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SMU 101 - Session 04: Intro to Brand Strategy

Purpose/Aim of this session

In this session you will gain an understanding of the basics which underpin creating an effective brand strategy. 

Learning Aims for this session:

  • You will develop an understanding about strategic brand management
  • You will explore how to link brand value and brand benefits to your strategic brand management

Learning Outcomes for this session:

At the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • Identify the key value elements within the brand management process
  • Explain what the Customer-Based Brand Equity Model is, and how it relates to brand management
  • Explain the elements of the Customer-Based Brand Equity Model

How this Session Works:

  1. Read through the Overview that accompanies this session. This provides an overall context for the session.
  2. Work your way through the items on the Preparatory section that accompanies this session.
  3. Listen to the Lecture that accompanies this session.
  4. Work your way the branding scenario in the "Scenario" tab. The scenario is a practical exercise activity to develop your initial understanding of the branding concepts covered in this session.
  5. Work your way the template in the "Template" tab. The template will support you as you take the first steps in developing your understanding of your brand.
  6. You can browse through some carefully selected material in the "Reading Room" tab. These materials will build upon your initial Brand concepts.

SMU 101 Session 4 Study Activities

  • Overview
  • Preparatory Activities
  • Lecture
  • Scenarios
  • Template
  • Reading Room

Branding diagram

Boiled down to its absolute essence, Brand strategy is about three things:

  1. Difference: Setting you, your organization or business, your products or your services apart; and
  2. Knowledge: Knowing your target audience (again, here at SMU, we don't refer to either 'consumers' or 'customers' unless we really have to. We use the term 'audience' which has an entirely different mind-set.); and
  3. Personality: Going beyond descriptions such as "quick", "efficient", "quality" and "innovative" - which are all subjective and extremely difficult to prove. The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes. It's more impressive and meaningful for our audience(s) to make these claims on our behalf. Dig for deeper qualifiers for your business. Dig for deeper meanings and convey these through a branding personality, a subject we've introduced over the previous two sessions.

These three elements are our branding building blocks. However these elements define you, your business or organization and your product/service  - they must be conveyed in all of your branding activities...and conveyed consistently.

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  1. The short video below provides an excellent overview of the basic ingredients of a brand and a brand experience.

  2. Read the following article before watching the videos below: Williams, J. The Basics of Branding: Learn what this critical business term means and what you can do to establish one for your company, Entrepreneur.
  3. Read the following presentation below, thinking about how the points it covers relates to your own brand:
    Keller, K.L. Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity, 1-22
  4. BraveHeart's Women Global Community TV addresses why branding is important.  It addresses how we want people to feel about a business rather than way we want people to buy products. It goes a bit more deeply into how we build relationships with an audience. It also covers the importance of specific messages rather the creating broad messages to non-specific audiences.

  5. In the TedX video below, British branding guru Simon Middleton delivers 4 building blocks of branding. He delivers a powerful message which we've gradually introduced over the last three sessions: branding is a collusion between a company and its audience(s). Branding is a set of meanings. If there is no agreement about those meanings, then there is no brand. He uses the British powerhouse retail brand, John Lewis, to illustrate his key points.

  6. Now that we've spent some time introducing and covering the concept of brand strategy, it's time to apply what you've learned more strategically. Before engaging with the scenarios, read the article that follows below.  As you read through it, paying particular attention to the examples provided within it, apply the main thought points to your own brand, adapting the examples and the main points to reflect your own branding elements and requirements: How to create a Brand Strategy Road Map from Beloved Brands: .

  7. Read the presentation below, thinking about how the concepts and points it raises may be applied to your brand:
    Keller, K.L. Strategic Brand Management: Choosing Brand Elements to Build Brand Equity
  8. The last bit of preparatory reading will give you a deeper introduction to the concepts covered in the lecture for this session:
    Keller, K.L. 2001. Building Customer-Based Brand EquityMarketing Management, July/August 2001, pp 14-19.
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Work your way through the lecture video below, which builds upon the introductory concepts outlined in the preparatory section.

After the lecture, if you would like to see a real world CBBE model, here's an excellent one for Red Bull:

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Few businesses, organizations, product providers or service providers have wallets deep enough for television advertising. Start-ups or fairly new businesses/services more than likely won't. However, television adverts do demonstrate the main points we're making to illustrate the concepts we're covering in this session. Learn from the successes and the mistakes of the big boys - and adapt them to your own branding solutions. This is what we'll be doing here with the scenarios that accompany this session.

Aardvark Music built an international branded success story without advertising or big branding spend. SMU tutor Alex di Savoia simply used his imagination. Taglines like "music, unlimited", "adventures in sound" and "united colours of sound" not only enabled him to successfully brand the record label and music publishing business in an extremely saturated and competitive global market - these taglines were the hallmarks of Aardvark's brand position. These, along with the perception of being a Fair Trade label (something Aardvark's artists advocated and not the company), allowed the company to score big wins on the strategic branding storytelling front. Truly, the only limitations Aardvark had were the imaginations of its branding team and not its budget. Indeed, by not splashing out on expensive branding options and high profile advertising, the company deepened its connections with its global audience who were turned off by the perceived financial excesses of the music industry.

In short, Aardvark won its audiences' hearts and minds. It turned consumers into an audience - and then into brand advocates. a savvy understanding of brand positioning was essential to our success.

The video below outlines successes and failures in the brand positioning arena. Listen to the commentary, making notes if you need to do so. Think about the take-away points. And think about how you will address them when you do your own brand positioning outline. These points will come in handy when you begin working on the template for this session.

Some of the most interesting brand position has involved everyday products: from dish washing liquid to bottled water, from headphones to shower gel. The video below covers the successful elements of these brand positioning exercises.

The last scenario is a video from the Swedish cider company Kopparburg. After watching the video, think about what its position statement is. What's this story conveying about its uniqueness as a brand? And what story elements does it use to convey this strategy and uniqueness?

Some thinking points follow below the video. This is the final bit of reflection preparation for you before you go on to the template section for this session.

A few industry-specific example scenario questions to get you started before you tackle the template. Really thinking about the answers to the questions below will not only prepare you for the template - they will also prepare you for the other courses. Understanding what you don't know now, and thinking about what you need to learn regarding integrated marketing, will enable you to focus on specific areas on the other SMU courses.

As we've said previously, branding really is the foundation for the entire spectrum of integrated marketing activities - from writing effective copy to creating engaging visual content to social media. 

If you are a designer-maker:

  • How will you convey your passion for what you do? What words would you use?
  • What challenges do you face in framing an interesting, engaging story that connects with an audience at an emotional level?
  • How will you frame your emotion-based and persuasive messages for your audience?
  • What marketing tools will you use to convey your branding stories
  • How will avoid telling stories about what you make or how you make it - and offer stories about why you design/make the products that you do? Or what the elements of your products mean to you? For instance, if you're a ceramicist who uses china clay, why china clay? Is it a connection to the earth? What does that mean to you? What's the experience?

If you are a photographer:

  • How will you convey your passion for what you do? What words would you use? Why that style of of photography?
  • What is it about picking up and handling a camera? How do you see the world down the lens?
  • How do you frame your world? And how are you going to communicate this?
  • What challenges do you face in framing an interesting, engaging story that connects with an audience at an emotional level?
  • In a word filled with self-published amateur photographs (Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchap, etc)...what's your persuasive proposition?
  • What marketing tools will you use to convey your branding stories
  • What's the experience you're sharing? What's unique about it?

If you are an NGO or Not-for-Profit organization :

  • What drives you to do what you do? How will you convey this?
  • This specific arena typically relies on either overt or subtle messages of guilt in their branding narratives. How will you not do this? How will you create a narrative that's different?
  • How will you convey what you do - and its importance - without getting bogged down by detail? How will you do this without citing a list of facts?
  • What's the experience you're sharing? What's unique about it?
  • Remembering the point about reciprocity, are you willing to reciprocate? How?
  • How will you frame and deliver an experience?

If you are a technology start-up:

  • Why do you exist? What problem (if any) do you seek to solve?  What experience are you offering?
  • How will you convey your passion for what you do? What words would you use? What makes you excited about the day ahead at work?
  • What challenges do you face in framing an interesting, engaging story that connects with an audience at an emotional level?
  • How will you convey what you do - and its importance - avoiding the pitfall of detail? How will you do this without citing a list of facts?
  • What's your persuasive proposition?
  • What marketing tools will you use to convey your branding stories
  • What's the experience you're sharing? What's unique about it?
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The template below has been provided for you to develop a brand strategy for your own business, organization, product or service.

Working through it will help you initially identify the foundation, the building blocks, of you own brand identity.

There are no right or wrong answers for this activity: only honest and truthful answers...and those that aren't.

SMU Brand Strategy Template

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The Reading Room for this session provides carefully selected resources for you to further develop your knowledge and understanding of brand strategy.

Aaker, J. 1997. Dimensions of Brand Personality, Journal of Marketing Research, 34 (August), 347-357.

Arthur, A. 2010. Marketing Mix Modeling and Media Inputs: Providing More Precise Media Inputs in Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) is Critical for More Accurate Assessment of Marketing Impact, Marketing Research and Intelligence.

Cain, P.M. Marketing Mix Modelling and Return on Investment, Integrated Brand Marketing and Measuring

de Chernatony, L. and Dall'Olmo Riley, F. 1998. Defining A "Brand": Beyond The Literature With Experts' Interpretations, Journal of Marketing Management, 14, 417-443, 1998.

Keller, K.L.. 2001. Building Customer-Based Brand Equity: Creating brand resonance requires careful sequenced brand-building, MM,  July/August 2001.

Keller, K.L.. 2001. Building Customer-Based Brand Equity: A Blueprint for Creating Strong Brands, Marketing Science Institute,  Report N0. 01-107, 2001.

Romaniuk, R. and Sharp, B. 2004. Conceptualizing and measuring brand salience, Marketing Theory, Volume 4(4): 327–342

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