, providing you with the interest rate and loan amount they are willing to offer you. A major advantage of this bidding process is the fact that it can intensify as more and more lenders begin competing for your business.When this happens, interest rates will begin dropping, potentially allowing you to obtain a much lower interest rate than you expected. It’s important to note, however, that your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio plays a role in the lending decision process.Step 3: Funding and Paying Back the LoanAnother benefit of borrowing from peer-to-peer lenders is that you can accept several bids to receive your requested loan amount. For instance, if you ask for $10,000 in your loan listing to pay your business taxes, you can acquire the amount from collecting $2,000 from five different borrowers.This makes it much easier for borrowers to receive the money they need. However, instead of making five separate payments, you would only make one payment, because the peer-to-peer lending site is responsible for dispersing the money to lenders until loans are repaid in full. They simply charge a small fee for this service.With increased lending regulations, banks are tightening their purse strings more than ever before, making it much more difficult for small businesses to receive the funding they need to expand their business or even pay their taxes. Thankfully, peer-to-peer lending has proven to be a worthy competitor in the small business lending marketplace. If you are a small business owner and find yourself unable to pay your taxes as April approaches, or backed taxes for that matter, a peer-to-peer loan is an ideal option.